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Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hari and the Independent

As one of the bloggers and journalists who recently posed questions for Johann Hari to answer about his writing, it may seem either very appropriate - or not appropriate at all - that I am rather concerned about how all this must be affecting him. In particular, I do hope his employers are properly looking after their employee.

If it turns out that there were faults, then - as he was (and is) a young journalist - it is clear that those responsible for editing his work also have difficult questions to answer.

Whatever happens, I do trust that those at the Independent who allowed such allegedly bad journalistic practices to continue do not try to blame it all on Hari.

I actually admire Hari's polemical works, and so I want him to come out of this affair a better and more rounded journalist.

I am certainly not taking any pleasure in any of this (unlike, it must be said, some others).



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48 comments:

Graham said...

While I wasn't one of those initially baying for his head I did find the Wiki-tampering very distasteful and if he was involved in that I've very little sympathy for him.

Anonymous said...

um, ok...

Pam Nash said...

Hmmm.......to me, young, in this context, implies someone very early 20s; Hari is 32. I do think he needs some help - but please don't use his age in this, he's old enough for it not to be relevant.

Benulek said...

"If there turns out to be faults, then - as he was (and is) a young journalist - it is clear that those responsible for editing his work also have difficult questions to answer."

Editors cannot verify everything, unless they have the resources of the New Yorker (and few do). They must trust their journalists not to concoct or steal quotes. Perhaps they should demand recordings or contemporaneous notes for the newspaper archive, at least where interviews are on the record (thus allowing journalists to protect confidential sources).

The real fault lies in the recruitment of journalists. Focusing on confident and articulate but untrained graduates may bring short-term rewards in the form of reams of enthusiastic copy and provocative polemic, but the risk is that you end up staffing a newspaper with people who have no understanding of the ethics and professional responsibilities of the trade.

As for 'young', he's 32. Youthful exuberance no longer washes.

SteelMagnolia said...

I am very glad you have brought this up as I have deep concern for Johanns state of mind. I know he removed his website and writing was his life. It would be dreadful if Johann felt so hounded he took his own life, how would we all feel ? I think we should step back and let him alone until this is all sorted, I am sure then he will have an explaination for the allegations against him.

Stevie said...

What's the source for Johann Hari's age? If it's Hari himself, can we second-source and factcheck?

Andy Simpson said...

Its hard; as a journalist who focused on the morals and ethics of life and politics, is what he has been accused of just too damaging to his reputation and integrity for him to continue? I really liked his work and passion for causes, I think his best bet is to maybe withdraw for a few months and then come back, but write and work in a different way; less prolific and with maybe a more humble approach?

NewShoot said...

I first became aware of Johan's journalism when he took on Kenneth Tong. is efforts there may have saved the lives of anorexic women. Put that in the balance when judging the value of his work.

SteelMagnolia said...

Andy I agree with you, after all we ALL make mistakes maybe, Johann felt he had to be better than better if that makes any sense. I for one am willing to give him a second chance I am sure he regrets any wrong doing if indeed he has. I would imagine he would turn the clock back if he could and such a talent should not be thrown away. However, as I have previously stated I am more concerned with how he is doing in himself and his state of mind. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and Johann this will blow over and you will move on, a better person for having learnt, as we all do, from our mistakes. Be strong xx

dividedbyzero said...

Steel might sound a bit melodramatic but I for one share these concerns. Many of those who have known Hari personally have hinted at emotional instability and, whilst he has damaged journalism, we can't count on him having the same sort of thick skin that many of the hardened, experienced (and frankly, qualified) journalists of old have.

Hari was so concerned about self-image and self-preservation that he appeared to have created a sock-puppet to defend on his behalf. Heaven only knows what a character who felt he had to do this under normal circumstances would do now the world is watching him.


This is a man from a blogging background; a world filled with emotional types. There is a risk newspapers take when they take on people who have not gone through the normal journalistic route. Part of that managing that risk involves managing the well-being of somebody like Hari.

I know a lot of you are rightfully very angry at what he has done but looking at ones character is not irrelevant in cases like this. He was no smug braggard - he wound people up no end, of course - but he's a fragile chap. And credit to you David for urging us to remember that.

I haven't got a clue what it's like being young (32 is young), emotional and having the entire internet/media/world criticising you (even if it was his fault). It can drive certain types of people to certain types of actions. I wouldn't be so glib to compare it to the tragedy of another young person in the media this weekend, but there's only so much some people can take.

Kevin said...

