Sunday, September 30, 2012

Margaret Wente, Twitter, Plagiarism, and Nicholas Carr

Seems Twitter played a big role in recent events.  I happened to remember (and look up) a column of Ms. Wente’s about Twitter today. 

Nicholas Carr is a writer whose article, Is Google Making Us Stupid” Ms. Wente discussed in 2008.  He blogs at Rough Type.  Here’s something he wrote on March 27, 2009 about a New York Times article on celebrity tweets (emphasis mine):

 …a lot of celebrities have hired flacks to feed content into their Twitter streams, their blogs, and the various other online channels of faux authenticity. A gentleman named Broadway (not his real name) thumbs tweets for rapper 50 Cent (not his real name), who has nearly a quarter million pseudonymous followers... "He doesn't actually use Twitter," Broadway says ... "but the energy of it is all him."

Here’s what Margaret Wente wrote the next day. 

A lot of celebrities are now using Twitter as a marketing tool to create an air of faux authenticity and faux connection. They hire flacks to feed content into their Twitter streams and blogs. The New York Times reports that a gentleman named Broadway (not his real name) thumbs tweets for rapper 50 Cent (not his real name), who has nearly a quarter of a million followers. “He doesn't actually use Twitter,” Broadway says. “But the energy of it is all him.”

And here, just for comparison in regard to this whole thing, is an apology regarding plagiarism by The Ottawa Citizen’s Robert Sibley. 

Update:  For anyone coming late to this story, just a few of many background links here, here, and here. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Terence Corcoran: A punch line without a joke

In a “letter” in The National Post, Mr. Corcoran provided some selected excerpts he believes prove  I have “accused” Margaret Wente of “sexism”.   This is silly.  In fact I sometimes agree with her on gender issues, were it not for the arrogance with which the views are delivered.

Of course things taken out of context can be made to do almost anything.   Corcoran’s examples omit essential context, such as hyperlinks and the errors the comments were intended to address.   I’ll take them here (in reverse order):

3) In example 3, Corcoran highlights what he feels is the smoking feminist gun, quoting this:

 In the meantime, perhaps the Globe could do their part to address the situation by hiring a young male editor for Margaret.

In the column in question, Ms. Wente had written, "More U.S. men have gone on disability than found work" (adding little to a previous Hanna Rosin feature on ‘The Death of Men’ and the disappearance of traditional male jobs). The point of my post was to show that her figures appeared to be wrong, and should read, as they do in this Fox report:

Fox News:  More Americans went on disability than found jobs over the last three months, according to fresh figures crunched by the Senate Budget Committee. 

There is a difference between the ‘number of Americans’ quoted in an official statistic and the ‘number of men’.  Wente’s sentence appears to be a mis-quote or statistical error, as deserving of a correction from the Globe as any mis-spelling.

Mr. Corcoran, in his zeal to find a  feminist under every bed (post), omits  the post's point – the altered statistic.  He focuses instead on a passing line  in relation to the error, which suggests that if Wente needs an intern to verify a quote, she might hire a male, since her version of the stat may have had the effect of increasing the number of unemployed males.  I also make an observation about whether the ‘Republican war on women’ (widely quoted term – didn’t invent it) has any relation to resentment about disappearing male manufacturing jobs.  This is hardly "accusing" Wente of “sexism”.  

2) National Post readers would be unaware of the hyperlink in relation to the word "female" in the sentence "This blogger's female" that Corcoran highlights (perhaps that was the intent).  Links provide context.  Omitting them changes the meaning by removing its reference.  In this case “female” links to a widely discussed Margaret Wente column in which she claims blogging is a uniquely guy thing - that bloggers are male - not an article I found objectionable, but sort of funny in that it was a female "anonymous blogger" involved in the  controversy  under discussion. Corcoran removes the irony by removing the link to Wente’s previous column.  

1) Oh, come on. Does this amount to an "accusation" of "sexism"?  Using Ms. Wente's description of Stephen Pinker, I asked about a serious omission on her part:

Why are statistics from the same organization (the U.S. Bureau of Justice) “the best there are” when Steven Pinker uses them, but “ridiculous” when used by the American Association of University Women?

