S’cuse me! We ex-journalists are permitted to do whatever we like! And if Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair wants to appoint me to the Senate, I’m taking the job!
But then, I haven’t worked as a journalist in this century and, with a little luck and the intervention of a kindly and progressive prime minister, I’ll never have to consider such a fate again.
I mention this only because Peggy Wente, the well-known and still-employed columnist of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Website, was pontificating from behind her shameless employer’s leaky paywall yesterday that journalists ought to be precluded forever from serving in the Senate of Canada.
In her startling lecture on journalistic ethics, Ms. Wente argued that practitioners of that activity, profession, trade, craft or whatever it is, even superannuated hacks such as myself, must not be given seats in Canada’s Upper House because “it makes a mockery of any claim they may have had to the appearance of impartiality.”
This, she explained quite rightly, is because the Red Chamber “is often seen as essentially a reward for party loyalty” – such as, for example, the loyalty to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada shown by scandal-touched Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin when they were still journalists.
Say what? You could use the same shaky logic to argue former journalists should not be allowed to publish blogs or that ex judges shouldn’t be permitted to seek elected office.
In fact, a lack of impartiality has never troubled Canadian journalists. Since Confederation and before, Canadian journalists have loyally served the interests of the people with the power, notwithstanding the regular and risible claims of the more outré quarters of the loony right that the media are infested with liberals.
The leaders of the right, it may be taken as understood, know this is baloney, but indulge the more extremist members of “the base” (in Arabic, the term is al-Qaeda) because it is a convenient fiction with which to rile up their own extremists, back-foot their opponents and cast legitimate news reporting into disrepute.
No, if there is a reason for excluding journalists from the Senate, surely it must be for their tendency to lecture us about our conduct while behaving as scallywags themselves.
Take the case, for example, of … Margaret Wente.
A lecture on journalistic ethics by Ms. Wente is astonishing because, to be quite blunt, her own journalistic ethics, to paraphrase the hand that wrote upon the wall, have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
I speak, of course, of the situation that emerged last fall when John Stackhouse, the Globe’s editor in chief, tapped Ms. Wente lightly on the wrist for, in his words, work that “did not meet the standards of the Globe and Mail, in terms of sourcing, use of quotation marks and reasonable credit for the work of others.”
In other words, Ms. Wente was caught in the act of plagiarism.
As has been said here in the past, more exciting examples of Canadian plagiarism exist than Ms. Wente’s pedestrian contributions to the genre. Still, one would think that having been caught in flagrante delicto breaching what is generally agreed upon to be sound journalistic ethics would preclude her from preaching to others on such topics.
Don’t they have editors there any more?
And when I say “without comment,” I mean that literally. Accompanying Ms. Wente’s column on the Globe’s website is the following note: “Comments have been disabled. Editor’s note: We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. We appreciate your understanding.”
Excuse me, but I don’t understand.
What legal reasons could there be that couldn’t be fixed by a firm editorial hand applied to the comments section – a firm editorial hand being something for which the Globe and Mail was once well known?
It was social media that tripped up Ms. Wente when she was caught plagiarizing, and it was social media that held the Globe’s metaphorical feet to the fire long enough to force Mr. Stackhouse to acknowledge the publication had a problem.
Without having been allowed to see yesterday’s comments, my guess is that on-line commenters instantly drew the attention of readers to the obvious irony of Ms. Wente’s choice of topics.
It was not legal reasons, it is said here, that prompted the Globe to disable comments on this column. It was shame!
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BLOGGER’S NOTE: Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, now sitting in Parliament as an independent, has informed me that he will not be running for the Wildrose Party. He has not, at least not yet, precluded running once again for Premier Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative Party, for which he was once an MLA. I am deeply disappointed to learn this, as the prospect of an electoral contest between Mr. Rathgeber and Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk could only be described as delightful.