The Margaret Wente controversy

It’s been a week since the start of a social media storm over accusations of plagiarism against Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente. The controversy began with a post on the blog Media Culpa on September 18th. In it, Ottawa artist and blogger Carol Wainio drew attention to a 2009 column by Wente that she says shows “substantial overlap” with the work of other writers.

But it wasn’t until Friday September 21st, when the Globe’s public editor Sylvia Stead responded to the complaints, that bloggers, columnists, and social media users really got riled up. Here’s a rundown of some of the media commentary:


• Sabrina Maddeaux of the Toronto Standard, wondered why media response to the issue was so slow.

• Colby Cosh dissected the situation in Maclean’s.

• Chris Selley at the National Post responded to Sylvia Stead’s “train wreck response”.

• The Toronto Star covered the story in its news section.

• Jesse Brown characterized Wente as an “idea-synthesizer” in Maclean’s.

• Margaret Wente defended herself in the Globe and Mail.

• Sylvia Stead, the Globe’s public editor wrote a response to the response to her original response.

• Mathew Ingram of GigaOM looked at what this incident says about how journalism is changing.

• Dan Delmar downplayed the scandal in the National Post.


You can read a full rundown of the events as they unfolded on Twitter on J-Source.

The Globe has taken disciplinary action against Wente. CBC Radio has suspended her from its media panel. Has the response been sufficient at this point? The general public, if you judge by the bustling comments sections on the Globe’s website, does not seem to think so.

What do you think about the Margaret Wente controversy? As a freelancer, how careful are you to properly attribute your sources? Do you think the uproar over Wente’s missteps is justified, or has the whole thing been overblown? In a world where journalism is in transition and distrust of the media is at an all time high, are these important questions to pursue?



Posted on September 27, 2012 at 9:54 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Ruth Adams
    on October 9, 2012 at 5:35 am
    Reply · Permalink

    No Margaret Wente, NO Globe & Mail for me. I am cancelling my subscription. The Globe has great columnists and I feel disloyal about cancelling, but I really only subscribe because of Margaret Wente. I enjoy her columns, and do not do as some, check every work with a magnifying glass. Who has the time, or an axe to grind, there are scary people out there and I think all reporters and columnists should get danger pay. They are truly the only good thing about any newspaper, news can be obtained from so many sources. So where is Margaret lately, I really miss her, ans suspect that she is being punished unfairly by being suspended

    • Written by editor
      on October 9, 2012 at 11:21 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Thanks for weighing in on the subject. I suspect Wente will be back in the Globe before too long.

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