June 29, 2011 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Johann Hari, British columnist for The Independent and The Huffington Post (recently on mefi), has this week been caught in a storm of controversy concerning his apparent plagiarism of interview quotes.
Johann Hari, who has written for the Independent over the past decade, said in a blogpost entitled "Interview etiquette", written late on Monday, that when "I've interviewed a writer" he had "occasionally" chosen to quote "the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech" to make their thoughts clearer.
In his subsequent explanation Hari stresses, "I have only ever done this where the interviewee was making the same or similar point to me in the interview that they had already made more clearly in print." However, others have pulled up examples of Hari pulling quotes from interviews given to other journalists.

Twitter has been having fun with the whole flap.

This is not the first time questions regarding Hari's journalistic integrity have been raised.
posted by ArmyOfKittens (91 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Some in the UK press are refusing to accept Hari's apology.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:17 AM on June 29, 2011

Smoke On The Water.
posted by orthogonality at 4:23 AM on June 29, 2011

As a former journalist, who wrote a lot of profile pieces and other non-news, this is incredibly incredibly common. There are more journos like Johann writing stuff like this, than there aren't, sadly. The outrage from other journalists and papers is pathetic in this context - just like the outrage around Glass, Blair, etc. His mistake - like theirs - was getting caught, not doing what is not only common practice, but ever-more an essential part of the trade these days.

A conscientious journalist will send their fabricated quotes to the subject to approve or not on completion of the piece. But this is pretty rare. Most just publish, and people used to being in profiley pieces like Gari's accept it because they're used to it.

To break it down somewhat, when I was a freelancer, to do an interview as opposed to some kind of op-eddy non-talky feature, I would have to do several steps I didn't otherwise:

1. Organise a time to interview the subject.
2. Interview the subject (interviews are a skills, it's not easy) and record the interview.
3. Transcribe the interview - this takes at least three or four times longer than the interview itself.
4. Go through said transcript and pick out choice quotes, tease out other themes and topics I can use for the piece.

These steps would easily double, triple or quadruple the time spent on a piece. When you are paid a flat rate, it's insanely uneconomical. When you are salaried, but under heavy demands to provide content (and that's all you do these days, in the main), it's usually impossible. So what do you do? Try to scribble a few quotes down during the interview? You make it up mostly.

Most journalism is fabricated either in the office, or outside before it gets to the office. It's really sad but totally true. I say that as a former freelancer, and a former PR person. I wish more people knew.
posted by smoke at 4:36 AM on June 29, 2011 [44 favorites]

Christ, the smugness in that Toby Young link is quite palpable. Although perhaps I'm just distracted by his big smug face.
posted by mippy at 4:46 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I normally like Hari's writing, but I think this is far more serious than his non-apology makes it out to be. Not only did he take quotes from other journalists' work, but he seems to have done so in an effort to make people whose views he wanted to promote look more articulate than they actually were. In other words, most of the examples I've seen are ones where he's put in something persuasive or moving from someone who agrees with him. He comes close to admiting this in his 'apology' - saying that his subjects are often people whose views we 'need to hear', and that he just clarified them - and he's unsurprisingly gotten some support from the people he made look so good.

Over the years of reading his work, I've been struck by how reasonable people - even people who strike me as extreme or even incoherent in other contexts - sound. This really goes a long way toward explaining that. While other interviewers were honestly reporting the strange things some of those people said off the cuff, Hari was reporting the polished, tidied-up-for-print version he thought I 'need to hear' in order to be convinced.

I'd love him to go back to his original transcripts and print the actual quotes, alongside what he took from other sources to 'clarify' for the reader. My bet is that some of the subjects don't come off nearly as well in an actual interview.

Some of the vitriol is no doubt overblown - the UK has had actual criminal wiretapping scandals involving reporters recently, after all - but I am disappointed to see people like Ben Goldacre leaping to his defense.
posted by Wylla at 4:48 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Over the years of reading his work, I've been struck by how reasonable people - even people who strike me as extreme or even incoherent in other contexts - sound.

I don;t think this is confined to Hari. The true-life magazines (OK, this is a different category of journalism but still purports to be the interviewee's own words) have a very definite house style - one of them has sentences that are like 'I felt alone, ashamed of myself', to sound more conversational, and once I noticed that comma I saw it everywhere. People are not, by and large, very articulate, especially when they get heated.
posted by mippy at 4:53 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, smoke. This was not my experience at all. When I was a journalist, if interviews were called for, I did interviews. I recorded and took notes, but I used to have a great auditory memory, so I guess that helped me save time. I didn't put words into subjects' mouths, nor did I use quotes from other interviews unless so indicated and attributed. Sometimes, I would combine sentences to make subjects' points clearer for readers or, on even fewer occasions, more pithy. Once the article or feature was written, I submitted it to the subjects for review. This was helpful a time or two for catching factual errors and/or misunderstandings on my part. Subjects did not have editorial control, but I would consider rewording if they believed their meaning had been obscured. Not otherwise. If they disagreed with a particular interpretation, I would sometimes include a footnote to that effect.

My colleagues did likewise.
posted by likeso at 4:55 AM on June 29, 2011 [23 favorites]

I just love the fact they're calling it HariGate. That's an awesome North Yorkshire based pun right there.
posted by seanyboy at 4:55 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

mippy: "Christ, the smugness in that Toby Young link is quite palpable. Although perhaps I'm just distracted by his big smug face."

Yeah, Toby Young is pretty damn brickable.

I'm frustrated by all of this because I think Hari is more often right than wrong, and dammit I want people in the press I agree with to report ethically.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:58 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like Johann Hari, particularly for his interview with Kenneth Tong, but I do think he's been caught red-handed here, and he's now just digging himself a deeper hole.

A lot of other people hate him with a passion, and it's sad that they have something this powerful to hit him with. I'm just amazed that he's been doing this, and apparently getting away with it for so long.
posted by DanCall at 5:01 AM on June 29, 2011

In the vein of #interviewsbyhari, Johann Hari interviews Thom Yorke (as relayed by Tom Davenport).
posted by emmtee at 5:03 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was once briefly interviewed for a dumb feature in Maxim magazine (in my defence let me add that this was one of the very first issues, so I didn't really have any knowledge of what to expect from that stupid rag.) In the short piece they did on me they invented "quotes" that were so loosely based on my actual words they were all but unrecognisable. They quoted me out of context, juxtaposed truncated quotes that had originally been delivered with now-absent qualifications and asides, and changed the wording of their questions to me. They did this to make me look like a jerk, and they succeeded. I decided there and then that if I were ever to do anything noteworthy enough to attract the attention of a journalist I would simply tell them to fuck off and die.

