Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fareed Zakaria and Jonah Lehrer

By now, you should be familiar with the names of these two journalists who got into trouble, and have received some punishment, for plagiarism (FZ), manufactured quotes (JL) and a bit of self-plagiarism (JL). If not, start with this post at the Atlantic Wire by Alexander Abad-Santos [I thank my friend and colleague Atul Chokshi for the e-mail alert].

There has been quite a bit of commentary on the Lehrer affair which unravelled several weeks ago. Let me point you first to Mark Liberman's posts which shine a spotlight on the practice of "unquotations" which he says is so common in mainstream journalism; after laying out his case with tons of examples in two posts (Jonah Lehrer, Bob Dylan and Journalistic Unquotations, and More Unquotations from the New Yorker), Liberman provides a recap/summary in which he distinguishes between "journalistic carelessness and journalistic deceit" -- in Approximate Quotations.

Andrew Gelman, on the other hand, highlights the most important difference between the case of Jonah Lehrer and so many other cases involving academics: Lehrer got punished. The title of Gelman's post says it all: Double standard? Plagiarizing journos get slammed, plagiarizing profs just shrug it off.


  1. Anant said...

    There was an old joke at the time of the Ben Johnson episode:

    "Canadian wins Olympic gold",

    "Jamaican-Canadian suspected of performance enhancer use",

    "Jamaican stripped of Olympic gold".

    Now I begin to see the following:

    "American award winning journalist writes for CNN",

    "Indian-American journalist suspected of plagiarism",

    "Indian journalist suspeded from CNN"?