Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Censorship, attribution and disclosure at the Globe and Mail

It’s a sad fact that often the most informative (and benign, non offensive) comments by a number of contributors in response to articles by the likes of Margaret Wente or Neil Reynolds are removed.  This often happens to facts which contradict claims in the articles, or which raise uncomfortable questions.

Again today. Information about Ms. Wente and Don Coxe, whom she quotes - was removed:

A potentially interesting (and undisclosed) relationship between Wente and quoted expert Don Coxe who hails from Wente’s home turf – Chicago.  From the acknowledgements section of his 2003 book:

“Those who undertook the arduous task of evaluating the manuscript deserve special thanks, and I appreciate the comments and suggestions I received from Margaret Wente…”

Wente writes“’Canada’s mining and oil wealth is not just minerals dug from the ground,’ Don Coxe, a leading investment strategist, points out. ‘It is the managements, geologists, engineers, drillers, workers and investment bankers who staff companies headquartered in Canada that operate across the world.’”

Those quotes Ms. Wente uses in her breathless paean to Canada as an oil and gas superpower appear on page 17 of an older issue of Coxe’s monthly portfolio strategy journal.

It’s interesting to read them in context (particularly when he discusses “Dutch Disease”).  So why is pointing out the relationship, or the source of the quotes worthy of censorship?

And, as is so frequently the case, Ms. Wente’s column includes material that, it’s fair to suggest, might have benefited from attribution.

Concluding her promotion of the Chinese takeover bid of Nexen as “maximizing our opportunities as a global petro-power”, Wente writes, “Wilfrid Laurier was almost right when he said the 20th century belonged to Canada. He was only off by 100 years”.

Key Porter’s promotional blurb for a similar cheerleading book by Brian Lee Crowley et al (which it is reasonable to believe Ms. Wente is familiar with, as it’s up her alley and was covered in the Globe) reads:

“Laurier did indeed predict the Canadian Century. He was absolutely right; he was
merely off by 100 years.”

A clever hook – and perhaps Crowley, Clemens, Key Porter et al don’t mind the additional publicity.

And likely Mr. Coxe, who thanked Ms. Wente for her help, is pleased to see material from his newsletters in her articles.

But again, it’s reasonable to ask, why not simply disclose any relationships and/or attribute the quotes?  And why the routine censorship of information like this?

Update:  A bit more information that might have been disclosed: 

Don Coxe, the only “investment strategist” quoted by Ms. Wente in her gushing endorsement of the proposed takeover of Nexen by CNOOC is described by the Globe in an earlier article as strategy adviser to BMO Nesbitt Burns”.  

In a more recent Globe business article, BMO Nesbitt Burns is described as advisor to CNOOC in the takeover bid of Nexen:  “BMO Nesbitt Burns and Citigroup advised CNOOC”, the Globe reports.  Again, should this information, like Ms. Wente’s assistance in the writing of Mr. Coxe’s book, have been subject to full disclosure?


  1. Hi MC23

    Kudos on your great work as always.

    The "epidermic" reaction to your mentioning of Wente's past association with Coxe has me wondering if this goes beyond the appearance of a conflict of interest and, indeed, if this relationship is entirely in the past...

    Once again, congrats on your great and much appreciated detective work!

    Tony Kwan

  2. Thanks Tony - was dismayed that your comment (like others in the past) was deleted, and more disturbed that this happens as a matter of course now to the most intelligent, insightful and informative comments (Mark Shore among others) who take the time and trouble to respond with facts and relevant opinion to some of the Globe's worst writers. Tellingly, it also occurs frequently when if the commenter has the temerity to point out a falsehood or attribution issues which results in correction.

    A very sad comment on the Globe - a paper for which I previously had a modicum of respect.

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  5. Don Coxe, the only “investment strategist” quoted by Ms. Wente in her gushing endorsement of the proposed takeover of Nexen by CNOOC is described by the Globe in an earlier article as
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