The attitude seems to be "Hey, I'm too busy and agenda-driven not to twist your words, crib stuff and make shit up. Deal with it."

Err, no, I won't. Your being busy doesn't justify your acting like a dishonest, manipulative shit towards the people you interview.
posted by Decani at 5:05 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

I ask Will Smith about his childhood, before he was catapulted to the heady heights of super stardom. He takes a sip of peppermint tea, and his eyes seem to glaze over with nostalgia.

'In West Philidelphia, born and raised, in a playground was where I spent most of my days, chilling out, maxing...'
posted by RokkitNite at 5:06 AM on June 29, 2011 [33 favorites]

BTW. If you're a right wing pundit, and you're being interviewed by Hari, may I suggest memorising something you've previously had printed and dropping it unnoticed into the conversation. If you play it right and he publishes, you can accuse him of doing it again.
posted by seanyboy at 5:09 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I've always found his articles feel too much like he's shouting 'I'm more principled than you!' at me all the time.

Seems like he's not, after all.
posted by dowcrag at 5:09 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has been something I've struggled with when writing, because I'm low on the totem-pole journalistically, so I wonder, "how can I use that pullquote from that guy in the company's press release?", or "my senator will only respond in a form-letter, how can I quote that like he said it?" So, I do my best to quote in a way that doesn't sound like I was sitting across the table from the interviewee when it was said -- it sounds like this Hari took quotes from non-Hari sources, and phrased them in a way to make it sound like Hari was sitting in the same room as the interviewee when it was said.

That, I think, is over the line: the problem isn't that Hari wrote 'George said, "that's fine",' he's writing, 'George look at me, wrinkled his brow, and said, "That's fine"'. That's a misleading sentence, and places Hari in the story when, in fact, he wasn't. The vitriol over oddly-sourced quotes is the wrong direction to go: when Hari writes about himself being places and in situations that he wasn't, that's bad journalism. And, in general, it's bad New Journalism too, because there's more to New Journalism than writing about yourself writing the story.

I will note that I looked around the internet for answers on how to use quotes that weren't said directly to me, and most writer's websites agreed that, "just use the stupid quote, nobody will care, make your deadline and move on."
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:16 AM on June 29, 2011

Journalistic ethics are a contradiction in terms, particularly outside the major papers in the USA. Plenty of times interviews and quotes are just plain invented or handed out by publicists at the door. Every eight minute conveyer belt plug in some hotel room is spun like Mr Journalist and the superstar go fishing together every weekend and dated the same girl at school. This doesn't just go for the tabloid press, but every upmarket one too. Radio stations run 'interviews' with pop stars who pre-record generic answers which are then sent out so the DJ can slot in the questions in his own voice and con the public the star is actually sitting next to him. It's fun to see someone in the unbearably pious and smug Independent getting his fingers burnt, but as far as offences against integrity go, this is like that time you slipped a packet of polo mints into your school bag in the corner shop when you were nine.
posted by joannemullen at 5:23 AM on June 29, 2011

In the short piece they did on me they invented "quotes" that were so loosely based on my actual words they were all but unrecognisable.

I once refused to do an interview with The Sun. They simply invented quotes that they then attributed to me.

As someone who also dabbled in UK feature writing for a period, my experience matches that of smoke, upthread. British journalism just isn't as anal about this stuff as they are in the US.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:24 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Likeso, I really wish that had been the case for me. You may have been a lot higher up than I was, maybe working for a real paper etc. In my experience, this is certainly rare in news journalism for news publishers (they have press releases for that!), but certainly in regards to most lifestyle/profile/non-news stuff. My experience was overwhelmingly the above.

Editors had a plausible-deniability/don't-ask-don't-tell policy. They didn't want to know how you got it. Sometimes, I would be asked for things that were literally impossible to furnish in the alotted time - never mind the pay. They knew it. I knew it. They knew I knew, and I knew they knew. Pieces still got published though.

I quit long after my ethics were compromised unfortunately, but when my writing started to really suffer, too. That was the worst.
posted by smoke at 5:26 AM on June 29, 2011

I am not a journalist but every once in a while I'm asked to write a feature, do an interview or a review. The guy I sublet from is a journalist and every once in a while I've gone to him to ask for pointers. Most of what he says is very good and he is very ethical (to the point that other journalists make fun of him), but he'll say things like: "Don't write down what they say, write what they meant to say." I understand the impulse, but I'm too anal to do something like that. When you're not a working journalist and just doing it for some extra cash, it's easy to take some extra time on a feature, but when you have to write a set number of pieces per day to earn a living, you'll make things easier for yourself. The trick is to make things easy without fabricating. Hari seems to have gone slightly over the line to me, though what he did seems like a minor sin, compared to what goes on routinely in journalism.
posted by Kattullus at 5:33 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gotcha, smoke. I didn't mean to impugn your experience or integrity - I was genuinely astonished at your comment. And yes, I was in news journalism - well spotted! - though I have freelanced some puff pieces (profiles, travel, lifestyle) to other publications.
posted by likeso at 5:35 AM on June 29, 2011

"It's all in my notes!"

/Scott Templeton
posted by bwg at 5:39 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I didn't mean to impugn your experience or integrity

Oh no offense taken at all. :) I'm jealous of your experience, and wish it was more common in Australia.
posted by smoke at 5:41 AM on June 29, 2011

I think this shows the disconnect between what journalists and their subjects think the news is for and what the general public think it's for.

Most readers want (even if we don't believe we're getting) a reliable source of information, something with a degree of reliability and integrity. I'm sure we all consider ourselves skeptics and cynics here, but it's amazing the number of people who see stuff in their trusted news source and take it as gospel. In contrast, I've heard and read all sorts of journalists and writers making the broad argument that the news media are just another entertainment source with some facts mixed in: a recent analogy I heard in an interview was that the news media are "like chatting with your mates in a pub: you enjoy swapping all the gossip, but no-one really believes all of it". In short, they justify their shoddy standards by saying that they don't actually expect people to believe what they publish. So when they publish an article that's trueish and entertains the readers, they think that they're honestly holding up their end of the bargain and don't see why stuff like this leaves people feeling betrayed.

