By: E&P Staff
A syndicate executive weighed in today on the case of Timothy Goeglein, the now-former Bush White House aide who wrote many plagiarized columns for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel.
Washington Post Writers Group Editorial Director Alan Shearer said in the WPWG blog that newspapers can easily run “much better material” than the kind of columns submitted by Goeglein.
“Newspaper staffs are smaller, but do standards have to be reduced?,” Shearer asked. He said columns such as those by WPWG writers are “heavily edited and researched,” and three people edit them.
“Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that material you publish is going through such rigorous editing and fact-checking?,” he continued. “And if you are publishing something freelance or from a less-vigorous source, wouldn’t you handle it as if it were a contagion — placed in quarantine until you and your staff check everything? Have you ever Googled key phrases, a 30-second exercise? That’s how we sometimes catch people who lift from George Will and others.”
Shearer noted that Goeglein — who was President Bush’s chief liaison to religious groups — apologized for his multi-plagiarizing. “But at the time he submitted each column, did he think he was doing something wrong?,” said the WPWG exec. “And if someone is not, nor ever has been, a journalist, does this person know what the rules are?
“Over time, we’ve seen examples not only of plagiarism but of columns written by industry flacks with professors’ bylines; of a columnist taking money from lobbyist Jack Abramoff to write certain topics; of form letters presented as genuine letters-to-the-editor. When we publish such things, our integrity is at stake. And that’s too important to risk.”