July 02, 2011

Stewart Lee, Joe Pasquale and Johann Hari

I keep reading stuff about Johann Hari being accused of plagiarism and churnalism.  It appears he took quotes from the work of people he had interviewed and inserted them into the interviews as if the interviewees had said those same things to him.  My friend Damo says that he invented whole situations but I haven't read that anywhere.  Here's Hari on Hari.  Here's David Osler on Hari:
We all tidy up what interviewees say to us, at least to some extent. Most obviously this occurs in cases of clear grammatical solecism or where English is a second language for the speaker. Nobody appreciates being made to look foolish in print, so that’s only fair.
Initially, at least, Hari sought to argue that this was in effect what he was doing. If somebody had earlier made a point more eloquently elsewhere, why not use the more elegant form of words?
That doesn’t really stand up, either. While I don’t do that many set piece interviews these days, I am aware that a key skill of the genre is to tickle out attention-grabbing quotes from your subject. That’s what separates star interviewers from us humble penny-a-liners who dabble in the form from time to time.
Hari is today getting widely pilloried everywhere from Twitter to the Daily Telegraph, and in fairness to him, he isn’t doing anything that some of his accusers do not indulge in as well.
I usually enjoy Hari’s copy, and I am not going to join those calling for his head to roll. But he deserves to be made to eat a huge slice of humble pie, and to cease and desist from being a low-grade rip-off merchant.
Because as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein told me when I had a beer with them in Washington last night: “We really look up to Johann as a journalist, and it is hard to believe he would sink as low as that.”
Now what has that got to do with Stewart Lee and Joe Pasquale?



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