This is a big part of why I barely read the news any more. I know enough science to tell you that, even in the best non-specialist sources, a solid 95% of science reporting is somewhere between "grossly misunderstood" and "total bullshit". My friends in medicine, economics, education, politics, etc. tell me the same about reportage of their fields. Another friend of mine scraped the BBC News and a couple of newspaper websites and demonstrated how many of the articles are poorly disguised press releases. Everyone I know who's ever been interviewed for a newspaper has either complained that what they said/wrote was grossly misrepresented -- if not actually lied about -- or, in the more experienced cases, been pathetically grateful that a sliver of their original message made it into the article. I'm sure there are good journalists and editors out there, but they're flotsam in a sea of shit and, for me, just not worth the effort that panning for them would take. ...because I'm much too busy mixing my metaphors
posted by metaBugs at 5:42 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

The few times I've been interviewed for print, I've had exactly this happen me. The journalist will re-write my words as (un-attributed) background or re-write something I've said as a direct quote. I thought this was industry standard practice. This is one reason my organization tends to prefer media interviews over print. It's a lot harder to play mashup with a video interview. You can edit for length, but it's harder to alter sentences.

I'm just glad if the reporter doesn't totally wreck what I'm trying to communicate. In a technical area like mine, the journalist will often distort what I'm saying by editing together a few sentences. It's frustrating enough to have someone put words in your mouth; it's harder when they make you look like an idiot too.

A conscientious journalist will send their fabricated quotes to the subject to approve or not on completion of the piece.

I've never had this happen. You don't get to see what the journalist has done with your comment until after publication.
posted by bonehead at 6:00 AM on June 29, 2011

...and wish it was more common in Australia.

From the sound of things, it seems to be getting less common all over.

metaBugs, two things come to mind. One is the fact that when dealing with specialized knowledge it is very hard to distill it for the general public. There's a reason why good popular science writers are lauded, for example. The second is that many newspapers/hard news TV shows have to compete for market share, and for some time now have been attempting to approach the style and content of their more popular competitors. It's a dangerous game. One of the reasons I am against fully commercial news reporting. But remember that when TV news was launched, there was much doom and gloom w/r/t niveau. Some justified - but the general dumbing down of America can't be laid solely at this door.

On a related note, it is very interesting to see how social media is contributing to journalism by becoming another generator, but also providing immediate attribution as to source.
posted by likeso at 6:02 AM on June 29, 2011

You can edit for length, but it's harder to alter sentences.

Ha, that's funny. I've spent years of my life editing interviews for documentaries and we would alter sentences all the time. If it changed the meaning of what the subject said in an important way we would double check that they were OK with the new meaning (without telling them that we had changed what they said).

Sometimes (often) you get a completely inarticulate interviewee who never speaks in entire sentences, forgets the point, fills their speech with ums and ahs, keeps looking at the camera, etc etc. But they are making an important point and you have no-one else, so the only thing you can do is patchwork together something that makes sense. This is what B-roll was invented for.

Then generally they watch the interview you have slaved over for a week and say "I put that quite well, didn't I?"
posted by unSane at 6:05 AM on June 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

"A conscientious journalist will send their fabricated quotes to the subject to approve or not on completion of the piece."

I've never had this happen. You don't get to see what the journalist has done with your comment until after publication.

bonehead, I repeat, submission for review was SOP at my organization.
posted by likeso at 6:07 AM on June 29, 2011

Ah. Most of my stuff has been live-to-air or to be on the news in an hour. They rarely have time to chop it up much.
posted by bonehead at 6:07 AM on June 29, 2011

My read is that this is ~10% OMG! Plagiarism! and ~90% taking a slightly over-earnest (but precociously talented) high-profile lefty journalist down a peg.
posted by bright cold day at 6:07 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another ex-hack here. I don't see anything wrong with massaging together a coherent sentence from a couple of chunks of interview transcript. Most people don't tend to speak in quotable sentences, and if a person makes a point over the course of five digression-filled minutes it's the journalist's job to extract that point and 'quote' it as accurately as possible. (People who do speak in quotable sentences will, of course, end up on the lazy hack's list of folk to call when they need a quick quote on an issue of the day - I still have a group in my address book app called 'Quote Machines'!)

But quoting from other journalist's interviews or the subject's work, and hiding the fact? Totally not on. That's something that should always be explicit: 'As So-and-so wrote in their 2009 essay...', 'In an interview with Rival Paper, So-and-so expressed the view...', &c.. In fact, it's often a useful device that you can use to show how a subject's views have shifted over time. A useful interview technique, too - quoting old stuff back to an interviewee will often get you an 'I never said that! Here's what I really meant' or a better formulation of an old opinion.

British journalism just isn't as anal about this stuff as they are in the US.

Yeah, I remember being completely gobsmacked when I first heard about fact checking on US papers and magazines
posted by jack_mo at 6:12 AM on June 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

likeso, that's not been my experience at all. Even with "papers of record". Especially with papers of record.
posted by bonehead at 6:13 AM on June 29, 2011

So he just added in all of that stuff about the truffle-flavored fries after the fact?
posted by hermitosis at 6:13 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm actually on the fence about this. In its most benign form, rephrasing the content of an interview could be seen as a literary version of NPR's Editing. Cutting out the ermms and the umms to make the interviewee's point better understood. If the interviewee signs off on the interview, then it's what they wanted to say. On the other hand, it does corrode trust. Whenever I read a Hari interview from now on, I'm going to be thinking, "This is not what was said. This is a misrepresentation of reality." I also want to know when an interviewee struggles to express themselves because it may highlight a conflict or lie inside their answer.
posted by seanyboy at 6:14 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The outrage from other journalists and papers is pathetic...

When you are paid a flat rate, it's insanely uneconomical.

Profit makes right.
posted by DU at 6:15 AM on June 29, 2011

As a former journalist, who wrote a lot of profile pieces and other non-news, this is incredibly incredibly common.

This is absolutely not my experience, from working in broadsheet journalism. But that said, I think a lot of people are conflating different things. There are plenty of things that are common practice in interview journalism:
  • Rewriting what somebody said because on tape they sound like a stammering moron

  • Editing together different sentences that still carry the same meaning

  • Shifting a direct quote into background because it's too far gone to save

  • (Less honest this, but still) "Yes" answers to questions phrased "Would you say X?" written as "she said X".

  • More-or-less attributed quotes given to other publications being used in profiles

  • What is not done on a serious paper, like the Indy considers itself, is taking quotes given to other interviewers and weaving them into a narrative from your own perspective. You don't say: "He looked at me, and said in a soft, weary voice "[something he said to somebody else, ages ago". Because that's more then edging the rules, it's just breaking them. And if you do that, you're a woeful journalist, plagiarist and liar.

    It's as if a photographer was at a gig, didn't get the shot and just copied the flash card of a better photographer who was there. It's really straightforwardly unacceptable. And you'll get caught.

