Posts Tagged ‘Johann Hari’

Observer’s political correspondent caught plagiarising

August 14, 2013

Picture of Andrew Rawnsley

Andrew Nicholas James Rawnsley (born 5 January 1962, Leeds), according to his Guardian profileis the Observer’s award-winning chief political commentator. He is also a critically acclaimed broadcaster and author.

But – and in the best tradition of Johann Hari’s  techniques and ethics – he is not above lifting a few paragraphs of text from others when it suits his purpose.

The revelations about Rawnsley came 2 weeks ago from Guido Fawkes on his blog (run by Paul Staines and is probably the most read right-of-centre political blog in the UK):

Catching up with Andrew Rawnsley’s “award winning” column yesterday, Guido could not help think he had read the same points being made, with all the same examples and the same anecdotes, somewhere before. Rawnsley tackles the great North/South divide debate with a remarkable similarity to Jeremy Cliffe, the Economist’s UK politics correspondent, who wrote extensively on the issue in April. Cliffe’s two pieces are online here and here.

Guido first smelt a rat at the mention of Alastair Campbell, who Rawnsley writes “secured his two, even more whopping landslides in 1997 and 2001 by winning for Labour in places that had been previously thought unreachable. On the night of his first victory, he thought his staff were pulling his leg when they reported that Labour had won St Albans.”Something Economist readers would know from April, minus the insider anecdote.

“Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s spin doctor, recalls the party’s astonishment at the results: “seats were falling that we would never have imagined standing a hope in hell of winning.” The greatest swing was in the south-east and eastern regions, where Labour won 44 constituencies, including such leafy, middle-class suburbs as St Albans (now comfortably Tory once more).”

A coincidence, surely? So Guido started compare the rest of Rawnsley’s column to the Economist pieces, and it does not look good. See if you can spot the differences here:


“Of the 158 seats that make up the three northern English regions, only 43 are Conservative […] Of the 197 MPs representing the English south beyond the capital, just ten are now Labour. The Tories hold only two seats in the north-east and one in Scotland.”


“Of the 158 seats in the three northern English regions, only 43 have a Conservative MP. The Tories hold just two seats in the north-east and have only one MP in the whole of Scotland. […] Under a line drawn from the Wash to the Bristol Channel, there are 197 seats outside London. Just 10 of those seats are represented by a Labour MP.”

Lifting statistics from the Economist is one thing, but what about whole chunks of analysis?


“well-off people in the north are more likely to vote Labour than the poor are in the south […] northerners from the highest social class are more likely to vote Labour than are southerners from the lowest social class.”


“Well-heeled parts of the north are these days much more likely to vote Labour than their counterparts in the south. […] Affluent northerners (the As and Bs of pollsters’ jargon) are more likely to vote Labour than poorer southerners (the Ds and the Es).” 

The Guide Fawkes post contains many more examples of the filching of text/ideas

Somebody else filled in for Rawnsley last week and Guido reports that he is still away and may be replaced for next week’s column as well.

Perhaps he is on extended gardening leave!

Dr Steven King of the Irish Examiner accused of widespread plagiarism

October 7, 2011

Yet another plagiarising churnalist.

Dr Steven King is the former chief political advisor to Nobel Peace Laureate and First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble and was a Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) negotiator on equality, human rights, security and cultural issues in the multi-party peace talks leading to the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.  He now writes about international affairs in a weekly column for the Irish Examiner.

But Brian Whelan who led the uncovering of the plagiarism of  Johann Hari has found that Steven King has plagiarised widely and especially from the writings of Brendan O’Neill, the editor of the blog Spiked.

The Journal: THE IRISH EXAMINER says it is investigating substantial allegations of plagiarism against one of its columnists. Steven King, who writes about international affairs in a weekly column for the newspaper, is accused of copying lengthy passages for his columns from the output of Brendan O’Neill, the editor of British-based blog Spiked.

Evidence of the plagiarism was uncovered by journalist Brian Whelan, whose blog this morning published examples of seven King articles which seem to rely heavily on passages taken from O’Neill’s columns. In one case – a column published by the Examiner in July – there are at least three paragraphs which bear striking similarities to an O’Neill column from 2008.