Sorry Benulek, but at this moment more than any, arguing that formal journalism training is any guarantee of accuracy and ethics is incredibly difficult to back up with evidence. Or did you miss the phone hacking scandal?

There is no qualification necessary to understand the simple principle "don't make stuff up"

Jeremy Duns said...

I hope the staff of The Independent, the committees of The Orwell Prize, The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, the Comment Awards, the Amnesty International Awards, The Stonewall Awards, The Environmental Press Awards and all the journalists affected are sensitive and empathetic to the fact that Johann Hari will be distressed and no doubt deptressed by the revelations. I hope his friends will gather round him, too.

But I also hope that that brief list makes it obvious that, while humanity and empathy for Hari are important, he also owes all of those people a sincere apology and full explanation for his actions. His two articles addressing the allegations so far - both published on his site and one published in The Independent - were dishonest and dismissive to the point of arrogance. He has yet to admit he is a plagiarist, and so others have proven it instead. But he knew it when he wrote those two pieces, and chose to come up with a completely spurious and deceptive defence of his actions in an attempt to hide the gravity of what he has done over the period of around a decade. It's a shame that simply because his politics were deemed 'right on' a lot of professional journalists who should know a lot better have fallen for his lies and refused to look further, instead claiming it's all a right-wing plot. The truth is in the texts: Hari did not, as he claimed, do this occasionally, but often: over 10 interviews have been identified already. He did not do this only when interviewing writers: George Michael, Hugo Chavez and others are not that. He did not do it simply with quotes: in the Malalai Joya article there are passages lifted near-verbatim from her book but changed 'I' to 'she' and presented not as if told to him but as if *written* by him. He claimed these were intellectual profiles, not scopps or exclusives - but several of the articles, such as those on George Michael and Chavez, were specifically billed as exclusives by him and The Independent. He claimed this was not plagiarism, but it clearly is, and the sheer scale of it is shocking because it suggests a much greater problem, which is already being revealed. If Hugo Chavez did not lean forward and pat him on the knee while parroting verbatim something he had said to another journalist several years earlier, the question is: what did he say? And what did his other interviewees' say? It looks increasingly like his plagiarism disguised widescale fabrication.

I have sympathy for anyone who finds themself in a bit of a mess, and Johann Hari is in a lot of one: it seems his entire career has largely been built on false pretenses. But he is really not the victim here. His interview subjects, his employers, his readers, and those who have given him some of the most prestigious awards in British journalism asre the victims of his deceptions, and they deserve an explanation and sincere apologies. When he's done that, I think it will be much easier for both them and him to move on from this. If he continues to ignore the issue and deny that he is a plagiarist, I think sympathy for him will remain, rightly, at a low ebb. It is long past time he came clean on what he has been doing.

Kate Bevan said...

Good post, @Benulek. I think this sorry tale has a lot to do with the parlous state of newspapers: there's no formal training, subs are being axed left, right and centre (and let's not forget that the Indy was famously opposed to subs from the start) and people are taken on on the strength of their connections or their blog, not on their actual journalistic skills and experience.

I also agree that the "he's young" defence doesn't wash: he's 32 and surely even the most myopic and navel-gazing of people working on a newspaper would have picked up some sense of what's acceptable and what's not.

I'm sorry that this has happened - God knows there are enough people sniping at old-fashioned journalism; it certainly doesn't need something like this undermining the profession.

blondpidge said...

I am glad his mental health is being taken into account, I suggested to @holysmoke over a week ago that it might be kinder to ease up.

Johann has a self-confessed history of mental health issues, I think (though I cannot be sure as his website has been taken down) he has written about taking anti-depressants.

If Johann is David Rose as has been suggested, then that is indicative of a manic or certainly distressed, state of mind.

I do not admire his polemic, certainly some of his anti-Catholic writing was as offensive as it was factually incorrect. He has given Islam a similar treatment. His response to criticism? Block and move on. Generally speaking, Hari's polemic was over-emotive, patronising and fell short in it's attempted didacticism. If I had a penny for every time someone had sent me one of his articles in attempt to prove a point, I would be incredibly rich.

Given the amount of times people attempted to use Hari, to "show you the errors of your ways" on my blog and in other areas, I would be lying if I attempted to deny a sense of satisfaction now he has been proven to be so unreliable.

That said, no-one should take pleasure in the suffering of another human being. His career in journalism must surely be over, his reputation is in tatters. Hari is the tragic hero, the Lear or Michael Henchard of our time. I hope he finds redemption.

SteelMagnolia said...

