Don’t Do This

From a piece by Steven Mazie at bigthink.com on Aug. 2, 2012.

For the story above click here.

If you don’t know who Jonah Lehrer is click here.

On Twitter last night, I noticed this piece being tweeted frantically by many of the people I follow who are obviously journalists. The piece describes Lehrer’s extensive fabrication and recycling of his own material, among many other things. If you don’t know who Charles Seife is click here. He is a professor at NYU, a researcher and dedicated freelancer, who wrote the aforementioned piece. Follow him on Twitter here.

I found it ironic that I had just posted my own post on plagiarism a week ago.

This post wasn’t planned and I’m not going to judge the 31-year-old Lehrer. That’s not my place. I’ve only been doing this for about eight months professionally.

I cannot imagine what is going through his mind. I also can’t imagine what his former colleagues at The New Yorker and Wired magazine are thinking. Wired has posted it’s own statement, as well.

For Lehrer, this has been going on for over a month. Twitter has blown up with what he’s done and it continues to only get worse.

Poynter has covered it thoroughly and will continue to do so.

Being up so early this morning, I asked Poynter this:

Now, if you don’t know who Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass are click here and here.

I don’t know any of these men personally, but I do know their stories and I can say that all of their stories are very sad.

In college, Blair’s story was drilled into my head over and over and over again. Professors made it clear to NEVER stoop to that level and to NEVER make things up. The professors used it as a scare tactic and, for me, it worked. As I said in my plagiarism post, I’m deathly afraid of even making a mistake, never mind making things up.

This whole situation is just mind boggling for me. Lehrer was on top of the world, in my opinion. He was a published author and a writer for The New Yorker, Wired and plenty of other big gigs.

There could have been a million things as to why this happened. Blame it on the pressure put on today’s journalists or blame it on demanding editors and publishers, it doesn’t matter. It happened and this won’t go away anytime soon.

Lehrer’s case may now be the one professors use to remind their students to be loyal to the craft they are pursuing, and to be honest with themselves.

I’m waiting for David Carr of the NYT to come out with a new column after Friday’s news. His previous column, from Aug. 19, is a must read. (If you are a journalist and don’t read The Media Equation….. bookmark Carr now. It’s something you cannot miss.)

We will all have to see what happens next. Will Lehrer speak out? Will more errors be found? Who knows. We are all waiting and watching.

Jonathan

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