That post refers to a problem given more scope here; Ms.Wente’s failure to cite the source of statistics used to disparage a women’s organization.  Here are the relevant ethical guidelines: 

 “It is dishonest to base an editorial on half –truth”, says the code of conduct of the Ontario Press Council. “The Press Council supports free expression of opinion that purports to be based on statistics but believes that readers have the right to know where the statistics come from.”

Half-truths are indeed dishonest, as are quotes taken out of context.    

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Globe’s standards

In case anyone missed it, there’s been some discussion about standards at the Globe and Mail recently in regard to Margaret Wente.

Someone sent this in, and I wondered if I was missing something, but apparently not.  It appears the Globe’s Leah McLaren is using column inches in ‘Canada’s newspaper of record’ to sell her house.

At the risk of sounding "obsessive" for even bringing this up, it reminds a bit of Margaret Wente’s "Great Big Bike Adventure".  Here’s a bit of how that appears in the Globe:

Butterfield & Robinson knows that, these days, luxury is a commodity. Anyone with money can stay in a fancy hotel or eat at a restaurant with starched linen. But not everyone can eat at Signor Bindi’s. So B&R offers experiences you can’t get on your own. In Siena – one of the most exquisite cities in the world – Giorgio took us to meet the Countess, who has a palace on the main square, where they hold the famous horse race called the Palio. The Countess was ageless, gracious and impeccably coiffed. She shook all our hands. Her daughter-in-law gave us a tour of the 18th-century rooms and the priceless Old Masters, and then we sipped prosecco. It’s rumoured that she rents out her windows for $5,000 apiece during the Palio. The ancient cathedral in Siena is astounding, but the Countess was equally impressive.
Experiences like this do not come cheap. The Tuscany trip is one of B&R’s signature tours, and the price is as breathtaking as the Tuscan hills. I long wondered what you got for it, and now I know. It’s not in my nature to gush, but this trip really is all that: luxury, scenery, pecorino cheese, ancient cities, Tuscan birdsong, the wisdom of Giorgio, and the thrill of mastering that hill (even on an e-bike). Plus glorious downhills that go on and on forever. Pure bliss.
Butterfield & Robinson offers e-bikes on request for many European trips. The five-night Tuscany biking trip departs and ends in Florence, is offered in both spring and fall and costs $5,495 (U.S.) a person. 1-866-551-9090;

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

At bloggerheads: Margaret Wente

Last week, I asked a little question: looking at a particular column, I asked whether Margaret Wente should be subject to the same penalties she recommends for students who commit plagiarism.  It generated a lot of interest.

Readers might have expected a full explanation from Ms. Wente for a column Editor John Stackhouse has said “did not meet the standards of The Globe and Mail”. But I was saddened to read this:  

The current firestorm started with a blogger named Carol Wainio, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a self-styled media watchdog. She has been publicly complaining about my work for years. Her website, Media Culpa, is an obsessive list of accusations involving alleged plagiarism, factual errors, attribution lapses and much else. She has more than once accused me of stealing the work of other writers with whom I happen to share an opinion.

Globe editors have spent countless hours reviewing every complaint from her, and have been quick to correct the record when warranted. The Globe has also published a letter from her that was critical of my work. Her latest allegations, over a column that is three years old, were retweeted by a number of people who didn’t bother to think twice – or ask for a response – before helping her to smear my reputation.

Did I “accuse” Wente of “stealing”?  No.  I laid texts side by side, provided links, attached dates, and noted many instances where words were identical, near identical, lacked quotation marks, and asked: would this be plagiarism if a student handed it in?  Wente doesn't fully acknowledge the fact that this will be the 6th or 7th ‘correction’ I’ve identified (depending how you count) in just over a year. Contrary to what she says suggests, I never used the term “serial plagiarist”.  But if it were hockey, 3, 5 or 7 would count as a “series” and win you the title.

Nor are they trivial.  In the past I showed that material used without attribution by Wente to create a character she presented as “the face of the Occupy movement” originated on an unrelated website and that "John" the Occupier actually had nothing to do with the protests.  In my bloggingly humble opinion, the only difference between this and the fabulism of Jonah Lehrer is that Lehrer took the trouble to write the material himself, while Ms. Wente’s profile and some quotes (like another recent example) had already appeared on someone's blog.  Yes, a blog. Given that, Ms. Wente might be inclined to give bloggers a little credit, literally and figuratively.

