Wentegate: A roundup of the coverage and commentary

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It wasn’t just Margaret Wente’s apparent failure to properly attribute a 2009 column that captivated journalists over the last week, but also The Globe and Mail’s response and the role that the blogosphere and social media played. Eric Mark Do and Belinda Alzner compiled the coverage of the story as it has progressed, the reaction it garnered online and the commentary that's been provided by journalists.

Margaret Wente Plagiarism Controversy Timeline

This Storify details the events that unfolded following a comparison of an article written in 2009 by Globe and Mail columnist Margarete Wente. The media outcry was almost immediate, but the Globe and Mail's response was not. Here's what happened.

Storified by J-Source · Wed, Sep 26 2012 10:31:05

Last week, a blog post that raised significant ethical questions about a 2009 Margaret Wente column went viral on social media. This week, The Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse said the column in question was "unacceptable" and "did not meet the standards of The Globe and Mail." 

J-Source has compiled the coverage of the story as it has progressed, the reaction it garnered online and the commentary that's been provided by mainstream organizations in the aftermath of the allegations.

Here's what happened. 

Tuesday, Sept 18:

A post appears on Media Culpa, a blog run by University of Ottawa professor Carol Wainio, showing side-by-side comparisons of her article Enviro-romanticism is hurting Africa to several other writings, including a 2008 column by The Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner. Wainio points out similarities to these writings throughout Wente's column. 
Media culpa: Margaret Wente: 'a zero for plagiarism'?So after what's been dubbed American journalism's "summer of sin" , maybe it's time to ask: Should Ms. Wente herself - one of Canada's be...
Here's the 2009 Wente column in question.
Enviro-romanticism is hurting AfricaMany of my friends and neighbours are converts to the organics movement. They believe that food grown the natural way is better for us an...
National Post columnist Chris Selley was one of first to start the conversation on Twitter.
Sorry, Globe and Mail. But you're going to have to do something about this. http://mediaculpapost.blogspot.ca/2012/09/margaret-wente-zero-for-plagiarism.htmlChris Selley
Journalists with Now Magazine, Maclean's, the Toronto Star, and more take notice. 
Yikes. Margaret Wente: ‘a zero for plagiarism’? http://bit.ly/OXbEF9 (via @cselley)Ben Spurr
Only if they're capable of shame “@cselley: Sorry, Globe and Mail. But you're going to have to do something about this http://mediaculpapost.blogspot.ca/2012/09/margaret-wente-zero-for-plagiarism.html”Colby Cosh
Media culpa: Margaret Wente: ‘a zero for plagiarism’? http://bit.ly/UlfThB #cdnmedia @dgardnerAntonia Zerbisias

Wednesday, Sept. 19:

The Media Culpa post picked up steam on social media Wednesday evening. By that time, the Globe and Mail's silence on the matter is met with criticism. 
That the Globe hasn't addressed these longstanding Wente allegations is astonishing to me.Edward Keenan

Thursday, Sept. 20:

On Thursday, J-Source reported that Media Culpa had raised the concerns. We were told by The Globe that they were looking into the matter and could not comment at the time.
Sorta-update on the Margaret Wente plagiarism accusations: The Globe is looking into things and not able to comment at this time. #cdnmediaBelinda Alzner
Media Culpa blog raises questions of plagiarism by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente | J-source.caSee also: Globe and Mail public editor responds to questions of Wente plagiarism Questions have been raised about one of Canada's most we...
As noted in our story, this isn't the first time questions of plagiarism had been raised against Wente. Wainio began writing about Wente in May 2011, and Anne McNeilly raised questions about similarities between a Wente column and one by The New York Times' Maureen Dowd on J-Source in 2009.
Wente and Dowd cell phone columns: Too close to call? | J-source.caA column by The Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente so closely resembles one written by The New York Times's Maureen Dowd that at least one b...

Friday, Sept. 21:

On Friday, at which point no mainstream media organizations had reported on the allegations, Sabrina Maddeaux of the Toronto Standard argues that Canadian media outlets have stayed silent on the Wente situation because, "who in their right mind is going to publicly question Wente and the Globe and Mail when, for all they know, their publication could be guilty of just the same sort of negligence?"
Why So Silent? What the Margaret Wente Accusations Say About Canadian MediaIf you haven't been on Twitter lately, you may not have heard. Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail columnist and one of Canada's most controve...
Later Friday afternoon, Globe and Mail public editor Sylvia Stead responded with a column that she will later admit was "not well considered."
Public editor: We investigate all complaints against our writersThis week, an anonymous blogger raised the possibility that a high-profile columnist used phrases or sentences similar to others' work an...
An Editor's Note was appended to the end of the 2009 column in question. It read: 

Editor’s Note: This column contains views and statements by Professor Robert Paarlberg which are paraphrased and not always clearly identified.” 
One comment from Stead's response stood out for Sun Media's national bureau chief David Akin.
"appears to be some truth to the accusation" RT @SylviaStead: Looking into allegations. An editor's note: http://bit.ly/P6oUXTDavid Akin
Wainio responded later that evening, addressing Stead's decision to refer to her as an "anonymous blogger" (something that Stead will explain in a later response) and her purpose for her blogging. 

