Globe and Mail secretly disciplines Margaret Wente over plagiarism accusations
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Veteran Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente has been disciplined over allegations of plagiarism, with the paper’s editor calling the work in question “unacceptable.”
Wente, an award-winning and popular writer, addressed the controversy over the July 2009 column in her latest column, posted online Monday night.
She called it “extremely careless” to inadvertently copy a sentence from a column in the Ottawa Citizen, but that the controversy is overblown.
“I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes. But I’m not a serial plagiarist,” said Wente, who writes three columns a week for the national newspaper.
“What I often am is a target for people who don’t like what I write.”
Details of the disciplinary action will be kept secret.
However, Wente acknowledged that, given changing standards in journalism, that if she was “writing that column again today, I would quote and attribute more carefully.”
“Over the past several days, serious allegations have been raised about the work of one of our columnists, Margaret Wente. Many of the concerns centre on a July 2009 column, and similarities in quotes in that work to those in a column already published in another newspaper,” said an internal note from Globe editor John Stackhouse.
“The journalism in this instance did not meet the standards of The Globe and Mail, in terms of sourcing, use of quotation marks and reasonable credit for the work of others. Even in the spirit of column writing, which allows for some latitude in attribution and expression, this work was not in accordance with our code of conduct, and is unacceptable.”
Following the outburst on the web, and in social media in particular, that the Globe’s initial response to the accusations was weak, Stackhouse also announced that the public editor — basically an ombudsman for readers — now reports to the publisher, and is “fully autonomous from the newsroom.”
In her Tuesday column, Wente also takes a swipe at the blogger who first made the accusations, saying Carol Wainio “has been complaining about my work for years. Her website, Media Culpa, is an obsessive list of accusations” that Globe editors have “spent countless hours reviewing” and, in few instances, corrected.
Wente also admits to making mistakes, saying “when I deserve the heat, I should take it and accept the consequences. But I’m also sorry we live in an age where attacks on people’s character and reputation seem to have become the norm.”
“Journalists know they’re under the microscope,” she also writes. “If you appropriate other people’s work, you’re going to get nailed. Even so, sometimes we slip up. That isn’t an excuse. It’s just the way it is.”