What is most saddening about Ms. Wente’s response though, is that rather than acknowledge the articles in major outlets like MacLean's, The National Post , and J Source  - all of which take her to task for plagiarism in much harsher terms than I - Ms. Wente uses the large readership offered her to direct the attack not at colleagues of her own size and weight, but at the smaller people – the readers.  Because that’s all I am.  A reader - who reluctantly set up a blog to record issues newspapers had neglected to set right. 

I believe that record speaks for itself. 

For me, regular column space on the Opinion Pages of a publication like The Globe and Mail is a privilege – a blank space given to someone to inquire about, and think through, big issues.  It should set standards we expect students and kids to follow.  And it carries responsibilities.

I’m glad that the Globe and Mail has acknowledged its mistakes in this instance and that its Public Editor will now report to the Publisher. 

Addendum – List of previous Margaret Wente corrections

May 13, 2011, print edition:

A quotation about the abundance of red snapper in the gulf of Mexico, in a column of April 26, should have been attributed to Michael Carron, chief scientist of the Northern Gulf Institute. 

June 3, 2011, print edition:

The words “Americans…are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them” in the Focus section of March 12 should have been attributed to Dexter Filkins in the New York Times.

2 separate items in one column November 5, 2011: 
Editor's note: Clarifications: John, who’s pursuing a degree in environmental law, is not part of the Occupy movement.
The following sentence is a paraphrase, not a direct quote: They are what the social critic Christopher Lasch called the “new class” of “therapeutic cops in the new bureaucracy.”
December 29, 2011: 
An Editor's Note was added to the online column to address an attribution error in relation to this claim: “Today, Christianity claims 2.18 billion believers – a third of the world’s population. By 2050, Christians will outnumber Muslims 3 to 1.  These and other fascinating facts come from a comprehensive new report on global Christianity from the Pew Research Center."
The article has been pulled, so I’d have to consult the archives to find the correction.
“Untitled” note appended to column, July 28, 2012:
The Episcopalian Church in the United States is equivalent to the Anglican Church of Canada and not the United Church. Mormons are strongly encouraged, but not required to do mission work. An earlier online version of this story, and Saturday's original newspaper version, were not clear.
Letter to the Editor, September 1, 2011:
Political Leaders Are So Often Fooled By The Mirage Of Green Jobs (Aug. 25): Using one California example, Costco, Margaret Wente claims Dalton McGuinty’s proposed electric car chargers will be a waste of money.
Costco’s “legacy” chargers can’t be used for new electric cars. Costco outlets would need major upgrades to power the Leaf, Volt or Prius. Costco couldn’t even use a government upgrade grant, because, as reports, only “half of the company’s ‘legacy chargers’ are inductive and eligible for the state replacement program.”
Similar to Mr. McGuinty’s proposal, though, are the thousands of new chargers being installed at McDonald’s, IKEA, Best Buy, Google, General Electric, Holiday Inn, St-Hubert, Metro, and Rona, to name just a few, all the kind of chargers that drivers could actually use with new cars.
But compared with other instances documented on this blog (browse the archive), the ‘selective’ nature of these corrections raises the question of why others – which seem more serious - were not similarly addressed.  With all due respect, I think that question stands.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thanks, but…

I’ve now been fielding interview requests about this post from The Agenda, CBC, and other organizations, which I will respectfully decline. There’s not much more to offer on it at this end, as I’m no expert in journalism ethics, crowdsourcing, or how the industry works.

I appreciate that mainstream media want to discuss the issues, and thank the tweeters from all quarters and across the spectrum, but I leave it to others with more expertise.  I’m sure journalism profs or other media experts can provide more insights and knowledgeable comment - and the public can weigh in on that.

It was also not my intent to embarrass anyone.  I would have preferred that the issues be dealt with consistently, and in a straightforward way, directly with the publications involved.  I hope that in future, when members of the public raise concerns, that will happen, and that a positive, respectful conversation can take place. 

p.s. Comments are much appreciated but need to be kept respectful (or they'll be removed).  Repost at will with thoughts that don't invite contempt (or other things). 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Response to The Globe and Mail

This is in response to an article by the Globe and Mail’s Public Editor, in regard to a recent post here asking whether the attribution practices of Margaret Wente constitute plagiarism. Before continuing, I’d like to commend the Globe for having a Public Editor.

Having said that, while I will give Ms. Stead the benefit of the doubt and thank her for trying to protect my privacy, it was ironic to be referred to an “anonymous blogger” - for three reasons.