Johann has taken down his website . I found these interviews of Johann with Kenneth Tong...Lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. EVERYONE deserves a second chance.

http://www.chris-nicholson.com/johann-haris-interviews-with-kenneth-tong

Dr Aust said...

@Beneluk:

'Focusing on confident and articulate but untrained graduates'

Well, that isn't just journalism; it could serve as a brief but accurate description of all of the public-school-and-Oxbridge-educated wonks who end up running Britain.

Damian Thompson said...

I understand the concern that Johann Hari's friends feel for him; they have been in touch with me and I have taken account of what they've told me. But let us at least be clear about the accusations Hari is facing.
1. The borrowing of quotes from material published elsewhere. This is not classic plagiarism, perhaps, but it was one of the things that got Jayson Blair of the New York Times into deep trouble.
2. Aggressive use of a sock puppet to intimidate his critics. This is a very strange business, as the Wikipedia sock puppet appears to share an identity with the author of some disturbing pornography.
3. For my money, the most serious accusation of all, to be found in the current Private Eye: that Hari, on a trip to the Central African Republic, fabricated quotes. This evidence has been supplied by the charity worker who was acting as Hari's translator. Hari's silence in the face of this accusation looks especially bad and supports long-held suspicions that there are elements of fantasy in a number of his articles.

dividedbyzero said...

The initial wave of blogging fever a decade ago gave cushy journo jobs to those who had simply maintained a blog with a healthy number of followers. These people were offered jobs above those who had earned their trade in locals or by subbing, being an intern etc - a practice entirely borne out of the newspapers desperately trying to jump on the new media bandwagon.

They took this risk without thinking of the consequences; risk of compliance to journalistic code clearly being one of them. Another huge one was people managing the transition of a human being between their amateur blogging world and the professional machine they were joining.

I'm sure if a newspaper offers you a proper journalism job one day, David (and it's bound to happen, without trying to massage your ego), there will be subtle nuances of that profession that you won't quite appreciate either.

I'm not making excuses for Hari; nobody outside the world of journalism would have thought his behaviour appropriate either, but there were clearly things he could get away with on Hari's Place that nobody bothered to ween him off when he got a "proper job".

This won't be the first of this type of story either; look at the number of journalists who originated from the blogging world. If there was ever an advert for the need for a journalism qualification, this whole sorry saga must be it.

Penglish said...

I have enjoyed Johan Hari's writing. I don't really care if it's "journalism" or something else - it's been thought-provoking.

In the past I've done qualitative research, and recorded and transcribed interviews. Ordinary speech, accurately transcribed, is full of infelicities - corrections, repetitions and so on. Surely, no journalist reporting an interview - with any but the most amazingly articulate interviewee - could or would transcribe an interview precisely, other than as an exercise, to prove a point, or to make the interviewee look stupid. So if Johan found pieces of writing where his interviewee was stating, elegantly, in considered prose, what he was trying to say in the interview, and interpolated some of the writing - surely he's doing his readers a favour? He's using the interviewees carefully considered words to make the point s/he was trying to make. Johan himself pointed out that his interviewees have not complained that they've been misrepresented.

OK, so in an academic context he would have been obliged to state where he was quoting his interviewees writing, rather than what he actually said, verbatim; but he's been writing in papers and blogs where such rigour isn't usual.

I'd like to see him back and writing again straight away - and I do hope he's not going to be too badly harmed by this storm-in-a-teacup.

The Church Mouse said...

David

I did not like much of Johann's writings, specifically his polemics against religion. I felt he played fast and loose with facts to try to score points and make an argument that didn't hold water when looked at dispassionately withnreference to the facts. I called him on it once when he railed against bishops in the Lords.

Yet your concern here is spot on. The press can be vicious and bloggers and tweeters worse.

Johann is certainly a highly talented writer, and his alleged offences are far from great enough that they should not stop everyone from wishing him well, and hoping that he learns from this experience and moves forward from here.

Mouse

Christine Burns said...

A timely and compassionate reminder that people like Johann Hari are not simply cartoon characters who, like the Wily E Coyote, are unmarked by skewering. They're flesh and blood souls, like the rest of us. Cut them and they bleed.

Another person much in need of care and support is Laurie Penny, who seems to have become a target for some very nasty attacks, and whose youthful and impassioned polemic could make her a similar target to be 'taken down'.

Let's hope in Laurie's case that people can be wise BEFORE the event

Charon QC said...