Whelan wrote on his blog that he had been in contact with O’Neill regarding the similarities, and had been assured that King was not given permission to use passages from his work.

DIT journalism lecturer Harry Browne subsequently uncovered further examples of potential plagiarism, in King’s column published yesterday. That column – dealing with the prospect of Barack Obama losing next year’s US election – carries similarities with pieces published on and in Commentary Magazine.

Whelan had previously helped to uncover accusations against London Independent columnist Johann Hari, which resulted in Hari being stripped of his 2008 Orwell Prize and suspended from duty at his paperHari is now on unpaid leave from the Independent.

Brian Whelan writes:

… King was Educated at Oxford, Queen’s and the University of Ulster, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, a Master of Social Science in Humanities and a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science.

I will show below that he has been extensively passing off the ideas of Spiked Online’s Brendan O’Neill as his own. I have contacted O’Neill who says he has never met King and never gave permission for any of his work to be reproduced by him. …

Presumably King gets paid by the Irish Examiner and – indirectly – by  thousands of readers and then this becomes a case of theft and fraud and not just of his ethics.

Related: Hari, Johann: Plagiarising Churnalist

Hari, Johann: Plagiarising Churnalist

June 29, 2011

Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.

Now we have Johann Hari (who I had never heard of till yesterday) apparently just lifting the writings of people he has interviewed and reproducing them as if they were said to him. The Telegraph:

Johann Hari, a multiple award winning political journalist who writes for newspapers around the world, was exposed after a reader noticed that a quote in one of his stories had been cut and pasted from a book.

Such was the controversy that he was forced to respond in a personal blog, but his defence only further fuelled the intensity of the attacks against him.

Within 24 hours the discovery had sparked a massive backlash as other examples of his alleged plagiarism were uncovered.

On Twitter, the micro-blogging website, users posted a series of jokes in which famous sayings in history were re-created as if Mr Hari had been told them in intimate interviews, while blogs from rival journalists accusing him of so-called “churnalism”. ….

Calls also grew for him to hand back his George Orwell prize, the most prestigious in political journalism, while the Independent, his main newspaper, received demands that he should be sacked.

His reversal of fortunes has been dramatic. Just a few days ago Mr Hari remained the darling of the left wing and was recently named as one of the most influential people on the left in Britain. He has reported from wars all over the world and been a regular art critic on television and a book reviewer.

As well as the Orwell Prize he has won awards from Amnesty International, the British Press Awards and Stonewall, the gay right activists. He has been a renowned critic of other organisations if he believed they strayed from the truth, especially those on the right, and has more than 60,000 followers on Twitter. …. 

Last night the Media Standards Trust, which funds the Orwell prize, demanded an investigation to see whether he should be stripped of the award. It said that the issue had “the potential to damage its reputation”. The organisers of the award said they were following a “process” normally carried out in “situation such as this”.

Toby Young writes on his blog:

For some time now, Hari has been under fire for his cut-and-paste technique – that is, passing off things that his subjects have said elsewhere as things they’ve said to him during his interviews.

A typical example was his 2009 interview in the Independent with Malalai Joya, billed as “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” (hat tip Brian Whelan). Here’s an extract from the interview:

I ask if she was frightened, and she shakes her head. “I am never frightened when I tell the truth.” She is speaking fast now: “I am truly honoured to have been vilified and threatened by the savage men who condemned our country to such misery. I feel proud that even though I have no private army, no money, and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me.

But did she actually say this to Hari? The words Hari quoted are identical to those in a press release for her book, Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out:

I am truly honoured to have been vilified and threatened by the savage men who have condemned our country to such misery. I feel proud that even though I have no private army, no money and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me.

The furore has forced Hari to respond in a personal blog entitled Interview Etiquette.

He does protest too much.

Churnalism is nothing new and neither is plagiarism by journalists. But Mr. Hari seems to have plagiarised not merely for “improving” the quality of his articles but also for mis-representing his interviews (and by inference his interview techniques) as being far more productive and effective than they actually were.

Not just plagiarism in the service of an over-inflated journalist ego but actually a lack of ethics which is tantamount to corruption.

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