Tag Archives: johann hari

MediaGuardian: Independent editor to rule on Johann Hari plagiarism claims

The Independent’s internal investigation into plagiarism accusations levelled at columnist Johann Hari is now finished and a decision is expected from editor Chris Blackhurst, the Guardian reports.

The investigation was conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith, one of the founders of the newspaper.

Those close to the newspaper say that Whittam Smith, the founding editor of the Independent, was inclined to be lenient as he completed his deliberations, but it is unclear whether Blackhurst will reach the same conclusion. A decision from the newspaper’s new editor is expected shortly.

Read the full MediaGuardian report at this link.

More from Journalism.co.uk on the Johann Hari plagiarism accusations:


Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations


Orwell Prize delays ‘unanimous’ Johann Hari decision

Johann Hari suspended pending investigation

Orwell Prize Council begins investigation into Johann Hari

Media Standards Trust calls for inquiry into Johann Hari’s Orwell Prize

Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

After yesterday’s storm, this morning’s calmer weather brings with it some reflection from Johann Hari about the scandal he has found himself caught up in.

Writing in today’s Independent, Hari has apologised for an “error of judgement” after being shown to have passed off unattributed material from elsewhere as direct interview quotes.

I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words.

The front-page headline for his piece seems to have been changed at the 11th hour from “What I think about the attacks on my professional integrity” to “The lessons I must draw from these attacks on my journalism”.

Both have a certain amount of fighting talk about them. The second is softer around the edges and closer to Hari’s piece in the paper, which is an awkward mix of mea culpa and mea innocentia.

I don’t want to harp on about this. I’m not out to get Johann Hari, I don’t want to see him bullied or hounded, and some of yesterday’s frenzy left a sour taste in my mouth. But seeing people on Twitter call his piece in this morning’s paper “gracious” and “exemplary” and so on sticks in the craw a bit.

Hari is a very intelligent guy, intelligent enough for it not to wash that he was innocently doing something for the benefit of the reader. A “gracious” and “exemplary” response would be an honest one, which I don’t think this is. An honest response would admit that he knew then what he was doing was wrong, rather than sees now that it was. An honest response would admit that part of the reason he did it was to improve his own journalism. To make out that it was all about the reader is disingenuous, I think.

Commenting on my previous blog post on this, Guardian technology correspondent Charles Arthur disagreed with my claim that Hari was being disingenuous in his response. He says instead that a lack of proper journalism training is to blame. Arthur claims that the route up through King’s College, Cambridge to the New Statesman and on, didn’t give Hari the journalistic nous to know that what he was doing was wrong or the arsenal to defend himself against the allegations that followed.

It may be the case that Hari’s sentiments in the paper today are genuine, and bear out Arthur’s assessment that he didn’t know any better, but I don’t buy it. This was not about the readers. It does not do a disservice to the reader to give them an unpolished thought, the disservice is giving them one thing and telling them it’s another, and you don’t need to pass your NCTJs or come up the ranks of a local paper to know that.

Of course, phone hacking is worse, inventing quotes from scratch is worse, and there are probably plenty of other things that happen in our industry that are worse. But we don’t need to judge one thing by another, as if the worse of the two mitigated the lesser. Those other bad practices just serve to show that the reaction to this situation was way out of proportion. As James Ball pointed out in a discussion with me this morning, the fact of this 2003 Private Eye piece about Hari adequately demonstrates the amplifying power of Twitter today.

This is the last thing I’ll write about the issue, I hope, but I do think it merits further discussion. It’s a shame that the debate about the practice itself has been somewhat hijacked and deformed by the brouhaha on Twitter. I know these things aren’t black or white, and that Johann Hari is no Jayson Blair. There are shades of grey in between. And I don’t want to see a campaigning writer and someone who is a force for good in journalism end up on the scrap heap over something like this. But I’m just not sure that today’s defence stands up. As Samira Shackle notes in her New Statesman post today, Hari still hasn’t addressed the charge of lifting material from other interviews as well as from the writings of his subjects.

I’m sure that over the coming months Hari will vie with his Independent colleague Robert Fisk for the dubious honour of most-scrutinised journalist, and I’m equally sure they won’t find any new copy and paste jobs. The level of coverage of this has been sufficient to teach anyone a lesson.

It remains to be seen whether an inquiry into his 2008 Orwell Prize will find that his submissions are affected.

UPDATE: A discussion on Twitter between myself and the Guardian’s Charles Arthur followed this post after he commented on it below. You can see the whole thing at this link, starting at the bottom of the page. The first tweet should start “Interesting comment from @charlesarthur…” and the last “@charlesarthur @jeremyduns Sobering. Threatening to escalate…” – if this is no longer displaying properly please let me know: joelmgunter@gmail.com.