1)   Several articles  on alternative sites have, in the past day or so, identified me as the ‘author’ of this blog (what this indicates about the insular character of mainstream media I leave to others).

2)  Apart from that, Ms. Stead was aware of who I was.  That is because all, or almost all, of the issues identified here over the past year and more were sent to The Globe under my name, almost always before they were posted.  Indeed, that is why previous corrections and/or Editor’s Notes related to Ms. Wente appeared in the first place.
So it’s hard to understand this:

 We have looked into all of the complaints raised by the anonymous blogger regarding Ms. Wente and other writers at The Globe and Mail and made corrections or clarifications where information was incorrect or unclear.
Ms. Stead cannot credibly be suggesting that corrections were made because the Globe scans “anonymous bloggers” in search of errors?  Again, I will give her the benefit of the doubt, and assume she was respecting my privacy, and thank her for it.
3)  With their permission, I include below excerpts from a response to one of several questions from JSource regarding feedback received from the Globe and Mail:
After identifying a few attribution problems, including some which warranted correction, I received a response from Sylvia Stead (at the time Associate Editor) on May 26, 2011, addressed, Dear Ms. Wainio and Media Culpa.  It began “This is a private letter, not for publication”.

Because of that proviso, I won’t reproduce it all.  But in brief, it chided me because I “hide behind a faceless blog site to very publicly defame Canada's best known columnist Margaret Wente” with  “single-minded zealotry.”  It said the attribution problems I’d identified (straightforward side-by-side comparisons) were “defamatory of Ms. Wente”, “misguided” and “wrong.”

It continued, “Your complaint is not regarding someone else's written words, it is about a quote. A quote that is attributed to the person who gave it. This is not plagiarism”. 

(In fact the material also involved another writer’s prose, along with mis-placed or migrating quotation marks).

It concluded: “we have responded to you a number of times pointing out that you are wrong in your very public attacks on Ms. Wente. We will not respond again”.

Both Ms. Stead, now Public Editor, and her replacement, made good on that promise. 

Just prior to that email, The Globe had been obliged to correct an error I brought to them where one of Ms. Wente’s un-attributed quotes turned the scientist who gave it to AP into a fisherman.  Just after the email, they were obliged to attribute material which I pointed out had appeared in The New York Times prior to Ms. Wente’s article.  So my concerns were not without merit, and they were aware of a pattern.

I continued to apprise The Globe of problems. Other corrections followed - for the "John"  in Ms. Wente’s Occupy story, some improperly attributed language by Christopher Lasch, something related to a Pew report on religion, and others.

Given this, it’s hard not to assume that editors did not simply put their fingers in their ears.  And it is (again) a bit ironic that it is Ms. Stead conducting “an investigation” into the matter.

I won’t address in detail the Public Editor’s response, though I find it astonishing that it does not deal with the almost identical Dan Gardner paragraph, in which quotation marks simply go missing in Ms. Wente’s almost identical prose. Or the migrating quotation marks in regard to Collier and other writers.

I believe the side-by-side comparisons speak for themselves.  But 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.

My purpose here is to let those standards be public knowledge, so that the next time a young journalist engages in a similar practice, we all acknowledge that what Margaret Wente did in that article and in others, is acceptable.  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, including students whom Ms.Wente regularly derides.    

Sloppy attribution is more than plagiarism.  It can, and does, produce serious factual errors, and erodes public trust.  Ms. Wente’s supposed Occupy protester "John" is the most striking and serious example. In my opinion, The Globe’s correction in that case did not address what could be considered a kind of fabulism no less serious than Jonah Lehrer’s invented Dylan quote – except that Ms. Wente didn’t write it herself. Through the absence of attribution, she not only borrowed someone’s material, she created a kind of “collage” – effectively lifting a character from one situation and pasting him into another time and place to become the “face” of a movement he had nothing to do with.   To me, that's more serious than borrowing someone’s writing.  But I’m not an expert, and welcome discussion from those who are.

Are these “accusations”, as Ms. Stead contends?  I hope I’ve raised legitimate questions - backed up by thorough documentation.

Oh, and for Ms. Wente; while I do it reluctantly, and I’m not very good at it, this blogger is female.  .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Margaret Wente: ‘a zero for plagiarism’?

