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”.


  1. Great work and I will follow the developments on this story closely.

  2. Thank you for your hard work. Shocking reading the similarities with other writers. Curious now as to the outcome. Wente as the victim of the mean left who say mean things?

  3. Good work, and when presentation in blog form is what you want, pretty good.
    You might want to look at examples of the side-by-side highlighted format the Deep Climate and I evolved to in illustrating the numerous Wegman-related problems:

    a) Highlight identical, in-order words in cyan.
    b) Reformat so that the cyan words appear on same lines.
    c) Show trivial edits in yellow.

    Then maybe show cross-outs. Leave acceptable material in normal, such as correct quotes.

    Here are some of DC's examples,
    with a side-by-side here.

    I did a quick cut at the first few paragraphs in a Word file and sent them to BCL, so ask him for them if you like.

    The point of all this is:
    As soon as a reader trusts that cyan is correct, it drops out of the reader's perception, and then they can easily focus on the edits that were done. That's why it is important to reformat the lines to match.

    In any case, Wente's text looks like classic "mosaic plagiarism." to me.

  4. @ John Mashey: Thanks for the tip. I'm a novice at this -but I'll see if I can get that formatting thing to work next time.

  5. Give it a try, not that there's anything sacrosanct about the particular style, and different cases sometimes need different treatment.
    We've experimented with different variants, as in this, pp.5-7, where I had red and green highlighting.

    We've generally found the side-by-side highlighted scheme to be the quickest for a reader to see, but at various times have employed Bold, Italic, underlined, or small circled numbers.

    1) The hardest work is *finding* the plagiarism first, and you've done that.

    2) Then there is figuring out a good display scheme and doing the formatting, and if the text is long, this is tedious.

    3) With highlighting in MS Word, the *worst* problem is the fixed palette of 16 colors, chosen by MS, I think by someone color-challenged. Cyan, yellow and maybe the lighter gray are OK, most of the rest are painful with black text.

    4) But, with the right selection, you can show an entire article on one side, highlight the parts that are clear copy-and-paste, with antecedents on the other, and this shows clearly how much might have been original and how much wasn't, and what they did to get there.

  6. Excellent work. Given the serial nature of Wente's plagiarism, has anyone filed a complaint with the Globe?

    1. Reality Check! Are readers so naive as to be unaware that writers and artists steal from each other all the time. What a misguided distraction - they should hold the main stream media feet to the true fire and expose the propagandization of biased journalism coloured as fair and balanced. Besides you can't attack the GMO/Big Agri Industrial complex and get away unscathed. Problem - Reaction - Solution Dialect - Time to wake up Zzzz

    2. We can start a complaint via this site; just started today. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Wente-Should-be-Fired-from-the-Globe-and-Mail-for-Plagiarism/383348405071010

  7. The Globe was notified about every issue - or just about every issue - identified on this blog (there are quite a few, so it's hard to be sure).

    Some were addressed through corrections or Editor's Notes (about 5 in the last year or so, just in regard to Ms. Wente). But others, which seemed equally worthy of address, were ignored.

    At a certain point, an editor indicated (in fairly strong language) that they would no longer respond.

    1. Have you published their replies? That might keep the pressure on. An archive showing the plagiarism, the Globe's 'corrections' / Editor's Notes, and the editors' email responses might get more traction in the rest of the media.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. I believe strongly that the article that Ms. Wente published on Tuesday September 25th fairly establishes that she made an error but that it was a sin of omission and not commission. Ms. Wente's record of excellence in journalism and of wise and focused commentary on issues that many in the establishment take as received truth adds considerably to public discourse in Canada. Even with her slight error she is more relevant and more widely read than 99% of her critics. I do believe that this attack on a very talented and noted journalist is a result of an agenda of jealousy and disagreement with her beliefs.

  8. It will be interesting to see if the Canadian media takes plagiarism as seriously as CNN/Newsweek and the New Yorker took allegations about Fareed Zakaria and Jonah Lehrer

  9. You've been doing a stellar job documenting this for months, if not years, and it's hard to believe this hasn't been pointed out to the brain trust at the Globe.

    If their response has been, as you say, "frosty," well, I guess we can draw our own inferences regarding their credibility and their commitment to accuracy and transparency, but it might be amusing to reproduce their frosty response verbatim.

  10. Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente has won the coveted World Idiot of the Year


    1. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Wente-Should-be-Fired-from-the-Globe-and-Mail-for-Plagiarism/383348405071010

  11. Thanks for all of the diligent work you've done for so long, and I'll second Orwell's Bastard's request to post the Globe's response!

