Last week, a blog post that raised significant ethical questions about a 2009 Margaret Wente column went viral on social media. This week, The Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse said the column in question was "unacceptable" and "did not meet the standards of The Globe and Mail."
J-Source has compiled the coverage of the story as it has progressed, the reaction it garnered online and the commentary that's been provided by mainstream organizations in the aftermath of the allegations.
Here's what happened.
Tuesday, Sept 18:A post appears on Media Culpa, a blog run by University of Ottawa professor Carol Wainio, showing side-by-side comparisons of her article Enviro-romanticism is hurting Africa to several other writings, including a 2008 column by The Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner. Wainio points out similarities to these writings throughout Wente's column.
Here's the 2009 Wente column in question.
National Post columnist Chris Selley was one of first to start the conversation on Twitter.
Journalists with Now Magazine, Maclean's, the Toronto Star, and more take notice.
Wednesday, Sept. 19:The Media Culpa post picked up steam on social media Wednesday evening. By that time, the Globe and Mail's silence on the matter is met with criticism.
Thursday, Sept. 20:On Thursday, J-Source reported that Media Culpa had raised the concerns. We were told by The Globe that they were looking into the matter and could not comment at the time.
As noted in our story, this isn't the first time questions of plagiarism had been raised against Wente. Wainio began writing about Wente in May 2011, and Anne McNeilly raised questions about similarities between a Wente column and one by The New York Times' Maureen Dowd on J-Source in 2009.
Friday, Sept. 21:On Friday, at which point no mainstream media organizations had reported on the allegations, Sabrina Maddeaux of the Toronto Standard argues that Canadian media outlets have stayed silent on the Wente situation because, "who in their right mind is going to publicly question Wente and the Globe and Mail when, for all they know, their publication could be guilty of just the same sort of negligence?"
Later Friday afternoon, Globe and Mail public editor Sylvia Stead responded with a column that she will later admit was "not well considered."
An Editor's Note was appended to the end of the 2009 column in question. It read:
“Editor’s Note: This column contains views and statements by Professor Robert Paarlberg which are paraphrased and not always clearly identified.”
One comment from Stead's response stood out for Sun Media's national bureau chief David Akin.
Wainio responded later that evening, addressing Stead's decision to refer to her as an "anonymous blogger" (something that Stead will explain in a later response) and her purpose for her blogging.
"If what we see in that article (and others) by Ms. Wente represents acceptable practice in the eyes of editors, the journalism community, and the public, so be it," Wainio writes. "Because if it’s acceptable for the country’s premier newspaper - which, in my opinion, should set an example – then it is acceptable for everyone."