    Do the tabloids fabricate stories out of whole cloth? Sure they do. Is it acceptable? No, not at all. But neither is it cheap plagiarism.

    It's odd that Hari did this, and I think people who say it's a combination of his complete lack of journalistic training and ambition to write the best piece of "writing" he could that have led to it. Because the solution when you're not getting the quotes you want is pretty simple. You either add in the good quote with attribution -- "In X he said Y, and now he echoed/reprised/expanded that and said Z" -- or you do your homework beforehand and say "You said Y in Z. Do you still think that?". What you don't do is come home with shit quotes and go, "ah, bugger, Google! Library!"

    on preview: yes, exactly as Jack says it.
    posted by bonaldi at 6:16 AM on June 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

    At first, I was all "The Independent -- this has got to be a mistake!" and then I was all "oh, Huffington - that explains it."

    You can be a Pulitzer finalist and write for skin mags and kill kittens as a hobby, and you are probably still a reasonable professional. As soon as you write for HuffPo, you are immediately suspect.

    It's just the way it works.
    posted by clvrmnky at 6:17 AM on June 29, 2011

    Journalism is easy. You just need to attribute your quotes properly and not make shit up.

    Whenever possible, I just link to a source article when I quote someone who I didn't interview. Whenever I am talking to someone and I get an answer that doesnt express their opinions economically, I'll just keep asking the question in slightly different ways until they formulate a printworthy quote.

    Maybe this is just a British/Australian trait, but I've certainly never heard of charges like these being leveled at the BBC.

    Regardless, thanks to the Internet, these kinds of shenanigans are getting more and more difficult. Not only can you google a person's quotes, there are websites like churnalism, and now everyone has access to a publishing platform--the interviewees as well as the interviewers. When Michael Joseph Gross profiled Stuxnet researcher Ralph Langner in Vanity Fair, Langner took issue with the way he was characterized and his objections to the article themselves got a fair amount of press coverage.

    I do a lot of radio work, and that editing requires that you cut up people's sentences and move things around, and a lot of times change the order of the interview entirely. Two things are absolutely verboten:

    1.) you never move an answer so that it follows a question that wasn't asked.
    2.) you never cut so much that it changes the intent of the interviewee.

    In the couple years I've been doing this, I've never had a complaint after airing that the subject was misrepresented.
    posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:27 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

    I think there are three levels of journalism:

    1. Highly scrupulous and thorough

    2. Lazy and/or prone to taking slight, inoffensive liberties for the sake of time/editorial style (eg Hari and probably most journalists)

    3. Evil, manipulative and shameless, interviewing ordinary people purely to set them up and misrepresent them (see UK tabloid papers)
    posted by Summer at 6:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Just a layman here, but I think this matters a lot. Look, take for example, from a US view, Palin or Bachmann. That they seem to have, well, odd, lapses in talking about a subject is an issue in itself. Sliding in a smoothly worded press release when the politicians themselves were incoherent seems outright dishonest to me. Making a George Bush and a Barack Obama sound equally well-informed and articulate is incredibly distorting of the facts. Worse, what's the standard there? Do friends get a slick staff-written paragraph subb'ed in and enemies get the "umm, err" printed?
    posted by tyllwin at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

    I'm surprised there isn't a petition/open letter to Lebedev urging him to sack the discredited journalist Hari.
    posted by acb at 6:36 AM on June 29, 2011

    Learning not to trust journalists is one of those sad parts of growing up. It's hard to appreciate how much information about the world you've learnt from "news". But when you think of just how few people you've personally met, or places you've been to, or things you've witnessed, your world is so much smaller without the work of journalists. Then to discover that much of what they write is distorted, recycled, or plainly false, it makes everything close in and the world outside more distant. Like the discussion about the murder of Meredith Kercher a few threads down, what the hell do I know about that if I have relied on journalists? Probably nothing for sure.

    I would like to mention Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News as something every citizen should read. If you're not already aware of how bad journalism is, it will cure you of your callowness.
    posted by Jehan at 6:39 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

    ...what the hell do I know about that if I have relied on journalists? Probably nothing for sure.

    If I may reference Heinlein without being thought a libertarian, he said something about comparing news reports of an event to the event itself, when you've been there. That should give you a baseline for the misrepresentation that goes on. Another good way is to read, say, science news articles when you know the science independently. If political reporters are as unreliable and misleading as science reporters, we are completely screwed.
    posted by DU at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2011

    Yeah, I remember being completely gobsmacked when I first heard about fact checking on US papers and magazines.

    I once did an interview with someone who wrote a piece for Readers Digest. A couple of months later, their fact checkers called me and insisted on making *me* provide them with sources for the statements I'd made in the quotes that I'd given the writer.

    That was a real shock. The British media would completely collapse if they were held to such a standard.
    posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:51 AM on June 29, 2011

    The curious thing is that so far as I can see correct attribution of the quotes would not have damaged the pieces. Presenting the quotes as live utterances might be marginally more vivid, but then wouldn't presenting them as quotes from other sources make the piece look more authoritative and better researched? The dodgy presentation seems pretty pointless, and given the now-obvious risks, reckless.
    posted by Segundus at 6:59 AM on June 29, 2011

    tyllwin, you're absolutely right, you can write either an assasination or a rave merely by completely reflecting the subject's speaking style.

    When you're writing a news story, quotes are usually pulled as illustration, not meat. So the uhs and ers get dropped unless there is a real point to be made, i.e. "Look at this shiny new piece of legislation I just introduced! It's about...uh...er...ah..." (whispers urgently to aide).

    In profiles, where the story is the subject, you do reflect much more of the subject's natural speaking style. And this is where integrity meets writing style/editorial slant.

    Absolute objectivity is impossible, yes, but in my experience you do strive for it. This means you do not overinclude ers and ahs - gets to be unreadable - nor do you leave them out completely if they are integral to a subject's speech.
    posted by likeso at 6:59 AM on June 29, 2011

    Peter McDermott - I hope you told them "I don't have sources: I am a source."
    posted by Segundus at 7:00 AM on June 29, 2011

    I wonder if Hari is vulnerable to charges of copyright infringement? I don't think British copyright law recognises "fair use" as a defense; and in any case someone who claims that he was there, that he elicited the vital quote, can hardly be said to be acting fairly.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 7:20 AM on June 29, 2011

    Then there are those journalists who tell you what their subject was thinking and feeling.
    posted by Obscure Reference at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2011

    I'm an Australian journo and if I want to run a quote from elsewhere, I always attribute it. Always. I've never worked with anyone who would do what Hari did, as far as I know.