Here’s Margaret Wente on slipping standards, lazy students and overpaid teachers:  “When I was a kid…if you were caught plagiarizing, you got a zero”.

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 best known columnists – ‘get a zero for plagiarism’?

The question has been asked before (here and here, and elsewhere on this blog).  In fact, a recent example led to an earlier Margaret Wente column on the same topic.  Enviro-romanticism is hurting Africa, which we'll look at below, shows substantial overlap with five other writers – similarities in structure and content, and significant amounts of identical and near identical, prose.  So as teachers warn their students about plagiarism at the beginning of the school year, we’ll look closely at this example as Lesson One, and ask what kind of grade it should get.

Let’s start by comparing it with an earlier article by the Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner.

In addition to other overlaps, one paragraph in Wente’s July 2009  column blaming Western ‘elites’ for African starvation is almost identical to Gardner’s 2008 article on Robert Paarlberg.  Unlike Wente, Gardner indicates that he interviewed Professor Paarlberg, author of a book called Starved for Science.  Wente, who, as we’ll see later, relies heavily on Paarlberg right from her opening paragraph, doesn’t mention the professor until at least halfway through her article - and then as a kind of afterthought - supporting what she seems to present as her own ideas and research.  When she finally gets around to mentioning him, she reproduces sentences that appeared in Gardner’s article, but without the quotation marks he had placed around Paarlberg’s words - thereby presenting some of that material as her own.  The first sentence is a close paraphrase.  The second is identical - except for Wente’s dropped punctuation (bold and italic changes in all examples are added for comparison purposes).

Gardner:  "Many NGOs working in Africa in the area of development and the environment have been advocating against the modernization of traditional farming practices," Paarlberg says. "They believe that traditional farming in Africa incorporates indigenous knowledge that shouldn't be replaced by science-based knowledge introduced from the outside. They encourage Africa to stay away from fertilizers, and be certified as organic instead. And in the case of genetic engineering, they warn African governments against making these technologies available to farmers."

Wente:  Yet, many NGOs working in Africa have tenaciously fought the modernization of traditional farming practices. They believe traditional farming in Africa incorporates indigenous knowledge that shouldn't be replaced by science-based knowledge introduced from the outside. As Prof. Paarlberg writes, "They encourage African farmers to stay away from fertilizers and be certified organic instead. And they warn African governments to stay away from genetic engineering. They want to freeze African farms where they are. It's a fantasy of what agriculture ought to be like."

Here Wente’s ending differs from Gardner’s. I can’t find those sentences in Paarlberg’s writing, but they are identical to what appeared Stephen Clapp’s 2008 report on Paarlberg’s speech to a food policy seminar in Washington (no link available): 

Steve Clapp, Food Chemical News, March 24, 2008: “They want to freeze African farms where they are. It's a fantasy of what agriculture ought to be like."

While the above bit involves what Paarlberg ostensibly said (or, as Wente claims, wrote), examples below involve Clapp’s prose.  Wente doesn’t credit Clapp – she just offers something very close to his summary of Paarlberg’s speech. 

Steve Clapp, Food Chemical News:  “Cultural elites”…equate agricultural science with large farms, mistreatment of animals, enrichment of agribusiness corporations, and unpalatable and unhealthy food. 

Wente:  Their cultural elites equate agricultural science with huge commercial farms, mistreatment of animals, enrichment of evil agribusiness corporations and unhealthy food.

Clapp: …Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) campaign against nitrogen fertilizer in Africa despite soil nutrient deficits… “NGOs call the Green Revolution a tragedy,” he said.

Wente:  …Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements have waged long campaigns against nitrogen fertilizer in Africa, despite its poor soil. They called the Green Revolution… a tragedy.
And in the fourth example, quotation marks migrate again, capturing some of Clapp’s writing.
Clapp:  "These criticisms are fair in Europe and North America," but devastating to Africa and other impoverished regions, he added.
Wente:  "These criticisms are fair in Europe and North America, but they are devastating to Africa and other impoverished nations," he writes.
Material very similar to Mac Margolis’ story in Newsweek also shows up:

Newsweek, March 2009:  environmental pressure groups warned that pollen from doctored crops could contaminate conventional plantings or provoke ecological blowback in the form of superweeds… In Britain, where Prince Charles recently called GM foods "the biggest disaster, environmentally, of all time…”

Wente:  More extreme groups warned that pollen from doctored crops could contaminate conventional plantings or create superweeds. Prince Charles called GM foods "the biggest disaster, environmentally, of all time."

