Dr. Dawg

Of standards, "public editors," plagiarism, and Margaret Wente

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With her very first sentence, the Globe& Mail’s so-called “Public Editor,” Sylvia Stead, gives the game away.

This week, an anonymous blogger has charged that a high-profile columnist copied phrases or sentences from others’ work and failed to attribute properly the work of an author.

University of Ottawa Professor Carol Wainio, who publishes a blog called Media Culpa, is about as “anonymous” as I am. Which is to say, not at all. And, as Antonia Zerbisias points out, Wainio contacted the Globe with her complaint, so she’s not anonymous to that newspaper, nor to its public smiley-face, Sylvia Stead. But the phrase “anonymous blogger”—just feel the connotations of that—sets up Stead’s public relations column.

Here is Wainio’s latest post on serial plagiarist Margaret Wente, the one that formed the substance of her complaint. Did I say “latest?” Why, yes. Wainio has been following the curious peregrinations of Wente for more than a year now.

Good God! Res ipsa loquitur.

But here is Stead:

The allegations were that seven different sources were copied. That seems highly unlikely. I’ve ordered the original Food Chemical News report from March, 2008, and Ms. Wente doesn’t believe she had ever read that, or a similar column by the Ottawa Citizen written a year earlier, or a press release from a U.S. College - all of which were referred to in the anonymous blogger’s allegations.

So, in other words the “public editor” finds the allegations “highly unlikely,” but she hasn’t received all the evidence yet. How positively judicial of her.

How low has the Grey Lady sunk. I remember when veteran journalist Dick Beddoes was canned decades ago for copying a few sentences from a gay rights pamphlet. The Globe didn’t have a “public editor” back then, but they had standards, and they gave him the heave-ho without delay. I hasten to add that this is from my own recollection, not from Wainio, who is a sharp cookie I would prefer not to annoy.

In any case, perhaps Stead’s grievously anodyne commentary is not entirely her own fault. After all, the Globe editorial board sets the standards for its stable of journos and columnists—right?

UPDATE: Wainio responds to the public editor. [H/t Jay Watts III]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on September 21, 2012 9:31 PM.

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