Wall Street Journal removes two Jonah Lehrer essays, corrects two others

Jonah Lehrer “inappropriately reused passages from articles he wrote for the Boston Globe in two essays that he later wrote for the Journal’s Review section,” The Wall Street Journal reported in a correction Thursday.

Both “Head Case: Brain Scan Overload” (published Nov. 12, 2011) and ”Mom Was Right: Go Outside” (published May 26, 2012) have now been replaced by editor’s notes.

Dow Jones Corporate Communications Manager Sara Blask says by email, “We have examined all of Mr. Lehrer’s pieces.” As a result, Blask says, the paper has corrected two stories as well: “Kant on a Kindle?” (October 1, 2010) and “How To Be Creative” (March, 12, 2012)

Lehrer originally got into hot water for reusing material from one of his Wall Street Journal columns in a New Yorker blog post. Later, he admitted he’d fabricated a Bob Dylan quote; at the same time, he resigned from the New Yorker.

Wired magazine severed ties with the writer two weeks ago after an internal investigation by science writer Charles Seife found that 14 of his 18 posts included recycled material he’d published elsewhere. Seife concluded:

I am convinced that Lehrer has a cavalier attitude about truth and falsehood. This shows not only in his attitude toward quotations but in some of the other details of his writing. And a journalist who repeatedly fails to correct errors when they’re pointed out is, in my opinion, exhibiting reckless disregard for the truth.

Seife also expressed concern about the invisibility of Lehrer’s shortcuts. He told Poynter at the time:

The recycling went way back to 2007-2008, something like that, so when you think about how many people have seen the work and the fact that nobody said something. … It means there wasn’t enough attention paid on some level … The media as a whole is cutting it kind of close when it comes to plagiarism.

I think the safety net has eroded … Fact-checkers are disappearing, the editorial staff is getting threadbare. The mantra of do more with less is taking its toll.

Julie Moos contributed to this report.

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