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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wente, the Gelber, and the Globe: more quality control from Carol Wainio

Another persuasive argument from Carol Wainio, who, beyond providing a stellar illustration of the value of independent academia, is making a convincing case for herself as a national treasure.

In her latest post, Prof. Wainio takes issue with the participation of disgraced Globe columnist Margaret Wente on the jury for the Gelber Prize — a supposedly prestigious award presented by the Gelber Foundation and the University of Toronto's Munk School for Global Affairs. With all this academic and financial star power, one would think academic integrity would be a prerequisite for all involved. As Prof. Wainio argues:

Don’t universities take strong public standards against plagiarism?  What would the University of Toronto or The Munk School (partners in the award) do with students who engaged in these practices? 

Having documented repeated instances of, at the very least, sloppy attribution or "originality problems" from Wente, it's entirely in order for Prof. Wainio to be raising such a question. She goes on, however, to compare another column from Wente to recent work from Walter Russell Mead and fellow Globe columnist Gary Mason, and to note Wente's evident "efficiency" in using the same material for two columns two weeks apart.

Well, we can't fault Wente for her embrace of the 3 Rs. But, as Prof. Wainio points out:

Are these as serious as past instances?  No.  But they do reflect a kind of practice, a habit, and dare one say, a kind of entitlement.  Given all that, and what was pretty universally described as the dreadful way Ms. Wente and her editors dealt with the more serious instances, one has to wonder why the Gelber Prize, the University of Toronto and the Munk School chose to rely so heavily on jurors associated with that particular newspaper ...

I've already pointed out the invaluable work Prof. Wainio does in providing the quality control that the senior editors of the Globe apparently refuse to do. It's particularly salient in this case, given both Wente and Mead's professed disdain for the kind of free and independent inquiry supposedly ensured by the institution of academic tenure, but it's even more valuable for the context it provides. Since it's clear that we're not going to get any critical analysis of Wente's, er, "work" from the Globe, Prof. Wainio's observations are essential as a reality check. They give readers the information they need in order to understand what they're getting from Wente.

And moreover, they put a rather jarring spotlight on the ideological and managerial decisions being taken in the executive suites on Front Street. It's not as if the warnings aren't there; while I'm not rushing to embrace the National Putz, Chris Selley raised several questions about the Globe's handling of the Wente scandal and its implications for the Gelber Prize in another essay late last week:

The Globe didn’t seem bothered about being seen to do anything, and I think it wound up leaving a widespread impression that it did nothing ... Maybe some principles are worth bending if sticking to them upsets the official Canadian chattering class hierarchy in which Margaret Wente plays house contrarian.

Nothing new about the smug, oblivious attitude the Globe appears to be taking toward this, or its condescending dismissal of mere "bloggers." It goes hand-in-hand with Wente's cringe-inducing poor-me non-apology in September.

What's left, however, are lingering questions about the Globe's credibility — questions which only grow more insistent the longer the Front Street brain trust tries to pretend they're not there.

(For even better takes on this, please read thwap and Sixth Estate.)

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  1. There really are no lingering questions about the Globe's credibility as far as I'm concerned. They have none.

    And now the Munk School and The Gelber Prize are frittering theirs away too.

    If you know any students at the Munk School tell them that misappropriated, misrepresented or misattributed words of others are no longer an issue at the school. And if the school tries to make any of those things an issue again I'd be willing to bet that there a few dozen lawyers within hailing distance of the place who'd love to take them to court on it.

  2. Thanks for the plug OB. It's absolutely disgraceful that that simpleton wente continues to collect a paycheque and stare stupidly from her byline at us.