Questions have been raised about one of Canada's most well-known columnists today after a blog post that described numerous instances where The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente possibly repurposed others’ writing and ideas without proper attribution became widely circulated.
The post, which was published on Tuesday, looks at a Wente column titled "Enviro-romanticism is hurting Africa" from July 2009, and says it "shows substantial overlap with five other writers -- similarities in structure and content, and significant amounts of identical and near identical, prose" that failed to be properly attributed.
It isn’t the first time that Wente’s columns have come under question. In 2009, a J-Source piece by Anne McNeilly, a Ryerson University journalism professor, looked at a Wente column on cell phones that was strikingly similar to one written by The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd just two days earlier. And Carol Wainio, who runs the Media Culpa blog that has been the reference for many today in discussing the long-time Globe and Mail columnist, has spent a considerable amount of time over the last 18 months picking apart Wente’s work.
Citing this April 2011 piece on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Wainio pointed out that Wente used quotes without properly attributing them (including referring to Mike Carron, head of the Northern Gulf Institute in Mississippi, as “a fisherman.” The Globe later issued a correction on this quote, according to Media Culpa). She also makes reference to two other articles from 2009 where she says there was a failure to attribute properly.
Since that initial post, there have been at least 31 separate posts on Media Culpa about Wente or about The Globe’s issued corrections or editors notes added to her work.
Sylvia Stead, The Globe’s public editor, said the paper was not able to respond with comment at this time.
Requests for comment from Wente made Thursday evening and Friday morning have so far gone unanswered as well.
It’s not clear what made this particular Media Culpa post take off. Wainio has pointed out shortcomings in other journalists' work on the blog in the past, including Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren. In Warren's case Wainio also filed complaints to the Ontario Press Council saying that in eight of Warren's columns spanning over three years, four contained factual errors and four contained statements lacking proper attribution. In October 2010, the Council upheld the complaints dealing with Warren's attribution and one of the factual error complaints.
As with most things these days, many on Twitter shared their opinions on Wente's alleged plagiarism.
That the Globe hasn't addressed these longstanding Wente allegations is astonishing to me.— Edward Keenan (@thekeenanwire) September 20, 2012
Suggestion: Ryerson host panel discussion on plagiarism accusations, invites Wente & G&M editors.— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 20, 2012
I'm going to reserve judgement about the plagiarism until I read Wente's rebuttal, lifted from Shaggy's "I Didn't Do It"— Steve Murray (@NPsteve) September 20, 2012
For more conversation of the Wente allegations, follow it in real-time on Twitter. We’ll update as more information becomes available.
This story was last updated Friday, Sept 21 at 11:45 a.m. to include our request to comment from Wente.