1. Hari is not young. He knew what he was doing and the score.

2. I personally give little thought to the reputation of the journalists I read - with a few exceptions. I am more interested in the content. Most journalists have little expertise in the field they write about - compared to the expert practitioner, academic or researcher. Where the journalist writes as expert - then his or her words may be weighed in that context and compared to other experts - and a judgment formed by the reader.

3. It was mildly amusing (the Hari hashtag on twitter) at first - but as often happens on twitter and in blogs, it turned nasty and vindictive.

4. I do hope for the sake of those who hounded - forensically or otherwise - that Hari has come to no personal harm. Losing a pretty valueless prize - all prizes have little value - is not the end of the world.

5. Is journalism a profession? I do not think it is. Rather as law has become - it is a business...

6. Hari plagiarised and added colour to what may have otherwise been rather dull interviews.

7. Was it so necessary for the pack to get precious about it and engage in forensic evisceration and destruction of a reputation? Would it not have been kinder - and just as effective - to have used humour to'call him out' and persuade him not to engage in such matters?

8. The pursuit of Hari reminded me of lord of The Flies. Kindness and humanity is better before the event - rather than an after the event absolution.

jfleming said...

I wish this youngish man well. He may take criticism too personally. He must be encouraged to come back a chastened blogger. I do not want to find him gone.

Anonymous said...

I only really discovered his work after the whole 'plagiarism' thing kicked off, and have been enjoying catching up on some of his work since.

I'm hoping that the only effect the whole episode will have will be for him to a bit less cocky. I usually find him right in his opinions, but at times he did seem a little too sure of himself. A bit less hubris might actually improve his work.

It's a shame that I can see the whole thing being used as an ad hominem argument against him when he is involved in future debates, though.

Richard

Yonmei said...

Leaving aside the question of Wiki-tampering, which is not proven, the situation with the interviews?

I'd say the problem is that Johann Hari is probably a terrible interviewer. He doesn't strike me as having the kind of empathy or imagination that lets people talk to him. Famously, he got his first job in London at the New Statesman straight out of uni with no training or experience, and he's always refused to join the NUJ.

So he didn't have any background in journalism, and he obviously very much wanted to be a great journalist, and his boss sent him on an interview and it was a tremendous failure. He couldn't get the other person to talk, to tell him interesting things, and yet he'd read their work (he says this himself - that before he interviews someone, he reads everything they've written, if he can) so he knew they could say great things... so he just re-jigged the interview a bit, so that they did. And his boss was impressed. And he didn't get into trouble. And so he did it again. And then he started using bits and pieces from other people's interviews. And so on. ... Until, finally, he got caught.

With an intelligent plagiarist, it really is just pure coincidence - something like what happened with "Negri on Negri" - if they ever get caught. With a stupid plagiarist, there will be bumps of unevenness in style, vocabulary changes, but with a smart one, there won't be any - it's only if you happen to stumble across the original, or already know it. Hari didn't get caught for ten years - though admittedly, my guess is, he got more and more careless as he went on, as he probably told himself, if there's a problem, someone would have said by this time, wouldn't they?

I can only guess how terrible Hari must be feeling at this point. I hope he's only taken his website down in order to figure out what articles (especially, the interviews!) he needs to take down. Because the rest should go back up.

He's a good writer. He made some really bad mistakes. I hope he doesn't think this is the end of the road for him as a journalist: Discounting a podcast, the last thing that Johann Hari posted on his website before he took it offline included an affirmation that he would learn from this experience.

That's basically all amyone can ask for. He should admit what he did, scrub what he plagiarised, move on and live it down. At 32 it may not be so obvious that something like this can be lived down, but put in some solid honest work for long enough, and it will be.

Mark said...

I think the best thing that Johann Hari could do now would be to take a complete break from writing for a while. I think Beneluk is spot on with the comment that Hari's employers have taken too big a risk with a young and untried writer who, in the long run, has shown himself unable to meet the necessary standards.

More than anything else, Hari needs to rediscover himself away from the media. A spell in the wilderness (or, as we non-professional writers call it, getting a job) could offer the chance of redemption. Heck, for all we know (or he knows), he could well turn out to be really good at something else. It won't be a loss to anyone, least of all himself, if we exchange a flawed journalist for a gifted advertising copywriter, a successful businessman or a dedicated charity executive.

There's an interesting article on Hari's website (still available via Google's cache) where he comments on the fact that the times he's been most miserable are the times when he's focussed on having fun - that hedonism really doesn't work for him, and he's much happier when he's got a cause he can work for. But there's a hedonistic lure for the ego in seeing your opinions splashed across the Internet and media, and getting rid of the need to be a "big name" can bring a release from that too.