"If what we see in that article (and others) by Ms. Wente represents acceptable practice in the eyes of editors, the journalism community, and the public, so be it," Wainio writes. "Because if it’s acceptable for the country’s premier newspaper - which, in my opinion, should set an example – then it is acceptable for everyone."
Media culpa: Response to The Globe and MailThis is in response to an by the Globe and Mail's Public Editor, in regard to a recent here asking whether the attribution practices of M...

Sunday, Sept. 23:

Macleans.ca was one of the first mainstream media organizations to run an article on the Wente affair. 

On Sunday, Colby Cosh questioned the response by and the role of the public editor at the Globe and Mail.  "It is a frantically defensive performance which appears to establish that the Globe‘s official philosophy on plagiarism is that it requires no more than the equivalent of a Post-It slapped onto the offending material after the fact," he writes.

"Can it be that the whole point (of Stead's role) is to have the appearance of accountability without the actual possibility of it?"
Globe and Mail, or Cut and Paste?In January, the Globe and Mail appointed longtime editor and correspondent Sylvia Stead its first "public editor". What say we pause righ...
Also on Sunday, former Ryerson journalism professor and chair John Gordon Miller examined the accusations and The Globe's response. He writes: "Stead treats it as a minor misdemeanor, a bit of temporary carelessness over one single attribution, worthy of only an editor's note in the paper's electronic archives. She doesn't even mention the word plagiarism.

"This is a shockingly inadequate response, one that I believe has irreparably compromised the integrity of the Globe and Mail's new public editor, and also tarnished the reputation of the newspaper itself."
Blog: WentegateCarol Wainio is an artist who has exhibited widely in Canada, including at the National Gallery. She teaches Visual Arts at the Universit...

Monday, Sept. 24:

The next day, Macleans published another article on the matter, in which Jesse Brown categorizes Wente with Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria -- both of whom were outed as plagiarists this year. It also examines plagiarism and plagiarism detection in the digital age. 
Margaret Wente, remix artist?The New Yorker's Jonah Lehrer, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, and now the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente: three high profile journalists exposed ...
Coverage of the affair extended overseas as the UK's The Guardian picks up the story.
Canadian columnist accused of plagiarismOne of Canada's leading newspaper columnists has been accused of plagiarism. After extensive and detailed research by a blogger, Globe & ...
J-Source's associate editor Belinda Alzner appeared on CTV News Channel's Afternoon Express along with Sabrina Maddeaux to discuss the allegations and The Globe's public editor's response.
CTV News Channel: Columnist accused of plagiarismNews video from Canada and around the world. Live breaking news, national news, sports, business, entertainment, health, politics and mor...
Other members of the media were unimpressed by The Globe's response on Friday as well. As Chris Selley - who helped initially spread the blog post on Twitter - wrote in a column for his newspaper, the National Post on Monday: "It’s tough to pick the most discreditable aspect of Globe and Mail Public Editor Sylvia Stead’s train wreck response to serious allegations of journalistic malpractice against columnist Margaret Wente." 
Chris Selley: On Margaret Wente, plagiarism, and the Globe's public editor-cum-union repIt's tough to pick the most discreditable aspect of Globe and Mail Public Editor Sylvia Stead's train wreck response to serious allegatio...
Former Globe and Mail editor Stephen Wicary tweeted out the Maclean's article with a select quote. Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner, whose 2008 column on GMOs was part of the comparison with Wente's, did as well.
'It comes down to a generational divide in how we feel about copying.' @JesseBrown on Wente as remix artist. http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/24/margaret-wente-remix-artist/Stephen Wicary
"Adding something meaningful to a conversation is more important than rephrasing it in our own words." Amen. http://bit.ly/QtRxkTDan Gardner
Huffington Post Canada managing editor and former Globe and Mail employee/editor Kenny Yum adds his reaction to the mix. He writes: "So as I watch -- as a fellow journalist and a former Globe employee -- on how this vaunted newspaper handles this crisis, I think how it reacts in the coming days will speak to the standards it wishes to hold itself to."
Plagiarism or Not, The Globe's Reaction Matters MostAt the heart of the scandal hitting the Globe and Mail over whether columnist Margaret Wente plagiarized is the role of the journalistic ...
Things came to a head Monday night when three things happened: 
1) The Globe's editor-in-chief John Stackhouse issued a memo to staff regarding the Wente affair. 
2) Wente's response column, which appeared in Tuesday's paper, was published online. 
3) The Globe's media reporter Steve Ladurantaye reports on the story, marking the first instance that a mainstream media organization covered the allegations as a news story.
1) Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse says "appropriate action" has been taken concerning the affair. Stackhouse also says that the public editor will report directly to the publisher from this point forward, as opposed to reporting to the newsroom.  
Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse's memo to Globe and Mail staff on Margaret Wente allegationsOver the past several days, serious allegations have been raised about the work of one of our columnists, Margaret Wente. Many of the con...
2) Wente uses her column to address the situation. "I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes. But I’m not a serial plagiarist. What I often am is a target for people who don’t like what I write," writes Wente.
Columnist Margaret Wente defends herselfThree years ago, I wrote a column about the controversy surrounding the introduction of genetically modified foods into Africa. It focuse...
3) Ladurataye's story addresses the undisclosed disciplinary actions Wente faces, and the new autonomy of the public editor position.
Globe takes action on allegations against columnistThe Globe and Mail has "taken appropriate action" against one of its high-profile columnists, who the paper says fell short of its journa...
The Globe's public editor position was created in January 2012 and until this point, Stead had reported directly to Stackhouse. This structure differs from that which most public editors operate under, where the public editor will report directly to the publisher, in order to create the needed autonomy from the newsroom. 