  12. @ Jay Watts and Orwell:

    The response said it was 'not for publication'.

  13. Would quoting a portion be protected under the fair dealing statutory exemption to the sender's copyright?

  14. I don't know, and don't know if I want to risk finding out.

  15. It might be useful to do a simple chronology:
    Date of Wente article, date of telling publisher, date of reply, link to blog post, a line or two describing outcome.

  16. I'm impressed by the number of stolen sources. It is like a reverse flash mob of IP theft. I'd like to coin a phrase for that: "an unattributed Huffington." Reads and rolls off the tongue better than "plaggregation" or "plagiaregation."

  17. It really amazes me.... when you consider what happened to Fareed Zakaria in the US, for a small, single example, compared to what Wente was done NUMEROUS times! She should be fired. Simple as that.

  18. Write sstead@globeandmail.com and ask her to look into allegations of plagiarism by Margaret Wente. I did.


  19. Here's what I have written to the Globe: Ms. Wente’s approach to writing columns reminds me of the dinner party host who has the meal catered, but adds a garnish to the appetizer, a home-made relish to the main course, and a dollop of whipped cream to the dessert—then passes it all off as her own cooking.

    1. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Wente-Should-be-Fired-from-the-Globe-and-Mail-for-Plagiarism/383348405071010

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Note to commenters: I very much appreciate your feedback, and hate to remove posts, but given the size and nature of the media organization discussed here, and potential for backlash, I will be cautious and delete any comment which might provoke retaliatory action of a legal nature.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Liz - that's just the perfect analogy!

    Anyways, seeing as plagiarism obviously doesn't bother the G&M these days, we may have to start in on her formulaic ABC column-writing style to get them to reconsider the financial wisdom of paying her whatever the hell they pay her to churn out something a drunk monkey could whip up, since they just laid off a bunch of people lately. The formula goes like this:

    A) "My friend Sandy/Barbara/Alex recently got a blah blah blah..." This provides an ostensible hook whereby Margaret gives herself license to write about whatever the silly topic du jour is.

    B) "This got me thinking about the subject more. The New York Times says blah blah blah..." Here's where the plagiarised and made-up stuff is inserted to make some lines look like her original thoughts and give the impression that she actually took the time to do her own research.

    C) "This backs up my opinion about blah blah blah..." Here's where the unsupported or poorly supported conclusion is inserted, like her recent column that concluded that Canadians are more conservative than Americans because families stay together longer, never mind how things like a health care system that doesn't leave families open to medical bankruptcy, or a less terrible economic environment (largely because we disregarded the conservative advice to deregulate the financial sector in the 2000s) affect the economy and through it family cohesion.

    1. You completely nailed it - the formula is so obvious and so easy - she could turn out this drek in her sleep.

  24. It seems some of the most egregious examples of Wente's plagiarism come from the (not online) Food Chemical News. Is it possible to scan a copy and put it online? Maybe that will jog the memory of Wente?

  25. Just stumbled on this controversy -- I remember being surprised when a quote from one of my stories (CMAJ June 2008) [At too many hospitals, infection control is given about as much attention as “a lump of sod on the front lawn,” complains a frustrated infection control specialist.] turned up in a Wente column. The doctor, Michael Gardam, told me he too was surprised at the quote appearing in her column, as he had not made that comment to her (he is a doc, not a politician with oft-practised lines). At the time,while surprised, I thought, heck, that must be what columnists (as opposed to reporters) do.

  26. Are you Ann Silversides? Yes, it seems that (your) article was written in 2008, and she lifted your quote of the doctor for her column just a few weeks ago. I assume by the doctor's response you give that he did actually talk to her for her column, and her column gives the impression that the quote came from her interview with him.

    Can any experts out there say if this qualifies as plagiarism as well (since it was his actual quote)? Or is this just her standard laziness?

  27. annghanatrip and Blair:

    Think you might have something there - working on it.

    From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
    Monday, September 24, 2012 10:30PM ADT
    The Globe and Mail has “taken appropriate action” against one of its high-profile columnists, who the paper says fell short of its journalistic standards when she failed to make it clear she was quoting someone else’s work in one of her own pieces.

    Margaret Wente, who writes three columns a week, wrote a column in 2009 that contained similarities to one published in the Ottawa Citizen a year earlier. The similarities were highlighted in a blog post last week and quickly spread through social media.