    (I would usually do this by writing "As he said in an interview with Blah Blah magazine" or "In her 1996 journal article on blah blah" or "in a separate press release the company spokesperson said whatever".)

    I do edit down what people say and paraphrase them, especially if they're rambling.

    I consider paraphrasing part of my job - and I've never been accused of misquoting anyone - in that I am trying to distill meaning and get a story across. The point of journalists is turning lots of information into meaningful narratives, which includes interviews.

    I know people might think this is horrifying but believe me you do not want to read the 15,000 word transcripts of some of the interviews I've done, where the subject ruminates at length on various completely off-topic things, repeats herself, gets completely lost in sentences that make no sense, and generally comes across as a bit of a twit despite being lovely and charming and intelligent in the flesh.

    The problem comes with selective, out-of-context quoting that is done for sensationalist purposes or to push an agenda.
    posted by jasperella at 7:36 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

    Meanwhile, Independent editor Simon Kelner circles the wagons, claiming the criticism is politically motivated.

    If it were only the bogeymen of the right, the Murdoch hacks, smarmy Tory grandees and oily neocons who were attacking Hari, he'd survive and even be able to wear this incident as a badge of pride. (Fellow Independent journalist got raked over the coals by pro-Israeli comentators during the Iraq War-- the term "fisking" was even used by the US right-wing blogosphere to refer to the practice of disassembling an article and "refuting" it sentence fragment by sentence fragment, with copious displays of territorial chest-beating-- and ended up winning an award some years later.) However, as many of those criticising Hari are from the left, it is looking a lot bleaker for him. Chances are his reputation is gone for good, and nobody will buy another of his journalistic pieces for a while. Perhaps he can move to theatre reviews or observational comedy or something more tolerating of lapses of integrity.
    posted by acb at 7:46 AM on June 29, 2011

    Sorry, that should read "fellow Independent journalist Robert Fisk got raked over the coals"
    posted by acb at 7:47 AM on June 29, 2011

    Radio stations run 'interviews' with pop stars who pre-record generic answers which are then sent out so the DJ can slot in the questions in his own voice and con the public the star is actually sitting next to him.

    I've worked in BBC radio and they don't do this - although there have been a couple of cases of documentary footage being suspect I believe - whether it happens in commercial radio, I don't know. Why do you assert this to be the case - do you know if it's happened?
    posted by mippy at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2011

    Kelner confirmed that the paper is investigating which editors knew about Hari's interview technique

    I'm sorry..."interview technique"?

    I can accept that conventions may differ between the UK and the USA, but I don't think we need to parse journalistic practices across international borders or haggle over the definition of "plagiarism." This guy didn't massage quotes or omit verbal pauses. He explicitly claimed things happened that hadn't. He outright lied.
    posted by cribcage at 7:57 AM on June 29, 2011

    I consider paraphrasing part of my job - and I've never been accused of misquoting anyone - in that I am trying to distill meaning and get a story across. The point of journalists is turning lots of information into meaningful narratives, which includes interviews.

    I just wish that journalists who did this didn't represent the paraphrase as a direct quote. It feels a bit skeevy to see something directly attributed to you that you know you didn't say. On the other hand, I'm much more ok with paraphrases like: "According to so-and-so, ...."
    posted by bonehead at 8:03 AM on June 29, 2011

    Now I'm starting to doubt Hari's claim that his late grandmother's favourite film was Saw III. Damn.
    posted by grounded at 8:06 AM on June 29, 2011

    I wonder if Hari is vulnerable to charges of copyright infringement? I don't think British copyright law recognises "fair use" as a defense; and in any case someone who claims that he was there, that he elicited the vital quote, can hardly be said to be acting fairly.

    For a start, 'fair use' certainly is a defence in British copyright law although whether it would apply when the quote is being appropriated in this manner is highly questionable. Second, there is no copyright in facts, so if a journalist claims that a $SUBJECT actually said "$QUOTE", they cannot claim copyright was violated if another journo claims that the $SUBJECT said "$QUOTE".

    However if they use a certain framing sentence such as "$SUBJECT wrinkled his nose in disdain, scratched his arse twice, blew a large bubble, then said '$QUOTE'" and the framing sentence is lifted then this is theoretically actionable, although quite what damages anyone would expect from lifting a single sentence from an article is beyond me.
    posted by unSane at 8:16 AM on June 29, 2011

    Does this mean that Dubai is a cool, happening place that treats its workers like princes? Damn, that's a lot of schadenfreude that I'll have to return.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Regrettably, this is a common practice in the UK. I had a substantial chunk of my Bat Segundo interview with Ian Rankin stolen by the Sunday Times's Jason Allardyce (once named Scottish Journalist of the Year). Allardyce did not attribute me and did not apologize to me. And he also ripped off quotes from other sources. So the interview with Rankin that I worked so hard to get as an independent journalist and which I read numerous books and conducted serious research for gets cheapened as a result. Because my one hour conversation was about a hell of a lot more than Twitter. The thing that infuriates me is that Allardyce and Hari can continue to get away with this (despite the fact that the UK Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 isn't on their side for fair dealing) without being disciplined by his superiors or suffering any real consequences for it.
    posted by ed at 8:26 AM on June 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

    As a blogger (not a journalist in the traditional sense) I have interviewed several politicians and I have to say they have nearly always expressed happy astonishment that I:

    1.) asked questions that showed I had actually researched their background and positions beforehand and

    2.) later quoted their answers accurately (with nothing more consequential than the "ums" and "ahs" edited out) and in sequence in the print version.

    In fact, my reputation for doing these two incredibly simple things has more than once gotten me direct access to an interviewee where I might otherwise have been given a minute with a PR flack or an emailed press release with prepared quotes.

    I've never been to journalism school but it seems to me that if I as a write quote someone as having said a thing to me, they better damn well have said it. And if I quote someone as having said something that I didn't actually hear I should probably note that it came from another source, in case it turns out that they never really said that in the first place. It's not even a matter of journalistic ethics -- it's a matter of ethics, period.

    But I do understand why someone would be tempted to cheat; news / opinion writers in general are under great pressure to produce content quickly and get paid next-to-nothing or in some cases actually nothing these days (see HuffPo). And transcribing an interview is actually one of my least favorite things in the world to do. It takes a very long time and it's incredibly tedious and I think writers in general tend to despise doing tedious things, especially when they could be writing something exciting instead.