As explained when Stead was appointed to the position:
The Globe and Mail names Sylvia Stead as its first public editor | J-source.caIn a step to become more transparent and accountable, The Globe and Mail has appointed its first public editor. According to a memo sent ...
With the changes Stackhouse has made to the public editor position, Stead will now have that needed autonomy, reporting directly to publisher Phillip Crawley.

Tuesday, Sept. 25:

Reporters weigh in on Wente's defence column. 
If the Globe thinks this Wente column is going to do anything but pour gas on the fire, they're sorely mistaken. http://m.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/columnist-margaret-wente-defends-herself/article4565731/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+LinksJames McLeod
I feel like saying "a *blogger* has accused me" is not going to win Wente the response she perhaps was hoping for http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/columnist-margaret-wente-defends-herself/article4565731/robyndoolittle
The Globe owes an apology to Carol Wainio.Stephen Maher
J-Source publishes a Q+A session held with Carol Wainio via email about Media Culpa, the reaction so far, and why she appears to be focused on Margaret Wente as of late.
J-Source's Q&A with Carol Wainio | J-source.caCarol Wainio is a Canadian visual artist and adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa. She has also been writing about the media and...
Craig Silverman, of Poynter's Regret The Error, addresses eight* issues in the scandal - including whether Sylvia Stead's job is in danger.
7 key questions and answers about the Margaret Wente plagiarism scandal | Poynter.After a disconcerting summer that saw prominent American journalists accused of plagiarism and fabrication, Canada is currently in the th...
Globe and Mail public editor Sylvia Stead makes another post about the situation. This time, she has tips for reporters, editors, and herself. "I erred in not being more forthright in saying that the work in this complaint was unacceptable and failed to meet Globe and Mail standards," she writes.
Public editor: What we need to do betterWe've already published a statement from The Globe and Mail's editor in chief John Stackhouse in which he explains the disciplinary actio...
Stead notes in her article: "For one thing, Ms. Wente said she did not recall reading a piece by the Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner or the other sources before writing the column. She now says she did read Mr. Gardner's article. Had I known that information at the time, I would have been much stronger in pointing out serious problems."

