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Johann Hari caught red-handed making up the source of quotes in interviews

(30 Posts)
longfingernails Tue 28-Jun-11 23:50:47

He has been pretending that people said things to him in interviews (embellished with his usual flaccid prose) when in fact they didn't - they may (or may not) have written them down.

Yet another journalist has been exposed for the immoral drivel they churn out. There are some most amusing parodies

Of course, the slimy Polly Toynbee couldn't wait to rush to his defence, seemingly on the grounds that he writes for a left-wing newspaper:!/pollytoynbee/status/85712783164968961

GeekLove Tue 28-Jun-11 23:55:44

Very clever but not exactly objective are we? 2/10 must try harder.

MortenHasNiceShirts Tue 28-Jun-11 23:59:12

Do you mean that flaccid prose which won him the Orwell prize?

And when you say "they may have written them down" - they did write them down.

MonMome Wed 29-Jun-11 00:09:51

Oh yes, the 'flaccid prose' that has won him several awards...... Just because you disagree with his political stance doesn't mean you should gloat over this.

hester Wed 29-Jun-11 00:47:45

Making up quotes is absolutely endemic in journalism (I'm not defending it). The worst is apparently the Daily Mail.

Triphop Wed 29-Jun-11 01:03:33

It's straight-up plagarism, using someone else's written work and passing it off as your own work (something which they said to you during an interview). He should be called out for it, and his defense on his blog was crap. The reason Hari did it is clear: to make himself look bigger & more important & more clever. The honest thing to do would be to write, ' X and I discussed Y, and here's how he explained it in his autobiography: ....'

But he shouldn't be sacked, or anything like it. He did not misrepresent his interviewees, and if it's true that none have complained, then it's hardly a major problem. And he didn't make up quotes, he plagarised them. Bad, but nearly as bad as just making it up. For that, you should get sacked.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 29-Jun-11 06:14:14

I think for this particular journalist, losing his integrity & credibility is going to be pretty damaging. At least he's had the humility to confess but who is going to take him 100% seriously in future?

BelleDameSansMerci Wed 29-Jun-11 06:23:00

<shakes head> Oh LFN, you can do better than this...

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 29-Jun-11 06:47:59

@BDSM... LFN makes the point in their usual florid style but it's valid nontheless. It's a pretty serious situation for any journalist to be caught making short-cuts but Hari sets himself up as being serious and authoritative rather than just a run-of-the-mill hack. If it was a politician caught embellishing or passing other people's work off as his own, Hari would be the first to point the finger.

BelleDameSansMerci Wed 29-Jun-11 06:56:38

Oh I agree with that, Cogito. I doubt, however, that this would have been brought to our attention by LFN if it were a journalist with a right-wing bent.

I haven't seen "her" Tory HQ posting anything that looks for genuine debate or is even handed. The posts are often petty and small minded.

meditrina Wed 29-Jun-11 07:04:47

Hester: Interestingly, the least afflicted is The Sun - which is the least sued UK newspaper and, whatever you think of its prose style and selection if stories, it is very accurate.

Brokerage: had it been a right-wing journo, it might not have been LFN who posted - but it would have been someone. There's a large clique on MN which likes to bash Tories.

hester Wed 29-Jun-11 07:23:02

As a lefty, I have to agree with you meditrina.

BelleDameSansMerci Wed 29-Jun-11 07:30:01

meditrina - yes, you're right. Personally, I'd love to bash a few Tories - really hard grin

MortenHasNiceShirts Wed 29-Jun-11 12:37:36

But he didn't pass other people's viewpoints off as his own. He passed clearer versions of other people's viewpoints as their own viewpoints.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 29-Jun-11 13:50:43

So why has he apologised for his error of judgement if all he was doing was clarification? hmm

meditrina Wed 29-Jun-11 14:21:55

I'm very happy to bash anyone - when they deserve it! Equal opportunities and all that....

niceguy2 Wed 29-Jun-11 16:06:26

But Morten, he's in effect misled his readers by claiming he's interviewed people when in fact he has just found something on the web which supports his article. Why not just say that up front?

A good article from BBC News here

I particularly love the twitter response: "I walked into the room and there he was. Lionel. 'Hello,' he said, shaking my hand 'Is it me you're looking for?" grin

zebedeee Wed 29-Jun-11 19:35:26

I believe Johann has not actually trained as a journalist - so arguably he's a writer not a journalist.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 29-Jun-11 20:11:14

Actually, he may just qualify for the definition of journalist... but he's definitely shown himself not to be a 'reporter'.

complimentary Wed 29-Jun-11 23:24:46

LFN. Thankyou for exposing another lying leftie! The man is an idiot. When I was at University, plagarism count get you kicked out of Uni. Why does he say he interviewed someone when he has not. What a strange man! grin

MortenHasNiceShirts Thu 30-Jun-11 14:34:45


complimentary Thu 30-Jun-11 15:57:45

You are dead right! it's 'plagiarism'.

vesela Thu 30-Jun-11 16:48:40

It's simple dishonesty. He's made out that words XY were said on day Z when they weren't. While a journalist needs to show a reasonable amount of leniency to someone who makes an unintended slip of the tongue, or expresses him/herself wrongly, they also need to preserve the nuances of what has been said/written at different times by public figures. He's said that no interviewees have complained that they were misrepresented - but it's not just about pleasing your interviewees, is it?

I suppose it's a bit like when they film staged bits for reality TV shows etc. and pretend they were real - only this is someone who writes on the Middle East, interviews Hugo Chavez etc.

perfectstorm Sun 03-Jul-11 00:37:24

"LFN. Thankyou for exposing another lying leftie! The man is an idiot. When I was at University, plagarism count get you kicked out of Uni. Why does he say he interviewed someone when he has not. What a strange man!"

1) He had interviewed them. As part of his research when interviewing them, he read all their published works. If he found some of what they said to him directly sounded muddled when transcribed, he lifted similar quotes, without attribution, from their work. That's not okay, because the impression given is that he is a far better interviewer than is in fact the case, and he isn't writing a celeb profile (where this behaviour is so common as to be almost standard practice) but interviewing major world leaders and thinkers. But it's also true that people do trot out similarly worded ideas and anecdotes, and people who are frequently interviewed do it more than most, so it's not implausible that he was less creative in this practice than his main detractors allege. He was in the wrong, but it's hardly journalism crime of the century. And that would be so whatever his position on the political spectrum. It's facile to assume political affiliation determines ethics. Tribalism is childish.

2) I knew him at college, and he was a nice guy. He was very kind and very generous to a lot of people in difficult situations. You're entitled to question what he did, his politics and his journalism. I'd never try to argue otherwise. But passing nasty, gloating personal comment on a complete stranger looks somewhat foolish when you don't even know what the accusations against him are.

3) "When I was at University, plagarism count get you kicked out of Uni."

Well done. A malapropism, spelling error and prolixity, and all in one short sentence. The sentence immediately following your calling an Orwell Prize winner with a double First from Cambridge an idiot. I do not know which University had the pleasure of educating you, but on the evidence of the post you made here, i) you should seek a refund, and ii) I do know that it was not Cambridge.

edam Sun 03-Jul-11 00:52:53

perfectstorm, what a great post. Love no. 3 on your list.

Was quite shocked by JH. I may only be a mere hack but I have never nicked someone else's quotes and passed them off as ones I have obtained!

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