Today, April 27, 2016, is supposedly “Tell a Story Day”, so here’s mine. I’m sorry it’s a sad tale.
This is about a journalist I used to respect: Margaret Wente, who is currently a columnist for The Globe and Mail newspaper. Wente is described by her own editors as “controversial.” I don’t always agree with her but I applaud her for taking some unpopular stands or expressing what might be considered politically incorrect opinions. What I don’t applaud her for is plagiarizing other people’s work. She did it in 2012, and she’s done it again. (Please follow the link at the end of the story for more details.)
The editors have posted an apology and let people know that corrections have been made. Corrections and apologies are often buried in the paper and many do not even see them. I expect that will be end of it. Business as usual: Wente will continue to be employed by The Globe and they’ll just hope that this will blow over; that everyone will move on. Wente is the one who should move on. But she isn’t.
Wente said in defending herself in 2012 that she was not a “serial plagiarist” but that there were folks who “just don’t like what I write” and were therefore attacking her work ethics. She hasn’t said anything this time around and if her editors are doing the apologizing for her and correcting her mistakes, then why should she? Her story is being told for her.
This is not just a problem for Wente, but for The Globe as well. Or is it? No doubt, its readership is down, as is the case with many newspapers, and what better way to bring in readers than with a “controversial” writer? People will be looking to see if, nay, when, she will plagiarize again, and get away with it—again.
The state of journalism is not in disarray because of digital media, as some have suggested. It is in disarray though when editors keep defending writers who seem to have no issue with writing something that is so similar to someone else’s work that it cannot be called anything but plagiarism, and that writer, now caught in this web more than once, cannot be called anything but a “serial plagiarist.”
This story may have a happy ending for Wente, but it is not a good one for writers and how they should conduct themselves. She should resign (but likely won’t) or she should be fired (but likely won’t be.)
I am sad that a writer I once respected, and the editors of a paper that I love to read have let this play out the way it has. A sad tale for me, indeed.
This has been covered in many media outlets. One of the most informative for me was an interview done on the CBC program “As it Happens” last night. Here is a link to the interview, and some snippets from other media outlets covering this issue.