One of Canada’s leading newspaper columnists has been accused of plagiarism. After extensive and detailed research by a blogger, Globe & Mail writer Margaret Wente was alleged to have reproduced other people’s work in several columns (see here).
Waino’s complaints led to an investigation by the paper’s public editor, Sylvia Stead, and last Friday (21 September), she conceded that “there appears to be some truth to the concerns but not on every count.”
Stead decided that in one instance the similarities between a column by Wente and views expressed by a professor of political science, in a book and a newspaper article, were similar enough to warrant the appending of a footnote to the original column saying:
“This column contains thoughts and statements by Professor Robert Paarlberg which are paraphrased and not always clearly identified.”
But Stead’s decision has stoked yet more controversy, with Canadian media commentators – such as Colby Cosh, who writes for MacLeans, and John Miller, who writes The Journalism Doctor blog – calling into question the manner of her investigation.
Miller describes it as “perfunctory” and “a shockingly inadequate response.” He says Stead failed to mention in her report that, following Waino’s previous researches, three corrections or clarifications were added to other Wente columns due to “the appropriation of material written by others and not properly attributed.”
Cosh refers witheringly to Stead’s “remarkable papal bull” and then launches into an attack on her for failing to acknowledge that plagiarism had occurred.
Wente, who has won awards for her work, has been writing for the Globe & Mail for 20 years. She currently writes three columns a week for the Toronto-based title, which is Canada’s largest-selling national paper and regarded as the country’s paper of record.