She also explains her use of the term "anonymous blogger" in her initial response.
The Editor's Note on Wente's 2009 column has been corrected. It now reads:

"Editor’s Note: This column contains views and statements by Professor Robert Paarlberg which are paraphrased and not always clearly identified. Other sources including an Ottawa Citizen columnist were also paraphrased and their work not attributed."
CBC Radio's Q with Jian Ghomeshi suspends its freelancing agreement with Wente as a result of the plagiarism accusations.  
Statement on Margaret Wente and Q's media panel | Q with Jian Ghomeshi | CBC RadioAs those of you in our audience know, Margaret Wente has served as a regular face and voice on our Q media panel for the last three years...
Public reaction to the CBC decision. 
I have a new respect for Jian Ghomeshi. http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/09/25/statement-on-margaret-wente-and-qs-media-panel/ (via @alannealottawa)Andrea Genereaux
An ethical choice: CBC statement on Margaret Wente and Q's media panel http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/09/25/statement-on-margaret-wente-and-qs-media-panel/The Westdaler
Statement on Margaret Wente and Q's media panel http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/09/25/statement-on-margaret-wente-and-qs-media-panel/ CBC punishes Wente more than Globe. Interesting.Chris Selley
Carol Wainio gives her insight into the week that was "Wentegate," the Globe and Mail's handling of the situation, and provides footnotes of previous corrections on Wente articles. 
Media culpa: At bloggerheads: Margaret WenteI asked a little question: looking at a particular column, I asked whether Margaret Wente should be subject to the same penalties she rec...
Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper weighs in on the Wente affair with a thoughtful analysis of the precarious nature of contemporary journalism in a digital and social media age:

"The point is this — in the mass of information that we process each day, it is almost a safe bet that at some point something I read, or was told, or had gleaned on Twitter after midnight one night would somehow pop up some day as an original thought among the approximately 2,300 words I write each week.


"If it does, I will be called on it.


"That is the beauty of social media."

Tim Harper: The perils of mainstream journalism in the social media eraOTTAWA-I don't know Margaret Wente. I read her column. I have listened to her on radio. I have done television panels with her, albeit fr...
The Toronto Star also publishes a profile of Media Culpa blogger Carol Wainio.  
Blogger Carol Wainio a 'very serious, professional person'OTTAWA- Carol Wainio uses a paintbrush to explore the dynamics between fact and fairy tale, some of her rich canvases featuring a dreamli...

Wednesday, Sept. 26:

J-Source Ethics editor Romayne Smith Fullerton appeared on CBC Radio One's The Current with J-Source founding editor, Ryerson School of Journalism chair and CAJ Ethics Advisory Committee chair Ivor Shapiro to talk about the Wente case, media ethics and the role of social media in this story. 
Audio | The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti | CBC Radioundefined
For the National Post, Dan Delmar weighs in with a piece that takes a different tone from much of the commentary so far, concluding: "I do not see the value in treating unintentional plagiarists as lepers in the media community. Intent is everything. And Wente should not be taking any lessons from critics whose only intent is to ruin the reputation of an otherwise valuable thinker."
Dan Delmar: Self-righteous sinners cast the first stone at Margaret WenteOn the spectrum of offences in journalism, Margaret Wente's lack of attribution in a 2009 Globe and Mail column on GMOs doesn't come clos...

This story was last updated Oct. 3, 2012.

Comments

Thanks, j-source. This is an outstanding aggregation of reporting and commentary about a subject that has been difficult to follow in its full scope because there are so many threads. Lots of stuff here I hadn't seen and m might never have found on my own. An excellent service to the j-community!

 

 

When was J-Source first aware of allegations concerning Margaret Wente's plagiarism, and what did it do about them?

It seems to me that the context for this goes back further. There is at least one article on this site that goes back a year, that wonders if Wente was plagiarizing. What is missing from this timeline is that Wainio's first post about Wente was in May of 2011. And after that, there were many more posts and, I believe, letters to the Globe and Mail.

I think another important piece of the landscape right now, is that no one from the Globe and Mail has actually said that Wente has plagiarized on multiple occasions. They have admitted plagiarism on one occasion; the Dan Gardner case. But even Steve Ladurantaye, who actually reported on this issue for the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, September 25th, would only concede one instance of plagiarism and would only refer to the possibility of a pattern as an allegation.

Today, Thursday the 27th, Terence Corcoran, an editor for the Financial Post wrote that Wente's freedoms as a journalist were infringed upon by a definition of plagiarism invented by the blogosphere, adding that "Ms. Wente, I suspect, now knows something of what it felt like during the Cultural Revolution in China, when ideological enforcers roamed the country to impose their views and expose running-dogs, remove people from their jobs and purge them from the system."

Not a good day for Canadian Journalism.

Congratulations on this excellent summary. I am now following the story almost in the way of pedagogical research into the reactions of the media and publics about plagiarism. I note that a lot of teachers and academics appear to be doing the same. Clearly, many of us realize that the substance of a huge part of our pedagogy is being debated for the first time in ages, in the media. In my science courses, students look at how research is being dealt with in the media and this story is going to provide a lot of material for my courses in the future. 

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