Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wente's Rules

These last two weeks have been a journalism professor's dream.
Imagine teaching second year journalism students and being handed the Margaret Wente affair, a shining example of what not to do as a columnist or reporter.
Down at the Mop and Pail, I'm sure the mood is not so jovial.
Imagine being Jeffrey Simpson and being handed guidelines to follow (published yesterday in the Globe) -- as if you were a Grade 10 history student who's just got caught cribbing the text book.
How incredibly insulting.
By publishing those guidelines in yesterday's paper, Public Editor Sylvia Stead dug herself in the shithole even deeper. Now she's tainting all Globe reporters with the Wente brush and sending a message that no one in the newsroom can be trusted.
I've got my eye on you, and now your mine.
I'd love to be a fly on the Globe newsroom now that editors will be acting like prison guards inspecting everyone's bunk for contraband.
If you haven't read the "lessons learned", here they are. I am quoting directly from Stead's column. Boldface is mine.

For all reporters and writers:
1. Read The Globe and Mail’s code of conduct:
This is what it says on the matter:
Excerpts from other people’s prose must be attributed so as to avoid even a suspicion of copying. Although it is sometimes reasonable to adopt a few words without attribution (in a technical definition, for example), careful judgment is required. When in doubt, consult a senior editor.
Any extensive unacknowledged use of another’s words, structure or ideas may constitute plagiarism. Exception: Background from previously published Globe staff (not by Margaret Wente blogger's note) and news-service items may be recycled, verbatim or otherwise, without credit, although it is best to avoid borrowing someone’s distinctive prose style in doing so. News services must always be given credit for fresh information.
2. Reconsider your writing habits:
Don’t ever cut and paste someone else’s words and work over or around them. Only cut and paste something you intend to directly quote and attribute.
Don’t tweak or rewrite someone else’s thoughts without saying she/he said or noted.
Keep your notes straight on dates, attribution, direct quotes, etc. Write down every source you read or used in your notes (electronic or paper) on each story so your editor can discuss it with you.
If you want to explain someone else’s work, credit them first and early in the story.
Unlike online, which is more forgiving of using someone else’s idea and then linking to it, the print world isn’t and you have to credit right from the top.
You always want to be transparent with the reader on what your thoughts are and where you got other information from.

Since the Globe appears to be giving Wente only a slap on the wrist, I suggest to Stead that she makes her write these rules a thousand times on the blackboard.


No comments:

Post a Comment