    Part of the reason I have the luxury of taking the time to get things right (most of the time) is that I don't write about news or politics full-time as my sole source of income; I choose my assignments carefully and write occasionally and pretty much accept the fact that I won't get paid fairly or even adequately for my time. But this also means I can't write as many things as I'd like to, or do as many interviews as I like, because I can't quit my day job.

    Good journalism takes time and expertise. If we as a society want the people who write our news to do a good job of presenting honest stories, then we need to demand that the people who employ the writers give writers time and the pay that they need to do a good job. When a reporter gets caught plagiarizing, we shouldn't just attack the writer for being unethical and / or lazy (though many writers are). We should also question the institutions that encourage that sort of behavior, and question our own role as consumers of content in promoting the devaluation of honest, thoughtful journalism.
    posted by BlueJae at 8:49 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

    The problem is that quotes are not your own words. They are a report of what somebody else said and not copyrightable in themselves (except perhaps by the person who said them but that's another story entirely).

    If you write "unSane told me 'the sky is blue'" then that is a statement of fact.

    Someone who subsequently writes 'unSane says 'the sky is blue' is simply reiterating something you claimed as a fact and can no more be sued for copyright than if you reported that there was a fire at 43 Wilson Street and they picked up on this using you as a source.

    The words (of your own) that you use to express a fact are indeed copyrightable. So is any imagined dialogue or scene (which often crop up in biographies).

    Anyway the point is that it's plagiarism that is at issue here, plus the fact that Hari clearly makes statements of fact that are untrue (eg 'so and so told me', instead of 'so and so says', which is the usual tip off for a lifted quote).
    posted by unSane at 8:56 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

    One of the more satisfying interviews I've done as a source was with a journalist for a major newspaper's Sunday magazine. She would frequently echo my words back to me as the interview progressed, and I would periodically tweak something or rephrase my thoughts if I thought I sounded unclear. The topic was somewhat personal in nature, I was young, and this technique really helped me feel more comfortable with the process and gave me a bit of a sense of control over what I was saying about myself.

    On the other hand, a reporter once asked me for an interview on a certain topic where, by happenstance, I had previously written a blog post on a similar theme (he didn't know this). I sent him the URL as background and told him to let me know when he wanted to talk, and that was the last I heard until bits of my blog post appeared in the paper attributed as if I said them in an interview. At least in that case I did give him the URL....
    posted by zachlipton at 9:00 AM on June 29, 2011

    Regrettably, this is a common practice in the UK. I had a substantial chunk of my Bat Segundo interview with Ian Rankin stolen by the Sunday Times's Jason Allardyce (once named Scottish Journalist of the Year). Allardyce did not attribute me and did not apologize to me. And he also ripped off quotes from other sources.

    1. Two examples do not add up to "common".
    2. As far as I can tell, what Allardyce did is exactly not what Hari did.

    Regrettably, people "lifting" quotes and compositing from other sources without direct attribution is common in the press, especially when the lift is from a competitor. And it looks like that's what has happened here. From what I can see in the screenshot it's being written in the typical lift style of "subject wrote" or "subject has revealed that he is X. He said Y." Most often you'll also get "subject has revealed that he is X. Speaking to an online radio show, he said Y". This is exactly how Deadline wrote it after they became aware of the original source.

    Yes, dropping the attribution is very crappy and it's also pretty much churnalism anyway, but it's not what Hari did. What Hari did was pretend those quotes were given to him. He dripped it in purple, so that the interviewee was blinking back the tears and coughing through the smoke before saying [something he said to someone else].

    Allardyce wasn't doing that as far as I can see, and nor are the other journalists writing lifts.
    posted by bonaldi at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2011

    On the contrary, bonaldi, it is a lift and not fair dealing under UK law when you don't bother to attribute the source and so much of it is from someone else. The reader sees Alardyce's article and believes that Allardyce conducted the interview. I'm not especially happy with the way The New York Times will often attribute a quote to "a blog" or "a news source" without naming it. But that's still more honest that grabbing 215 words from me, 126 words from another Rankin compilation that appeared in The Guardian, and 74 words from World News Australia for a 758 word piece without attribution. That's 415 words for a 758 word piece that aren't original, or a good 57% of the article composed from other interviews. Since Allardyce has done no original reporting, as far as I'm concerned, he's misleading the reader into being the guy who did the work. Which is just as much of a false pretense as what Hari did here.
    posted by ed at 9:30 AM on June 29, 2011

    Can tell you're upset about this, but to be clear: I'm not disagreeing that this is a lift.

    What I'm saying is that lifts like this, while not the greatest thing in the world, are common journalistic practice, for better or worse. Editors will defend them and say it's how news works, how a story gets from a small local paper to the nationals, etc. Attribution is always desirable, they'll say, but in a lift-and-rewrite (eg churnalism) from multiple sources sometimes it is left off.

    Oh well, it's still the truth, seems to be thinking, even if it does make our paper look better at the expense of the source.

    This still contrasts to what Hari did, which (arguments about how common it is aside), virtually nobody will defend as acceptable journalistic practice.

    What he reported was not the truth, and it went further than misleading and deep into lying.
    posted by bonaldi at 9:39 AM on June 29, 2011

    Everyone I know who's ever been interviewed for a newspaper has either complained that what they said/wrote was grossly misrepresented -- if not actually lied about

    I've just finished transcribing an interview with a government official in which they went on at length about all the awesome programs their agency runs. Nothing she said on that subject will appear in the article, because the point of the article was her background and goals for her tenure in her new role, as I mentioned when I asked to speak with her. There's often a difference between what the subject thinks was important in what they said and what the reporter does, and reporters tend to trust their instincts in the matter, since one of the most important things subjects usually want you to take note of is how awesome they are. This can cause a lot of unintentional problems when a subject is in any way technical, however --- everybody carries a lot of assumed knowledge about their specialist subject ares, and often when they might go on about Q and the reporter says "they really care about q" when the subject and anyone who's in their field knows that q is only somewhat interesting and only in the context of much more important thing Y. So the subject reads it and thinks, Jesus Christ, you're twisting what I say to make it look like I don't give a fuck about Y.

