Wired magazine has ended its relationship with author Jonah Lehrer after an investigation into his writings turned up “inexcusable” problems.
New York University associate journalism professor Charles Seife reviewed Lehrer’s work for Wired. His complete report has been posted at Slate, outlining examples of plagiarism, questionable facts and recycled work.
Earlier this summer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt removed Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works from bookstores after the journalist confessed he had manufactured Bob Dylan quotes in the book. Until December 31, the company will refund readers for the book.
Seife’s essay is a must-read for all writers. Among his many points, he highlighted examples of “press release plagiarism.” Check it out:
Journalists disagree about whether it is acceptable to take passages and quotations from press releases without attribution. I’m on the less-tolerant end of the spectrum, so I looked for examples in Lehrer’s work … For me, the most ethically fraught example of this practice was in “Does Inequality Make Us Unhappy.” In that post, Lehrer wrote: “‘We economists have a widespread view that most people are basically self-interested and won’t try to help other people,’ Colin Camerer, a neuroeconomist at Caltech and co-author of the study, told me.” However, the quotation had come from a Caltech press release, not from an interview with Camerer.
As the Internet changes the pace and style of our writing, all journalists should be thinking about these problems. Do you think Wired made the right decision?