Jonah Lehrer

The Internet is totally cool with Jonah Lehrer’s book deal

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Jonah Lehrer gets a new book deal

    Penguin Random House will publish the disgraced writer's new book with Shlomo Benartzi, "The Digital Mind: How We Think and Behave Differently on Screens," in May. (AP) | It's interesting who gets another bite at the apple, isn't it, especially a day after Hanna Rosin's story about Stephen Glass' diminished life. | To wit, remember when the Knight Foundation paid Lehrer $20,000 to talk about his intellectual dishonesty? | "Fingers crossed that in this case, co-authorship really just means that Lehrer was a glorified line editor, or better yet, a publicity stunt to boost sales." (New York) | "Last we heard of ol' Jo, he had sold a book about the redemptive power of love to Simon & Schuster.

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In a conversation with New Republic writer Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker Editor David Remnick said “the idea that what brought Jonah down was faked Dylan quotes is an irony. But it wasn’t in our magazine.” Chotiner asks about “the pop science that you publish.”

To make the leap that somehow what Malcolm [Gladwell] does leads directly to the ultimately sad story with Jonah Lehrer is itself fake science. The fact that Malcolm is a terrific storyteller and is willing to do this thing that no one else was doing—you may not like it, but there is nothing in my mind fake about it. I find it at its best thrilling. And when he started doing this no one else was. I think Malcolm is an original.

Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic


Publisher pulls second Lehrer book

The Daily Beast | The New York Times

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will stop selling Jonah Lehrer’s 2010 book “How We Decide,” Michael Moynihan reports.

After an internal review uncovered significant problems with the book, the publisher is “taking How We Decide off-sale” and has “no plans to reissue it in the future,” HMH senior vice president Bruce Nichols said in an email.

Moynihan discovered Lehrer had fabricated quotes by Bob Dylan in his 2012 book “Imagine,” which Harcourt pulled last summer.

Moynihan says Nichols didn’t enumerate the issues the publisher had with “How We Decide” but notes that an interview Lehrer claimed to have conducted with United Capt. Al Haynes was nearly identical to a speech Haynes gave in 1991.

Even after the Dylan fiasco, after Imagine had been pulped, and after he publicly declared that the “lies were over now,” Lehrer told me via email that he had indeed interviewed Haynes—providing an email thread of their initial communication—and that the pilot had said the exact same thing, in the exact same language, to him 20 years later.

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Knight Foundation says it was a mistake to pay Jonah Lehrer $20,000

At a Knight Foundation lunch Tuesday, Jonah Lehrer apologized for plagiarism, fabrication and other ethical lapses in his articles and books. Now the Knight Foundation is apologizing for paying Lehrer $20,000 to speak at that lunch. Knight reveals that it invited Lehrer to speak after he had already lost jobs with The New Yorker and Wired for repeatedly misrepresenting his work as original: Read more


It’ll take a village to redeem Jonah Lehrer, not just repentance

Jonah Lehrer played to his strengths Tuesday when he lectured and apologized at a Knight Foundation lunch. But in his extended examination of conscience, he lost sight of his own flaws and missed his opportunity to really explain and remedy what happened in his spectacular downfall.

Lehrer concluded that he needs rules, and he will in the future impose rigid rules of fact-checking on himself to avoid the mistakes he made. “Standard operating procedures will one day restore the trust I have lost,” he said.

I don’t think the rules are enough. Lehrer needs a community. He needs a group of peers, of equals, to challenge his ego and inspire his creativity.

His speech Tuesday was at times like reading a good Lehrer article. Read more

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Jonah Lehrer apologizes, makes everyone angrier

The Washington Post | The Atlantic Wire | BuzzFeed | The Week | New York | Slate | Flavorwire | Forbes
Jonah Lehrer’s speech Tuesday at a Knight Foundation seminar “turned out to be significantly more about himself than I had expected,” Knight President Alberto Ibargüen told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. But the speech, Ibargüen said, contained themes of “trust and arrogance and groupthink and the appeal of inconvenient ideas that are still relevant” to the assembled community-group leaders ostensibly there to “explore the topic of community information needs.”

The speech was live-streamed over the Internet, though, winning it an audience keen to gawk at the former New Yorker and Wired writer’s first post-plagiarism-scandal public appearance. That outside-inside dynamic was cast in stark relief on an onstage screen displaying tweets about the speech. Read more


Jonah Lehrer falls into familiar pattern, fails to face his reckoning

In recent years, though certainly not recently, many conference attendees have heard Jonah Lehrer speak about how our brains and our personal interactions affect our behaviours in interesting and surprising ways.

During his talk at a Knight Foundation event Tuesday, it was much of the same.

Lehrer cited research and anecdotes to lay out a case for why he fabricated and plagiarized multiple times in his work as a journalist. He mentioned the FBI’s standard operating procedures (SOPs), airplane safety measures, and how some machines and systems are built to “force” their human operators to avoid mistakes, rather than make them.

He also spoke about himself in the context of all the research about why we fail, why we make mistakes, and why we can be blind to them. Read more

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Jonah Lehrer earns $20,000 honorarium for talking about plagiarism at Knight lunch

At a talk this afternoon in Miami, Jonah Lehrer acknowledged his plagiarism and fabrications and described how he hopes to redeem his reputation. Lehrer read prepared remarks then answered questions from Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen and the gathering at the closing lunch for the 2013 “Media Learning Seminar.” A liveblog of highlights appears beneath the video.

Lehrer was paid handsomely for the appearance. “Like most outside speakers at Knight events, he was paid an honorarium. In this case, it was $20,000,” says Knight spokesperson Marika Lynch by email. Ibargüen told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We would typically pay a speaker sometimes more than that.”

Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker in July after it was revealed he had been recycling his own work for blog posts and had fabricated quotes in at least one of his books. Read more


How many journalists directly contacted Jonah Lehrer about fabrication, plagiarism accusations?

Jonah Lehrer told Los Angeles Magazine’s Amy Wallace that reporters following the story of his downfall had abandoned the basic tenets of journalism: “Despite the avalanche of coverage, he said, I was only the third person to contact him for comment.”

That statement presented the media-reporting establishment with an unbearable irony: Had journalists bypassed a basic mechanism of journalism while writing about another journalist’s alleged sins?

Part of the problem with looking at something like this is that Lehrer had people speaking on his behalf. His website lists only contact information for his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and his speaking agency. Read more


Jonah Lehrer says he’s writing about ‘false accusations that have been made about my work’

Los Angeles Magazine
Thirteen grafs into Amy Wallace’s piece about Jonah Lehrer, she describes emailing Lehrer to ask “how Lehrer felt as he perched on the precipice before making his career-maiming leap.”

When I e-mailed Lehrer to ask him, he responded right away. Despite the avalanche of coverage, he said, I was only the third person to contact him for comment. (Apparently Lehrer wasn’t the only person guilty of laziness. Or was it that a potential response from Lehrer might not jibe with what the commentariat wanted to say?) “I’m extremely tempted to correct many of the false accusations that have been made about my work in recent weeks,” he wrote before declining to answer my questions. “I’m writing something about the mistake and affair myself, if only so I can learn from the failing, and I’d prefer not to talk until my writing is done.”

Lehrer fact-checking people who’ve reported on Jonah Lehrer? Read more

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