Margaret Wente: Credit Toronto Star
In the case of Margaret Wente and the allegations of plagiarism noted on some 26,700 entries on this Google page, I believe she is responsible for sloppy technique but not actual plagiarism. However, that said, there is definitely another point of view.
For example, read this summary by John Gordon Miller, as well as this one on Paynter by Craig Silverman. Each discuss the entire Wente situation and blogger Carol Wainio’s analysis at Media Culpa.
Wainio is not any basement blogger, as some imply, or as guest columnist Dan Delmar writes in today’s National Post about those who would complain, a squawking parrot. Hardly. Rather, she is a visual arts professor at the University of Ottawa and would know as much about plagiarism as I do.
But, that is the thing about dialogue between academics, no matter what discipline we are in. We can debate each other as long as we use sources to support our argument. I definitely disagree, but only about terminology and definitions. Wainio did, afterall, spend years keeping track of Wente’s writings.
So, regarding what is or is not plagiarism, Delmar writes:
“She [Wente] erred in not properly attributing the quote in question, from one Robert Paarlberg, and deserves some form of reprimand. But this isn’t plagiarism in the popular sense of the term; in journalism, it implies dishonesty and theft…Careless and sloppy, definitely.”
The problem is that if what Wente is alleged to have done is plagiarism, then 99.9% of university students would fail and/or be charged with plagiarism. I mean, virtually all students in the first year of their undergraduate programs make mistakes about attributions and footnoting sources. Either they are using the wrong method (e.g., APA instead of Turabian or the MLA Style sheet) or they forget to differentiate between their ideas and the sources. In reality, there are only so many ways to say the same thing.