And in Wente’s opening paragraphs (again, well before she even mentions Paarlberg), there’s material similar to both the press release for his book, and Clapp’s report:
Wente:  In Africa today, farmers are producing 20 per cent less food than they were 35 years ago. A third of the population is malnourished. Sixty per cent of the population consists of smallholder farmers, mostly women, who typically earn a dollar a day or less.
Wellesley College Press Release:  On a per-capita basis, Paarlberg notes, Africa produces 20 percent less food today than it did 35 years ago….two thirds of all citizens are poor farmers… they earn less than a dollar a day. Many are malnourished.
Clapp:  Paarlberg noted that 60% of the population consists of smallholder farmers, mostly women, earning a dollar a day or less. A third of the population is malnourished, and farmers are producing 20% less food than 35 years ago.
More significantly, Wente reproduces (at times almost verbatim) some of Paarlberg’s central arguments  – all before she mentions him.  The wording is strikingly similar to remarks he made to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  No quotation marks or credit given - Wente simply presents this material as her own prose and analysis.  Referring to NGOs, she writes:

Wente:  They have even campaigned against conventionally developed modern seeds and nitrogen fertilizers, even though these are the very same technologies Western farmers embraced to become more productive and escape poverty.

Paarlberg Testimony:  they also campaigned against conventionally developed modern seeds and nitrogen fertilizers, even though these were precisely the technologies their own farmers had earlier used back home to become more productive and escape poverty.

Wente:  The irony is that most farmers in Africa already are organic.

Paarlberg Testimony:  The irony is that most farmers in Africa today are
already defacto organic.

That NGO policies are misguided, and that malnourished Africa is organic farming writ large is Paarlberg’s central argument – one he makes in an editorial published in The New York Times.  Though late in her column Wente finally gets around to noting Paarlberg’s book, she never mentions his NYT article – even though her own column is similar. Wente sets up her introduction in the same way as the NYT piece; he begins with observations about his students while Wente offers similar anecdotes about friends who support organic farming. Paarlberg’s follow up line – “the irony is that most farmers in Africa today are already defacto organic” – is very effective writing, which Wente adopts and presents almost verbatim. Separate NYT facts and observations are also condensed in Wente’s piece - with similar wording.

NYT:  Eighty percent of the labor on these farms is done by women and children…(...the weeding is done by children who would be better off in school…)…There is no power machinery… and only 4 percent of crops are irrigated…The animals - mostly cattle and goats - forage for their own food.

Wente:  Eighty per cent of the labour on these farms is done by women and their children, who would be better off in school. They have no power machinery, no irrigation, no chemical fertilizer, no herbicides. Their animals are scrawny and diseased.

NYT:  To serve maize meal (called nsima) to her family, an African woman must first spend a season planting, weeding, harvesting and storing her corn, then she must strip it, winnow it, soak it… cook it over a fire.

Wente:  To serve a maize meal to her family, a woman must work gruellingly hard.

Later, after finally mentioning Paarlberg’s book, Wente reproduces more passages that appeared in the NYT – again enclosing only half of Paarlberg’s remarks in quotation marks and effectively presenting the rest as her own.

Wente:  Wealthy countries are imposing the richest of tastes on the poorest of people, Prof. Paarlberg argues…"The rich are, in effect, telling Africa's farmers they should just as well remain poor."

NYT:wealthy countries are imposing the richest of tastes on the poorest of people. The rich are, in effect, telling Africa's farmers they should just as well remain poor.

And she again includes, without citing or quoting him, wording very similar to Paarlberg’s:

Wente:  Nor has "organic" farming provided any protection to the rural environment, which has been seriously degraded by deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss caused by the relentless expansion of low-yield farming.

Paarlberg Testimony:  Nor has it provided any protection to Africa's rural environment, where deforestation, soil erosion, and habitat loss caused by the relentless expansion of low-yield farming is a growing crisis.

Migrating quotation marks (common in some of Wente’s other articles) also occur when she mentions Paul Collier’s article in Foreign Affairs: she again drops the quotation marks for half the excerpt – taking the best lines for herself, and encloses only the remainder; the expert’s truncated quote is now enlisted to support what appears as her own analysis and phrasing.

