Tweet by job-seek­ing jour­nal­ist set off pla­gia­rism firestorm

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

CLEVE­LAND — One pos­si­ble win­ner from this week’s Repub­li­can gath­er­ing got his con­ven­tion bounce in a cof­fee shop, 3,700 kilo­me­tres away from the site where Don­ald Trump be­came a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

This con­ven­tion-con­queror was a laid-off jour­nal­ist hang­ing out in a Los An­ge­les Star­bucks, chat­ting with friends on Face­book while stream­ing video of the ex­er­cise in democ­racy un­fold­ing.

That’s where Jar­rett Hill broke the most-talked-about story of his ca­reer and man­aged to scoop 15,000 jour­nal­ists in Cleve­land with news that pro­duced many thou­sands more head­lines.

He is the first to have re­al­ized that a Repub­li­can con­ven­tion speech pla­gia­rized the wife of the cur­rent Demo­cratic pres­i­dent. The im­me­di­ate re­sult: Af­ter seek­ing work for 15 months, he has started re­ceiv­ing a num­ber of in­vi­ta­tions to chat about pos­si­ble job of­fers.

“I’ve been bom­barded with mes­sages telling me how many job of­fers I was go­ing to get,” Hill said in an in­ter­view.

“I’m not ex­actly sure (how many are solid leads) be­cause I’m still run­ning through a bunch of emails. I would say a hand­ful of emails have ex­pressed a strong in­ter­est in hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion. Let’s see where it goes.”

He last worked as an ABC pro­ducer in Florida. He has been free­lanc­ing since he was laid off. An irony of this week’s events, he says, is that if he had ac­tu­ally been busy work­ing the con­ven­tion in­stead of sit­ting at Star­bucks he might’ve been too tied up to in­dulge the cu­rios­ity that led him to the news.

Hill was lis­ten­ing to Don­ald Trump’s wife, Me­la­nia, when he heard some­thing that tick­led his mem­ory re­cep­tors. It was an eightyear-old quote from Michelle Obama he’d liked enough to take note at the time: “It kind of came back, like fa­mil­iar song lyrics.”

So he Googled, “Michelle Obama con­ven­tion,’” found the old quotes, posted them on­line, and lit a brush fire that rip­pled through the con­ven­tion.

His sub­se­quent tweet, “Me­la­nia must’ve liked Michelle Obama’s 2008 con­ven­tion speech, since she pla­gia­rized it,” has since been for­warded more than 3,300 times. “(Af­ter) around 600 (retweets) is when it started to freak me out. I was like, ‘Some­thing’s hap­pen­ing with this tweet.’ It’s com­pletely out of my hands at this point.”

He closed his back­pack, left, and by the time he got home it had been shared a few hun­dred more times.

Hill said the re­ac­tion has been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive. He has re­ceived some an­gry mes­sages, but they’ve been rare. He also forced the Trump cam­paign into a con­fus­ing two days where it in­dig­nantly de­nied the pla­gia­rism, then fi­nally fessed up and blamed it on an er­ror in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Me­la­nia’s speech writer. Polls over the com­ing days will show whether the Trump cam­paign also emerges from this con­ver­sion as a win­ner. A cam­paign typ­i­cally gets a post-con­ven­tion bump of a few per­cent­age points in pub­lic sup­port.

Trump said Tues­day: “We cre­ated one of the most suc­cess­ful con­ven­tions in the his­tory of con­ven­tions.” As for the party es­tab­lish­ment sticks-in-the-mud call­ing it a mod­ern-day gong show, Trump said he couldn’t care less about their sup­port. Same for the anti-es­tab­lish­ment Sen. Ted Cruz, his pri­mary run­ner-up: “I don’t want his en­dorse­ment. Ted, stay home, re­lax.”

His crit­ics within the party are skep­ti­cal it was so suc­cess­ful. One said Trump squashed the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit by step­ping all over his mes­sage each day. First it was the pla­gia­rism, fol­lowed by de­nials, then an ad­mis­sion. The econ­omy-themed sec­ond night was mostly about bash­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s char­ac­ter. Then came the Cruz non-en­dorse­ment and Trump telling the New York Times he might not de­fend a NATO ally in­vaded by Rus­sia.

Jar­rett Hill no­ticed the sim­i­lar­i­ties in the speeches sit­ting in a Star­bucks.

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