  29. Omson King - 9:35 AM on December 22, 2011

    (Somewhat like O Christmas Tree)

    Oh Senate seat, Oh Senate seat,
    I cherish thee
    My Senate Seat.

    When Maggie writes a pleasantry
    Of Stephen's guile and sophistry

    We know it's near,
    A Senate seat
    For Maggie Wente, a Senate seat.



  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  31. RobinTeresa - 9:27 PM on March 6, 2012

    How to write a Margaret Wente column:

    "What's up with everyone complaining about [insert topical issue]? No one complained in my day. Get over it"

    Can be used for election fraud, social injustices, medical epidemics etc.


    Prairiecowboy - 11:27 PM on March 6, 2012

    Wente clearly got her pseudojournalistic non-credentials from the CNN backroom, I mean washroom. She is such a dolt, she fits right in with the CRAP staffers in the PMO. Nuff said

  32. Repost from Dave Shaver - 6:26 PM on March 6, 2012

    Wente the Globe should FIRE YOU OUTRIGHT for so Stupidly Belittling massive Voter Suppression concerns like this! Why don't you at least change your title to "Harperite Fartcatcher" from "World Class Commentator" as the Globe columnists are currently billed? lol :)

    Do you value your readership so LITTLE that you think we are all BLIND and STUPID? :{

    When this Harperite government becomes a FULL BLOWN DICATORSHIP, which it is rapidly devolving toward, just remember they are going to be THROWING A LOT of GENUINE JOURNALISTS into their Spanky New JAILS! :{

    Maybe that doesn't bother you, because you don't really DO journalism. But to True Canadians, who value a Democratic Free Press ...

    The Dictatorial Harperites bother US, IMMENSELY! :{

    They must be Legally FORCED OUT OF OFFICE before it is TOO LATE for Canada's FREEDOM! :D

  33. I have complained to G&M about Rob Carricks columns also. I have never received a reply and now know that they will not reply. It seems that cut and paste journalism is a cceptable to those editors.

  34. As a former newspaper columnist myself, I admit I do appreciate the argument offered up by Wente in today's Globe that, on occasion, we can forget where we heard or read a phrase that sticks in one's mind. happens.

    But, as I know from my experience in the classroom, restating phrases and sentences without attribution is another matter altogether.

    What is unsettling is that Wente and the Globe used more column inches than I ever enjoyed at one time to share what should have been a short, sweet admission of guilt. Instead, Wente delivers a diatribe of explanations when all she needed to do was admit that she screwed up in simple language, without all the feeble excuses: "I have a strong interest in both subjects, so his name and work were bound to catch my eye." Ah, okay. That makes it alright.

    Most frightening for me was her concluding paragraph where she states her regret that she created trouble for her "Globe colleagues by giving any opening to my many critics. In an ideal world, there wouldn't be any openings. In the real world there are."

    In an ideal world there would be no openings (does she mean opportunities??) for criticism?

    The whole column strikes me as the pathetic self-serving musings of a writer who, well, just doesn't get it. Readers who read columnists look for . . . are you ready for it? . . . original ideas! I -- and I suspect there are many like me -- do not need Wente to explain, restate, the writings of others. What I do expect is an intelligent, original interpretation of the original argument or point of view.

    Wente, it strikes me, is in the business of laundering ideas and opinions put forward by others. Then when she is caught quoting the comments and opinions of others without attribution, she wants us to believe it is, heaven forbid, one of the quirks of writing a newspaper or magazine column.


    "Even so, sometimes we slip up. That isn't an excuse. It's just the way it is."

    It may be the way it is for Wente and it may be an acceptable professional standard for the Globe but, were she in my journalism class, she would be expelled, not just from the class, but from the university.

    "I haven't lived up to my own standards," she says.

    Darling, you haven't lived up to any standards, save, perhaps, those of Fox News.

    The fact that she cannot say, in a sentence or two, that she made what amounts to the most serious offense in writing and offer up sophomoric explanations is an indictment of her own profession standards. The fact the Globe keeps her on the payroll is an indictment of the newspaper's professional standards.

    "But I'm also sorry we live in an age where attacks on people's character and reputation seem to have become the norm," she says. (And this in almost the same breath where she states ". . . Carol, Wainio, a professor at the University of Ottawa and 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 more." Ad hominem by others: bad! Ad hominem by Wente: good!)

    Darling, get a grip. If anyone should know and understand the gravity of the offense committed, it should be a journalist or writer. Critics do not pop up to take cheap shots at fuzzy targets.

