Let’s hear it for ‘citizen oversight’

I’ve been watching the furor over columnists Margaret Wente’s alleged plagiarism with great interest.

Accusing her of using someone else’s words without their knowledge or permission was, and presumably still is, one Carol Waino, a blogger who posts  under the heading Mea Culpa   (a Latin phrase that translates into”my mistake” or “my fault,” says the Wikipedia.

The caption under the  clip from the Toronto Star photo of Ms Waino reads:

John Baglow, a fellow Ottawa-based blogger, described Carol Wainio, above, as “a very serious, professional person” who believes the media should be “held to account” by “citizen oversight.”

Says Joanna Smith in her Toronto Star writeup of the Wente  plagiarism scandal,

“Carol Wainio uses a paintbrush to explore the dynamics between fact and fairy tale, some of her rich canvases featuring a dreamlike blend of time-honoured childhood characters and fleetingly fashionable footwear,” 

Because Waino  isn’t merely a devout supporter of citizen oversight’.

She’s also a painter who’s  “exhibited her artwork widely across Canada for the past three decades,” says Smith,quoting Waino  as stating:

“I started the blog reluctantly, to document and record either factual errors or attribution problems — particularly ones which had a bearing on whether a story was factual or apocryphal, or which had a bearing on representation,”

The “57-year-old wrote that  in an email after she “reluctantly agreed to an interview with the Star,” Smith says.

The Globe and Mail has  “taken steps to rectify its much-criticized initial response to plagiarism allegations against a senior columnist,”  says Now, adding:

“Late Monday, the paper’s editor-in-chief John Stackhouse published a memo stating he had taken unspecified disciplinary action against controversial columnist Margaret Wente, and pledged to change the way the publication’s public editor deals with future complaints.

“Wente, who’s been writing for the Globe since 1992 is a past winner of a National Newspaper Award, says the Post, adding,

“Wainio documented similarities between a 2009 op-ed by Wente about African agriculture and seven other texts, including stories in the Ottawa Citizen, Newsweek, and New York Times.”

Pagiarism is a big deal

Pagiarism is a big deal, especially when thel ame scream media  is/are involved. It even has its own wwebpage — plagiarism.org, which has this to say:

“Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work, or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like ‘copying’and ‘borrowing’ can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

“According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary,  to plagiarize means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

“In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.”

Why am I so interested in this particular case? Because in the 70s and 80s, as a freelancer, I wrote a series of columns on common surgical procedures.  Published in the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, they were meant to give readers an idea of operations they might one day experience themselves.

Ironically, more than 30 years later, I was on the receiving end having the same surgery as former Canadian prime Minister Jean Chretien and ex-US president Bill Clinton both of whom  have  undergone  quadruple bypasses.

Not at all coincidentally,  Toronto Star  features writer the late Jack Cahill had open-heart surgery and he so  liked the way I’d described  the procedure, he copied it verbatim  and ran it under his own name.

Unlike  many writers, I’ve never bothered much about keeping clippings  and nor do I recall how the plagiarism came to light.

But I do remember Cahill  wasn’t in the least contrite.  He said  he thought it was okay   to use my material because  my stories had already been published  in the same newspaper  and to give the Toronto Star its due, the then ombudsman ran a column on the  transgressions,  publishing side-by-side examples of the plagiarism.

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

Follow me on Twitter @jonnewton8, and/ or identi.ca

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