Posts Tagged ‘Political journalism’

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.

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: