Friday, February 29, 2008

Tim Goeglein, Nancy Nall, and the speed of 21st century communication

The Tim Goeglein plagiarism story broke just 12 hours ago, and it's already moved from humble blog post to national news sensation. It's a great example of the speed at which communication moves today, with lessons for bloggers, writers and anyone else who's interested in old or new media.

I've been out of town most of the day, yet I was able to follow it pretty closely thanks to RSS feeds, wireless access, a Blackberry,, Panera Bread, and e-mails from friends. A timeline of what I heard when:

- I check Google Reader at about 7:00 a.m. Just another day in the blogosphere, it seems.

- "Copycat" first appears on at 7:38 a.m.

- I break for lunch about 12:30. I'm sitting in a Panera Bread in Kokomo (consistently great wireless internet access, by the way), when I read this Fort Wayne Observed post.

- Which leads me to this Journal Gazette story.

- Which leads me to this News-Sentinel story.

- A friend e-mails me some thoughts at 1:30 p.m., helping shape my understanding of what's going on

- I disappear into meetings all afternoon, but when I get home another friend has e-mailed me this AP story

- As of 8:00 p.m., there are 242 comments to Nall's "Copycat" post

Let's make one thing clear: Nancy Nall didn't bring down Tim
Goeglein. Tim Goeglein brought down Tim Goeglein. But still, this is pretty amazing stuff. A few takeaways:

- Blogs matter. They matter a lot.

- Don't plagiarize. It's bad and you can get fired.

- The Internet is your permanent record, and it's everyone else's permanent record, too. Blatant plagiarism in 2008, then, is pretty stupid. (In fact, we all should be aware of the Internet's lengthy memory, as The Marketing Technology Blog aptly pointed out on Monday.)

- Blogs matter. They matter a lot.

- Great blogs combine the best of old media--
fact checking, good judgment about what makes a story a story, and good writing--with the best of new media--immediacy and interactivity. Nall has an advantage in being a journalist, but this is really a case of collaboration. Nall posted about one instance of Goeglein's plagiarism, then her commenters found others. It's unclear whether he would have been compelled to resign if it only happened once, but being revealed as a serial plagiarizer--with 20 offending columns identified so far--sure didn't help him.

- News has always traveled fast, but today the citizen journalist can break a national news story in a second.

- And if you're the subject of this news, your first response matters.
Goeglein seemed resigned (pun intentional) to the worst from the start.

- Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned. Nall's criticism of Goeglein goes back quite a bit, and it seems likely that she wouldn't have been as quick to call him out if he was a friend. This probably would have caught up with Goeglein eventually, but Nall and her commenters/collaborators brought it to a quick, certain conclusion.

- Newspapers can still be incredibly relevant when they commit to covering a story as it happens. Make no mistake about it, this was Nall's baby. But the local papers did a good job of becoming part of the conversation. (The Sentinel, however, loses a few points for refusing to acknowledge Nall's former employment with the paper in their early coverage. They had a chance to include an interesting angle, and they chose not to. Hard to say why, but they probably felt outshined. And while they should have, they made things even worse by ignoring the obvious.)

- Blogs matter. They matter a lot.

Today, Nancy Nall demonstrated the true power of new media, while also defending the integrity of old media. In doing so, she showed how media are changing, and how quickly communication can move when you have a good story to tell.


Beth said...

I agree Anthony. I read Nancy's blog every day and am well aware of her disdain for Goeglein's writing. So, when I logged on this morning I thought, 'here we go again.." But, as I started to understand what she was saying I knew that this would be a huge deal. It was amazing to watch the momentum of the story. Her blog, which averages about 20 or so comments per post, was buzzing like crazy. I think, when I last checked, that there were around 290. I can't help but wonder what kind of impact this will have on Nancy. In the comments section people who never heard of her before have remarked on how much they are enjoying her blog. Her regular readers are speculating on whether she'll be asked to comment by the Daily Show. Will unexpected doors open for her as a result of this? In this day and age when even the most unassuming person can become a celebrity (William Hung, anyone?) I am curious to see if there will be any fame or glory for Nancy.

There should be plenty of infamy for Mr. Goeglein. I'm heartened to see that plagiarism is still considered reprehensible.

Beth said...

Okay, I now that the excitement of yesterday is over, I think I was gushing a bit in that last comment. I think that "fame or glory" was a bit over the top. What I meant to say, I guess, is that I wonder if things will change for Nancy as a result of this. Will she get calls from the national media? Will she get more writing assignments? Will English professors use this as a case study? Or, will it just fade away?

All in all, it was amazing to witness.