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations

Independent columnist and interviewer Johann Hari has come under fire over the past week for so-called copy and paste journalism.

First the DSG blog pointed out the remarkable similarities between Hari’s 2004 interview with Tony Negri and Negri’s own 2003 book, Negri on Negri. Then Brian Whelan, an editor at Yahoo! Ireland, did a little more digging around and unearthed more similarities. Whelan took a close look at Hari’s interview with Gideon Levy, published in the Independent last year, and found that chunks of it had been lifted from both Levy’s own writing and interviews he gave to other journalists.

It’s important to note the copied passages are not cited as quotes from their original source, which would be perfectly acceptable, but rather passed off as having been said in Hari’s own interview, complete with such dramatic additions as: “With a shake of the head, he says…” and “After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice…”

What is perhaps more surprising than the evidence that the Independent’s star interviewer has been lifting quotes from elsewhere to neaten up his work, is a blog post from Hari last night defending the practice.

The post, titled “interview etiquette”, explains that he occasionally replaces quotes from an interview with quotes from elsewhere in which the subject has better expressed the same idea.

So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech. It’s a way of making sure the reader understands the point that (say) Gideon Levy wants to make as clearly as possible, while retaining the directness of the interview. Since my interviews are intellectual portraits that I hope explain how a person thinks, it seemed the most thorough way of doing it.

Hari claims to be bemused that a blogger considers this plagiarism, and says that he has called round “a few other interviewers for British newspapers” who told him that they do the same thing from time to time.

But Hari’s defence that he would expect somebody interviewing him about Martin Amis to replace something like: “Um, I think, you know, he got the figures for, uh, how many Muslims there are in Europe upside down” with something he’d written “more cogently about him a month before” is disingenuous. No journalist is expected to quote so verbatim as to include ums, uhs, and you knows. Features would be a complete mess. But they should, without doubt, be expected to not pass off other material as having been said in their interview.

Hari’s simplistic take on the practice is also disingenuous, and I suspect he knows it. There are all sorts of problems associated with this kind of fudging, not least the question of whether his subjects can be confident of having any control over an interview, or whether his editors and readers will be able to trust what they get given. And once misrepresenting what was said a little bit, where do you stop?

It should be acknowledged that all journalists pick and choose quotes from an interview as they see fit, eschewing thousands of words for a few quotes sometimes, and this can carry with it its own forms of misrepresentation. There is a fine, but important line, however, between that and falsifying what was said in an interview.

Hari finishes his post by saying that he is “open to suggestions from anyone who thinks there’s a better way of doing this”.

I have one: ask the right questions, get the answers you are looking for if possible, or if not work with what you’ve got. If your subject has expressed an idea more cogently elsewhere, point your readers in that direction and let them decide for themselves. If they um and ar, cut out the umms and arrs. No one is going to write an accusatory blog post about you doing that.

Hari’s actions aren’t a far cry from the recent case of Brian Walski, who was fired from his job as a staff photographer on the LA Times for filing a composite image. There were few objections to Walski’s sacking, and none from the man himself who issued a contrite apology. Alterations and composites are unacceptable in professional photojournalism, why should it be any different with the written word?

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Media faces stong criticism from within over Raoul Moat coverage

Media coverage of the police hunt for Raoul Moat may have come to an end, but the debate over how the press reported on events continues.

From live video coverage of Moat’s stand-off with police, to interactive maps, to timelines of events leading up to his attacks,  – the terrifying story gripped our news headlines.

But the volume and content of some coverage has led to criticisms of sensationalism and glamourising, from outside and within the industry – with some even warning reports could encourage future attacks.

The debate over the media’s responsibility when reporting such events has even prompted a Twitter debate from the BBC, who will hold a debrief tomorrow to discuss the lessons to learn from covering the actions of people like Raoul Moat.

Responding to the debate on Twitter, @julesthejourno illustrated the problem – while some of the real-time footage may have been difficult to watch, it was equally impossible to turn off, for a public with a desire to know the latest developments.

Friday’s live coverage was so raw (especially the phone calls) it felt wrong to watch but even more so to change channels.

This supports Barbara Ellen’s post at the Observer, which claimed that the media are simply “feeding the ‘public interest’ monster”.

It’s too pat to blame the news media. They are merely feeding the “public interest” monster – a ravenous, impatient, rubbernecking creature. In a way, that seems almost too tidy. It seems to be this very part of us that feeds the “death and glory” monster presumably lurking inside poor, deluded sods such as Moat, making all those fantasies about being the centre of attention, the big scary guy with the gun, come true.

