In response to a recent, simultaneously patronizing and paranoid column in the National Post which claims that criticizing journalists for plagiarism is akin to subjecting them to Cultural Revolution-style oppression, as well as in the wake of the Globe & Mail’s apparent decision not to dismiss, suspend, or seriously investigate plagiarizing columnist Margaret Wente, I’ve been racking my brains trying to think up some way that I could push for greater accountability and responsibility from Canada’s professional media circus.
Because we could sure use it. The general tenor of commentary from pundits like those described above is that professional journalists are above accountability, that readers do not have the right to complain about their (apparent lack of) professional standards, and that they are simply far too busy and postmodern to be bothered by silly rules like “don’t plagiarize.” Ironically, in choosing to back their own rather than to defend their collective reputation, many of Canada’s journalists are implying what some of us believed all along: that for all our various faults, political bloggers actually have higher standards than professional reporters.
Anyhow, I couldn’t think of much I could do, especially on my own. But I can do the following, as meaningless and trivial as it may be, and I encourage other bloggers to adopt this statement of principles as well (or at least to consider what other measures they will take):
- When I mention a journalist who has repeatedly lifted material without attribution, especially from fellow bloggers, I will always add that fact in brackets, preferably with a link explaining why. For instance: Margaret Wente (a documented plagiarist). I’m considering whether the same thing should apply to any media organization that continues to employ plagiarists, across the board.
- When I mention a journalist who has defended plagiarism by fellow reporters, I will always state that fact, in line with the above. For instance: Terence Corcoran (who defends plagiarism by fellow journalists)
- I will not link to any column by any plagiarist or defender of plagiarism, ever. If I feel the need to write about their columns, I will do so, as I have on many occasions before. I may write about it positively, when I think they’ve written something of decent quality. I may even quote from them, where appropriate. But no link juice. The moment you decided to defend plagiarism was the moment you exempted yourself from the privilege of full participation in the online community.
So far, the reporters I will be treating in this fashion are: Margaret Wente (obviously) of the Globe & Mail, Jesse Brown of Maclean’s, Terence Corcoran of the National Post, Dan Delmar of the Post (and elsewhere), and Tim Harper of the Toronto Star. Unless any of them publicly recant of their views, the list will only grow, not shrink.
I doubt any of them will care what a small humble blogger does. But I’m doing this out of principle, not because I think it will have any effect. I hope other bloggers will consider what they can do, as well.Tweet