Paul Collier, Foreign Affairs:  The romantics have portrayed the food crisis as demonstrating the failure of scientific commercial agriculture... In its place, they advocate the return to organic small-scale farming—counting on abandoned technologies to feed a prospective world population of 9 billion.

Wente:  the environmental romantics… portrayed the food crisis as a failure of scientific commercial agriculture. As Paul Collier, the well-known Africa development expert, writes in Foreign Affairs: "In its place they advocate the return to organic small-scale farming - counting on abandoned technologies to feed a prospective world population of nine billion."

Collier:  With the near-total urbanization of these classes in both the United States and Europe, rural simplicity has acquired a strange allure… Far from being the answer to global poverty, organic self-sufficiency is a luxury lifestyle.  It is appropriate for burnt-out investment bankers, not for hungry families.

Wente:  With the near-total urbanization of affluent Western consumers, he writes, "rural simplicity has acquired a strange allure. ... The first giant that must be slain is the middle- and upper-class love affair with peasant agriculture." Far from being the answer to global poverty, organic self-sufficiency is a luxury lifestyle. "It is appropriate for burnt-out investment bankers, not for hungry families," he writes.

And this paragraph –which again appears before Wente has introduced Paarlberg - is startling in what is omitted, and in the way that omission effectively appropriates the Paarlberg’s work:

Before you dismiss this indictment as Big Agribusiness agitprop, I should tell you that two Nobel Peace Prize winners agree with every word. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who has a deep commitment to African issues, write that new crop biotechnologies do not pose any risks to human health or the environment. They blame the relentless campaign against the development of African agriculture on the "worrisome ignorance" of rich people in the West. "This is a rich-world argument that is hurting the poor," they say. "Responsible biotechnology is not our enemy. Hunger and starvation are."

The “this” she’s referring to here is not Paarlberg’s thesis (he has not even appeared in her column yet).  Rather, it’s her (at times identical) version of Paarlberg’s, Clapp’s and others’ words or arguments - which she has presented thus far as her own.   Now she summons Jimmy Carter and Norman Borlaug - who wrote those particular words as the foreword to Paarlberg’s book - to endorse what she has effectively up to that point presented as her own work.

The Ottawa Citizen version makes it more clear.

Gardner:  One of the foreword's authors is Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution. The other is former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Both are Nobel Peace Prize winners. Both are humanitarians who have saved countless lives. And both say Paarlberg is right.
And while not verbatim, there’s more overlap with Gardner’s article.
Gardner:  The NGO-led campaign against genetically modified organisms has been particularly successful.  African elites have become so convinced that GMOs are dangerous to human health -- despite reams of evidence to the contrary -- that the president of Zambia once referred to them as "poison."
Wente:  The anti-biotech forces won a huge victory when the European Union banned genetically modified foods in 1996. Then they went to work on Africa… Anti-biotech groups told African leaders that donated maize from the United States was poison…
It appears then, that much of this article is borrowed from other writers without proper attribution, including the central ideas of others, a significant amount of identical or near identical prose, and strangely absent or migrating quotation marks.  So what kind of grade should it get?
Like journalists, kids who plagiarize are sometimes excused if it’s deemed to be “an isolated incident”.  But what if it’s a pattern?  And what if the pattern is tolerated (by editors or teachers)? Some of Ms. Wente’s earlier lapses have been addressed reluctantly - through corrections or Editor’s Notes (direct response from the Globe has been frosty).  But errors also raise larger issues – like "John", who Wente presented as the ‘face’ of the Occupy protests. John’s bio and quotes also appeared in her work without attribution (they had previously shown up on a couple of American websites in a different context). Sadly, it turned out John had nothing to do with the protests: Ms. Wente effectively invented an Occupy protester.  Is that any less egregious than Jonah Lehrer’s invented Bob Dylan quote?  A recent column again reproduced material from a blogger without attribution, raising questions about how journalists make use of new media like blogs, and what standards apply.

But when the Globe's own media columnist says that even “lifted quotations from other writers” is “wrong”, and when high profile plagiarists like Maureen Dowd are raked over the coals for less than what we see in this column (and others) by Margaret Wente, I think it’s fair to ask why this prominent and well paid columnist should get a pass when she argues so strenuously that students who plagiarize should “get a zero”.