In yesterday’s Independent, prize winning journalist Johann Hari admitted that he had inserted earlier texts into ‘interviews’ without indicating their origin (“My journalism is at the centre of a storm. This is what I have learned”, Wednesday 29 June). He defended this blatant violation of the rules by arguing that it improved the clarity of the product. In other words, the end (communication) justifies the means (a type of plagiarism).
The editor of the Independent Simon Kelner provided an equally feeble defence of his beleaguered colleague’s irregular activities, to wit, that hitherto none of the interviewees had complained!
Guardian columnist Deborah Orr on Newsnight suggested that the problem was that Hari had hit the heights of his profession too quickly and had been forced to learn on the job. But veteran Daily Mail journalist Ann Leslie, on the same programme, was characteristically scathing about these half-hearted attempts to exculpate Hari, who predictably only owned up when caught out.
One person who may currently be feeling a generous measure of schadenfreude is Richard Littlejohn, whom Hari famously carved up on Sky News over the issue of welfare payments to asylum seekers. Sometimes being sanctimonious is bad karma.
We were reminded of the New York Times journalist Jayson Blair, allegedly a beneficiary of affirmative action. He used to send plagiarised copy from ostensibly exotic locations which invariably turned out to be his own home. He subsequently blamed his transgressions on institutional racism. Then there was the (fictitious) character in The Wire called Scott (“more with less”) Templeton, an unscrupulous and ambitious reporter on the Baltimore Sun. He too falsified stories but won a Pulitzer Prize for his reportage on the homeless.
Leslie Jones, 30 June 2011