    There is also the "truthful but negative thing said in passing" problem. This is likely to be quoted and will piss off a subject who has dilligently spent half an hour blowing his colleagues/employers/rivals.
    posted by Diablevert at 9:59 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

    bonaldi: I think we actually agree more than we disagree, and that we're really arguing about severity. I'll concede that Hari's heinous behavior was more involved than Allardyce's, but both involve unacceptable journalistic practice.
    posted by ed at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

    It went beyond lying. It went into synthesising narratives of his own liking starring himself, which is the core of the 'journalism' of this rather confused former personal assistant of Jeffery Archer. He was not satisfied by reality, where people speak vernacular and are not always clear. Why not examine someone's work in a proper, essay like analytical context. Or maybe combine and contrast what someone said with what someone wrote in your writing? Because it is less 'sexy' and ultimately far less ego centric than an 'interview' – which can be presented as an ‘event’ in itself. Especially if it is an 'interview' conducted by a brilliant, crusading moral intelligence that is able to draw out eloquence and clarity from people at will. Hari is part of a slushy, soft Left hackerati that bleeds, cries and shouts from the page rather than offers any kind of objective analysis. He’s been defended by many that sympathise with his late 80s, pour money on societies wounds without question, obligation or judgement brigade. If he was a specimen of the equally vapid and dangerous reactionary alternative he’d have a rougher ride. I wish him sputtering obscurity and flatulent embarassment. I used to love the British newspaper. Read the Guardian and Observer for years, and even dipped into the Indy and Times sometimes. Now years of sleb love, churnalism and a tendency not to challenge but rather massage reader prejudices (Everything is foreign and dangerous or causes/cures cancer on the Right vs. Organic Sustainable Diapers will save the world, the poor always have infinite virtue and public money solves all issues on the Left) have left me with just FT Weekend. I’d rather read about the Tokyo Fish Market, the Congolese Civil War or the new generation of body hackers than Lily Allen’s Beach Book Choices, 10 Reasons the French are smelly or 10 Ways to be an Ethical Sustainable Dad. Picked up the Observer for the first time in ages last Sunday. Binned it after 30 minutes – just like the Indy should old Hari.
    posted by The Salaryman at 10:21 AM on June 29, 2011 [9 favorites]

    rule number one.
    Don't talk to a journalist, the work is driven by self-interest which is fine.
    for the most they really don't care. There are few exceptions.

    rule number two.
    Exploit the hell out of a journalist if you need to get a message out or sell something.

    rule number three.
    They have to make a living, be nice to them, play tovanity or bribe them if need be and receptive.

    rule number four. NEVER, EVER harm a journalist unless it is in print.
    posted by clavdivs at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2011

    I've been on both sides of the fence. Used to be a celebrity junket hack. Then wrote an unauthorized biography of Hugh Grant. We'd gone out together at school, he became an actor, I became a journalist. He became famous. I was commissioned to write a frothy bio about his career to date. Hugh timed his prostitute dalliance rather well from my POV - since I was still finishing the manuscript at the time and it all went into the silly biography.

    I "had" to do the interview round when the book came out. (Way, way more than if the scandal hadn't happened. Tv & print - both sides of the pond).
    I got slated by some fellow hacks - how awful to write a book about a film star who was once your boyfriend! (We had also been at university together)That was fair. I took it on the chin.

    Other interviews were great fun. And I did talk about what it was like going out with the school heart throb who then became a big Hollywood star (& then fell from grace...) - I was always honest that we had been innocent teenage sweethearts, not sex partners.

    I'd given one particular fun interview about Hugh as a teenager & about a gift he had once given me on my birthday , the journo was funny & bright (NY Post, I think) - then a couple of weeks later I started getting calls from the heavy British tabloids - wanting me to comment on a massive spread in a US supermarket mag.

    The headline was "Kinky Sex Secrets of Hound Dog Hugh's Biographer..."
    The big Sex Secret (inside the rag) was that as one of Hugh's former teenage sweeties - I used to adore it when he gave me "sponge baths...".

    The rag then explained what these were - in salacious detail, to educate its readers about this very British form of sexual titillation. And on and on it driveled.

    The Ny post writer later phoned me in fits of laughter. He'd read the supermarket rag piece - and had another look at his own column (which I hadn't seen.) And put two and two together.

    The basis for the Kinky Sex spread was a two word reversal of a single direct quote I had given the paper.

    I had told the NY Post guy that the only present I'd ever gotten from Hugh was a bath sponge.
    (It was shaped like a duck!)
    posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2011 [15 favorites]

    I consider paraphrasing part of my job.

    No doubt - as do most journalists. And it's wrong. Putting something in quotations is a direct statement. That's what people think it means, that's what grammar says it means. It's not what someone might have said, or would have said if they were articulate, primed better, etc etc etc. It's meant to be what they actually said. It's lying, and it's a form of fabrication.

    I can understand your impulse to defend it - it's your job, after all - and I trotted out many of those evasions and dithering lines myself. But that doesn't wash away the equivocation. As soon as you take something off the record, it becomes subjective, and ceases to be reporting and becomes more than reporting; reporting + x amount of creativity.

    As I said, incredibly, pervasively common. Jasperella's comment should illustrate how casually journalists take it.
    posted by smoke at 4:50 PM on June 29, 2011

    I've been following Hari's writing for a couple of years and I'm not entirely surprised by this recent scandal; he's a strident, manipulative, disingenuous propagandist (which is extremely irritating to me—he espouses ideas in which I strongly believe, but in a way that drives me absolutely up the bloody wall).
    posted by hot soup girl at 6:34 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

    Have other folks checked out the "journalistic integrity" link? It made me much less inclined to have any sympathy for this guy.
    posted by naoko at 6:57 PM on June 29, 2011

    As I said, incredibly, pervasively common. Jasperella's comment should illustrate how casually journalists take it.
    What you said was incredibly common was what Hari did. Jasperella pointed out that what he does isn't what Hari did, and he's right.

    If you what you originally meant was common was paraphrasing of quotes, well, yes, it is, and I don't think it's nearly as severe as you suggest. Nobody expects to see literal quotes in anything other than legal transcripts. If they got them in other contexts they'd think the piss was being taken out of the subject.

    Suggesting that's all Hari was doing is letting him off far too lightly. Hari was simply lying and plagiarising. Journalists editing spoken language into the written word are not lying, they're translating from one medium to another. There are standards and practices for how they do that, absolutely, and sometimes people fail at them. But the entire practice itself is not abhorrent in the same way lying is.
    posted by bonaldi at 7:10 PM on June 29, 2011

    Smoke, I do not "take it casually", and I don't fabricate quotes. Where did I say I paraphrase in direct quotations?

    That's your reading of what I said and it's incorrect. Of course you don't know me, you can assume I'm a liar, but I have a good career in a niche market that depends on my professional reputation as someone who deals fairly and accurately with sources and interviewees.

    Here's what I will do - I will paraphrase large chunks of information. An interviewee might, for instance, tell me about a particular business deal they've done. They might say something like this:

    "Then we talked to the other company and we decided that, we, maybe we liked the look of them, and after six months we decided to work together, and we began discussions into that, which went into due diligence, and that took some time, maybe six months? It was a long process and we're happy with the outcome."