But she warns that demand for such coverage could lead to a very dark road.

Homicidal sprees as another form of spectator sport? Just another button on the remote control, perhaps labelled “Homi-tainment”, with a helpful skull and crossbones motif? The whole thing was reminiscent of iconic scenes from the US. “Homi-tainment” was definitely there when OJ went off on his car chase, Waco went under siege, even in those candlelit vigils outside prison executions. Didn’t Brits used to think we were rather above this kind of thing? Well, seemingly not any more.

But is the media to blame for how the news itself plays out?  Freelance journalist Martin Robbins has written a series of “serious questions” which he feels need to be answered by the media, who he claims created a “carnival atmosphere” with their coverage.

His comments have since exploded across Twitter and the blogosphere.

One such question is whether the media understand the nature and extent of their influence on Raoul Moat? Robbins says a quote from Moat proves that media coverage could have directly led to another person being killed:

For every piece of inaccurate information published I will select a member of the public and kill them.

In response, Robbins questions the morality of the press who he accuses of doing just that.

Can they explain why they printed inflammatory details that had no conceivable public interest justification? Can they go to bed tonight safe and sound in the certain knowledge that they did not contribute to his death?

Answering his question, the bloggers at Fleet Street Blues simply replied: “yes”.

Look, it’s not as if the Raoul Moat story was Fleet Street’s finest hour. It showed how the proliferation of online news has only heightened the demands of the 24-hour rolling news cycle, and no one’s saying the televised ending was particularly edifying for anyone concerned.

But the implication that journalists were too intrusive, too inquisitive and too obstructive to police is just inaccurate.

Channel 4’s Alex Thomson, whose real-time Tweeting also came under fire from Robbins as an illustration of the media chase, defended his work on Twitter:

“can’t speak for media but yes, v proud of c4n Moat coverage which I say was informative, factual and not sensational.

But psychologists remain concerned that even though the coverage of Raoul Moat’s run from the police may be over, it had the power to encourage another similar event in the near future.

Reporting for the Independent, Johann Hari asks if the media will now indirectly help others “pull the trigger”.

Suddenly, they are shown a path where their problems won’t be trivial and squalid and pointless. No: they’ll be the talk of the entire country. They’ll be stars.

The way we report these cases can make that man more likely to charge out of his house to kill, or less. The psychologists say that currently we are adopting the most dangerous tactics possible. We put the killer’s face everywhere. We depict him exactly as he wanted, broadcasting his videos and reading out his missives. We make his story famous. We present killing as its logical culmination. We soak him in glamour: look at the endless descriptions of Moat as “having a hulking physique” and being “a notorious hard man”.

We present the killer as larger than life, rather than the truth: that these people are smaller than life, leading pitiful, hate-filled existences.

Feel free to leave your own thoughts below.

Johann Hari: ‘The forces blocking British democracy are becoming visible in this election’

One of these forces is the British media, says Hari, who suggests that the televised leaders’ debates act as a counter to the right-wing press – in particular yesterday’s kicking of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg by the Conservative-supporting papers – and as such the media’s distorting effect on democracy could be bypassed:

The British media is overwhelmingly owned by right-wing billionaires who order their newspapers to build up the politicians who serve their interests, and marginalise or rubbish the politicians who serve the public interest. David Yelland, the former editor of the Sun, bravely confessed this week that as soon as he took his post, he was told the Liberal Dems had to be “the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper’s pages and ignored”. Only a tiny spectrum of opinion was permitted. Everyone to the left of Tony Blair (not hard) had to be rubbished – even when their policies spoke for a majority of British people.

The TV debates, then, were a very rare moment in which a slightly more liberal-left voice could speak to the public without the distorting frame of pre-emptive abuse and distortion. The window of permissible opinion was opened a little – and people responded with a wave of enthusiasm. It could’ve been opened wider still – to the Greens, say – and found a receptive audience too.

The reaction of the right-wing press to briefly losing the ability to frame how politicians address the public has been a frenzied panic worthy of Basil Fawlty. They have “revealed” Clegg is a paedophile-cuddling, Gaddafi-licking foreigner and crook who wishes we had lost the Second World War. But now – for a change – people can test the smears against what they see and hear with their own eyes, unmediated, on TV.

Read the full post at this link…

Independent: Reprint of Independent article leads to Indian newspaper editor’s arrest

The Independent reports that an editor and publisher have been arrested in India after they reprinted an article by the Independent’s Johann Hari.

“Ravindra Kumar and Anand Sinha, the editor and publisher of the Kolkata-based English daily The Statesman, appeared in court yesterday charged under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code which forbids ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings,'” the Independent reports.

Full story at this link…