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Friday, September 21, 2012

Did anybody see where Margaret Wente?

Yeah, well.

Not like any of this is new or anything, but for some reason it's suddenly getting traction. An overview:
First, some serious acknowledgement to the heroic Media Culpa, who is, evidently single-handedly, doing more quality control for Canadian journalism than the entire corporate media sector combined. No point in going through it all again. Read Media Culpa (and keep your Gravol within reach).

What to do about Wente? In a way, she does the same thing as Blatchford: create controversy, be contrarian, pose as the great crusading sacred-cow-attacker with the courage to say what everyone else is thinking, masquerade as the purveyor of "common sense," take a perverse pride in being "politically incorrect," and so on. There are a lot of people on that gig, of course, but Wente's been riding it so successfully for so long that she must be up to her ass in frequent-flyer miles.

But where Blatchford was all about visceral gut reaction and stoking the lynch mob, Wente's shtick is more insidious — and, just maybe, more fundamental to the Globe and its mission. She is the stinking, unrepentant, unreflective id of the smug entitled boomer demographic — people whose biggest complaint, apparently, is that they can't fit enough cases of wine into the SUV for the cottage. And uppity waiters, baristas and service staff, and why the hell are my taxes so high when these overprivileged brats don't want to learn marketable skills because they're being indoctrinated by entitled leftist tenured academics?

You know them. The generation who had it all their own way, and are insisting on keeping it that way. The ones who ran up such a giant fucking tab economically, environmentally and socially that the planet just won't be able to carry the interest, and can't be bothered to give a shit because they'll be gone when the bill arrives, and shut up and quit your whining, you pampered kids don't know how good you have it compared to what we went through …

Self-awareness and critical thought aren't part of the equation for the Wentes of the world and their milieu. They've never had to practice it  themselves. They don't want their privilege or worldview challenged, and they especially don't want the kids for whom they're leaving such a giant mess  questioning any of the assumptions underlying the generational and social structures sustaining that privilege. (Which is part of why you see such condescending contempt for the Occupy movement, but that's another essay.)

As for the alleged instances of plagiarism / manufactured quotes / fabricated sources / sloppy or non-existent attribution, well, no point in going through that when MC's done such a comprehensive job listing and documenting it. Why does the Globe allow it? God knows. Maybe they've made a strategic decision that that suppurating pile of aging biomass is their core demographic, and Wente, predictable and lazy as she may be, is their entree to that market. It's not about informing them, it's about reinforcing their prejudices and ensuring that their eyeballs can be reliably delivered, en masse, to advertisers.

I could be wrong, of course. But it's worth asking ourselves whether this is what we have in mind when we talk about "journalism."

See also:

Saskboy and Jymn rub The Globe's nose in #RoboCon | #cdnpoli
Media culpa catches Wente being sloppy again | #journalism
How The Globe channels the 1 per cent | #Occupy #classwarfare
The Sun's effect on our national conversation is obvious, but what about the Globe?
Media culpa: George Monbiot’s unedited letter to the Globe and Mail


  1. Write sstead@globeandmail.com and ask her to look into allegations of plagiarism by Margaret Wente. I did.


  2. Yellow Journalism

    Asked to give a toast before the prestigious New York Press Club, John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff and editorial writer at the New York Times, made this candid confession at a banquet held in his honor in 1880, nearing the end of his career:


    "There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with.

    Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

    The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men.

    We are intellectual prostitutes."

    [It's worth noting Swinton was called "The Dean of His Profession" by other newsmen, who admired him greatly]:

  3. I can't believe you're asking why the G&M allows it? They couldn't be more thrilled with Wente, right-wing puppet lady.


    You no longer have reporters, you have repeaters.


    The new game began in Canada on Aug. 27, 1980. “Black Wednesday”, as it became known, was the day newspaper corporations across the country colluded to swap properties and kill competition. The Ottawa Journal and the Winnipeg Tribune folded, and Vancouver Province's owner, Southam, bought the Vancouver Sun. The two had been in bed together since 1950s via a press-and-profit-sharing agreement at Pacific Press that killed the third paper and defended against upstarts.

    Suddenly competition for readers was no longer necessary; these publicly traded corporations now focused on advertiser-pleasing copy as the technique for pulling more ads.

    At least Postmedia has an understandable reason for changing standards: they're legally obligated to maximize profits. But the fact that the commercial-free public broadcaster also ignores the public good suggests that there is a new definition of journalism.