    In this case, the "critics" are individuals who caught you red-handed. And, perhaps, not for the first time.

    Is rather like Wente complaining that a summons issued by a police officer for a speeding offense is assumed to be some indication of society's attack on the speeder's character and reputation.

    Well, duh, it is. We don't like speeders.

    And we don't like plagiarism.

    Deal with it.

    As for her column of 25 September, to quote a piece on The Daily Show recently, the whole thing could be titled 'Chaos on Bullshit Mountain'.

  35. Brien - fantastic response (I too saw Jon Stewart's brilliant 'chaos on BS mountain').

    Particularly well pointed out that the LAST person who is in a position to bemoan character attacks is Wente, particularly when her response to her primary critic is to belittle and besmirch her IN THE SAME ARTICLE.

    Breathless arrogance.

  36. Kudos for your "legwork"!

    I hope the Globe takes the appropriate measures. ( Yes, I know that sounds bitchy)....

  37. The internet has made made some journalists lazy and now bloggers have become the editors.

  38. Awesome work, thank you. Real journalism is a rare thing these days.

  39. Carol Wainio, is this tenacious sleuth also the great canadian artist Carol Wainio? If so, brava!

  40. I think Wente should get 100% for plagiarism, but both she and the Globe get a zero for their lame explanations, "reasons," and accountability.

  41. Having read Margaret Wente's columns over the years, I often had a sense that she was in over her head. She likes to stir the pot and then backs away by saying,"It's not just me, it's also this expert's opinion." You have proven that Wente has trouble coming up with original ideas, which is a fatal flaw for a newspaper columnist. Fantastic (and original) work!

  42. To use others words and ideas with arribution is respectful, honest and also effective in bolstering ones own view. Using credible sources enhances the argument. The only reason to omit the attribution is to appear insightful when one is not. You have exposed a journalist who appears to put herself before the content of her writing in what appears to be simple self promotion. It is a huge breach of trust and the fact that the newspaper industry bends over backwards to minimize the problem and dismiss the critic (whom they should value) is a disgrace. The Press Council in Ontario only acts as an agent of the newspapers and as such does more harm than good.
    Your exceptional service is appreciated.

  43. In 2006, Wente wrote a column in which she "interviewed" someone from Reason magazine, a U.S. website and publication. Unfortunately, a little research turned up the fact that the material presented as an interview was in fact scraped from a paper published on Reason in 1998, 8 years previous. I wrote to the Globe and Mail at the time and received no response to my complaints. I also blogged about it, here: http://allderdice.ca/?p=146
    Happy to see her indiscretions coming to light at a national stage at last. Good job, Carol Wainio!

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  45. Simple thing to do. "Off with her head!" If we'd been expelled from university for doing the same thing once, a demonstrated serial abuser such as Margaret Wente, as so eloquently shown in the article, should go. The Globe & Mail only has one ethical step to take. I will never read her column ever again, especially without a full, complete, direct apology. Perhaps Wente should now be known in Canada as the "disgraced, former columnist".

  46. This doesn't appear to be the first time Margaret Wente has done this:

  47. Thank you, Carol, for all the time invested in exposing this. Much appreciated.

  48. Great work! Have you seen this site that was just set-up a few minutes ago. Can you send it to everyone who may be interested? http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Wente-Should-be-Fired-from-the-Globe-and-Mail-for-Plagiarism/383348405071010

  49. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Wente-Should-be-Fired-from-the-Globe-and-Mail-for-Plagiarism/383348405071010

  50. Oh my how pious we all are. Let's see. She did attribute Paarlberg, just not as soon as some would have liked. She's a political/social columnist, not an agri-food expert, so clearly anything she writes will have come from an outside source, which she does identify. By no stretch of the imagination should this be compared with real plagiarism (i.e. when you copy verbatim and try to pass it off as yours, without any attribution.) Sounds like a witchhunt to me. Or a slow news day.

    Henry Sporn
    BJ 1984 Carleton
    MJ 1992 Carleton

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  52. Good work Carol. Kudos to you. I have noticed factual errors / unsubstantiated claims in MW's columns for a long time like 'greenhouse gas emissions are actually falling and will keep falling with clean technology in the future...' - she must have obtained that from a fossil fuel PR guy, and not bothered to fact-check. She's sloppy and lazy and doesn't deserve the platform and privilege she has. GJ

  53. I will note that I am paraphrasing MW in my previous post (not a direct quote), For MW's misrepresentations of GHG facts, consult the expert: Carol! She's already chronicled it!

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