    I'd write something like: "After a long process of talks lasting some six months, XYZ said she was happy with the outcome".

    (It's an anodyne example, but I work in a fairly dry and technical field where accuracy is hugely important and frankly most people would find the subject I cover to be deeply anodyne and I had deadline today and my brain hurts.)

    Anyway, I'm sorry if this "creativity" offends, but I'm not quite sure how journalism is to operate without journalists being able to condense information succinctly, which includes information gleaned from interviews and sources.

    Look, I'm not terribly interested in defending my peers of practises I think are shoddy and unethical and there's plenty of it around. Hari's example is a pretty depressing indictment of the industry and I have no doubt it's more common than I'd like to think.

    But I can't get my head around the idea that any selective quoting or paraphrasing at all is unethical. If someone talks to you for an hour, and you only have 500 words to report the interview, then you will have to be selective. Maybe the infinite capacity of the internet will mean such concerns will evaporate in the near future, but as people seem to be less interested in reading longer texts online than they used to in print, I'm skeptical.

    Of course I do agree that most people should understand that what they read in the news isn't the Capital T "Truth" but is rather mediated through fallible humans, such as myself, and also through unethical, biased, sloppy humans with agendas and commercial drivers, which no doubt includes people like me as well. I am, after all, a human being.

    When they introduce the AI truthbot to remove humans from the news cycle I'm sure everything will be much, much better.
    posted by jasperella at 7:19 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

    Oh and selective quoting is NOT what Hari did. Hari lifted quotes from other sources and pretended they were said to him in interviews. I don't know if it's strictly "plagiarism" but it's bloody dodgy and unethical.
    posted by jasperella at 7:25 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Fantastic thread. Let me add this little link to the de benedetti scandal or how did a guy make a number of fake(?) Interviews with very famous people and got away with it for quite some time.
    posted by elpapacito at 7:57 PM on June 29, 2011

    My sincere apolgoies, Jasperella. My arrant cynicism and thoughts of Hari's usage were such that I wrongly assumed you meant paraphrasing direct quotes. I wholeheartedly agree that the example you gave is completely fine, and raises none of the issues that either Hari's quoting, or my example (which is totally different from what you are talking about, I now understand) does.

    I should be more circumspect in applying my own insanely negative experiences across the field as a whole. My experience were reasonably wide-ranging, and indeed very negative, but certainly I do not believe it is impossible for journalists - many journalists - to practice their trade ethically.

    It was just so clearly the minority during my working time - both as journalist and PR, and I cannot lie it has made me bitter and subjective on this topic. I shall shut up now. :)
    posted by smoke at 8:16 PM on June 29, 2011

    In the piece on Negri where Hari was first shown to be fabricating his quotes, he went further, according to the publicist/translator accompanying Negri, and lied about a number of other details too, in smallish ways but all tending to support his hatchet job:
    I was the so-called ‘publicist’ mentioned in the article (I work for Continuum, the publishers of ‘Time for Revolution’,and was innvolved in organising the ICA event). A few minor, but incorrectly reported, details that I have personal knowledge of (eg,there was no taxi called, I didn’t say the things ascribed to me, Negri wasn’t behaving arrogantly as suggested, there was no angry confontation with ICA staff, etc) casts serious doubt on the veracity of anything that Hari says.
    posted by Abiezer at 8:16 PM on June 29, 2011

    You can be a Pulitzer finalist and write for skin mags and kill kittens as a hobby, and you are probably still a reasonable professional

    Why did my high school career counselor neglect to mention this?
    posted by krinklyfig at 10:37 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

    It's clear that Hari has basically gone and done his interviews (perhaps over some generous and distracting expenses-paid lunch) and had a nice old time. However, getting back to his computer he suddenly realises that he didn't get all that many good quotes, therefore he'll pretend other sources were quotes he obtained. It's all incredibly lazy and just demonstrates that actually he is not a very talented journalist. He has won awards because he has portrayed himself through his articles as being such a skilled interviewer that he was able to draw these great quotes out of people when in fact he didn't. So effectively he is a fraud irrespective of whether this is common practice (my knowledge says that it isn't).
    posted by Pilly at 4:47 AM on June 30, 2011

    Hari holds up a mirror to his liberal readers, reflecting their own opinions back at them. All journalists do this to some extent, but Hari more than most (though, to be fair, he does it with considerable eloquence). I tend to agree with him more often than I disagree with him, but it doesn't require much moral courage to tell your readers what they already believe, and Hari is not a courageous writer. Defending his own plagiarism is quite possibly the most courageous stance he's ever taken.
    posted by verstegan at 5:14 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Simon Kelner "steps down" from editing the Indy and i. Presume that's related.
    posted by Abiezer at 6:17 AM on July 1, 2011

    Now Lebedev has sacked Simon Kelner, the editor who defended Hari. It looks like Hari's writing gig there is probably over.
    posted by acb at 10:30 AM on July 1, 2011

    The start of this speech is pretty amazing. I still think Hari has a lot more apologising to do, but he at least has the integrity to defend the people who pilloried him on Twitter and make a passionate defense of their right to insult and offend him. Good for him.
    posted by Wylla at 4:49 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

    Thanks for linking that; I would have missed it otherwise.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:23 AM on July 8, 2011

    Nick Cohen in the Spectator eats Hari for lunch.

    The "David r from meth productions" Cohen talks about does have a very interesting history of edits on Wikipedia. Oh, and his IP address is from the Independent offices.
    posted by bonaldi at 5:54 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Annnnd... 'e's gone. Well, suspended pending inquiry. Then gone, I presume.
    posted by Abiezer at 10:38 AM on July 12, 2011

    According to The Guardian it's the Wikipedia sock puppetry claim that pushed the paper over the edge:
    He seemed to have survived the initial plagiarism allegations, but is now facing separate claims of "sock puppetry" – that he used an online alias to hit back at fellow journalists who had criticised his work. It is understood both allegations will be considered by Whittam-Smith.
    The Guardian links to the blog of lawyer and writer David Allen Green (here is a direct link to the post alleging sock puppetry: Who is David Rose?).
    posted by Kattullus at 4:24 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Ooph... the Hari story is going off the deep end. Some blogs have published excerpts from the gay porn story that Green wisely redacted all mention of. It's not safe for public consumption. I'm not gonna follow this story anymore unless it's in newspapers. Consider this a warning.
    posted by Kattullus at 7:40 AM on July 13, 2011

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