Benulek said...

"Another person much in need of care and support is Laurie Penny, who seems to have become a target for some very nasty attacks"

She appears quite willing to dish out the nastiness herself, as her (now deleted) tweet applauding Amy Winehouse for spitting on Pippa Middleton indicates. Such things don't justify the extent of the abuse she gets from some quarters, but she'd be wise to consider how much of her 'pub talk' she allows into her journalism.

NightJack said...

Having the Orwell Prize blow up in your face is survivable. It was grim but not the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Having an understanding and supportive employer was important as was re-settling home life. Then there was the horribly awkward business of re-building bridges. Overall it was my experience that taking a good deep swig on essence of hubris left a taste that lasted for a couple of years but it did pass.

make_trouble said...

Penglish, the issue with using an interviewees words from another context is that this gives them the appearance of greater articulacy. This in turn makes them more credible. Hari does not appear to have applied this technique to all his subjects, only those with whom he identified politically. That is propaganda. It's certainly not honest and it's not credible journalism.

Worse than that, in his piece on the CAR he appears to have completely invented gruesome violent scenarios involving african children carrying the severed heads of the parents. This is the kind of racist stereotyping that you would have read in reports from the colonies in The Times 150 years ago. It has no place in the modern world. It just saw it or spoke to someone who did then fine but you cannot just invent it, as the translator on the trip claims that he did.

This is serious stuff. The worst of it is that Hari tried to bluff his way out of this, when he must have known that his dishonest practices were far worse than had been discovered at that point. This is the problem with the habitual liar. They never know when to stop. If he is suffering now he has only himself to blame. Imagine if Hari himself had discovered the same practices in the work of a right wing writer? He would have flayed them alive.

blondpidge said...

Christine, in relation to Laurie Penny, she does make life rather difficult for herself. She tends to shoot from the hip, write now, think later and therefore ends up deleting or as happened recently, revising her work.

I have just spotted two glaring untruths in her New Statesman post regarding the Dorries/Field amendments.

http://carolinefarrow.com/2011/07/24/is-truth-dead/#entry

What does it matter? Quite a lot when debate is fuelled by misplaced outrage and ignorance. A lot of people look up to Laurie Penny as they did Johann Hari. Journalists and columnists have a duty to accurately represent facts if they are then going to offer comment.

I have written a couple of pieces for the Catholic Herald as well as some opinion pieces elsewhere. I was meticulous in fact-checking and in the case of a piece focusing upon a literary career, so careful to ensure that my work was original and not to paraphrase or plagiarise any of the material I read as background.

I am an amateur, not a professional, I don't get paid the sums that Johann and Laurie do. Their salaries as well as their wide readership should promote honesty and integrity surely.

I find it profoundly depressing, because my natural inclination is to trust so-called "quality" writers. I used to trust the editorial judgement of The Independent and the New Statesman. Not any longer.

Margaret said...

I wish no one ill but Johann is a man, not a child, and needs to start acting like one at last. It's a tough road ahead but he has built it for himself. Like others, I am more disturbed by his secret attacks on other writers than his use of quotes. Good journalism has two elements: writing talent and integrity in the choice of targets. One is not enough. He has been robust enough in his attacks on others, "fragility" when discovered is not a defence. Man up. If he can no longer be acccepted as a journalist, I am sure he can be a successful novelist.

Ross said...

dividedbyzero- Hari was already a professional columnist at the Independent before he dabbled in blogging.

It was "Harry's Place" he blogged at not "Hari's Place", it wasn't a site he created.

His faults cannot be blamed on blogging.

@greg_baker said...

I agree with you that I do hope that the Indy does well and ensures that Hari's mental well-being is catered for. Whilst I do consider his plagiarism very serious indeed and do not forgive him professional for it he must be under enormous personal pressure and at least in this aspect I wish him well.

Hari is not young, and what he did undermines all of his work I am afraid, the early plagiarism that was illustrated was mostly attributed to his many puff pieces about hero figures. I am sorry but if an interviewee cannot put together their words in a moderately lucid manner then it is the interviewers job to reveal this fact. To do otherwise is to flatter them purely because you happen to agree with their stated political or social opinions.

What I find more worrying is the many vox pops and quotes used in his less flattering pieces. Some of these caused people Hari disagreed with real levels of harm or at least discomfort and, due to his previous indiscretions, I don't know if I can trust their propriety.

Let's face it if Hari was Littlejohn or Melanie Philips the furore in the guardian CiF, Indy etc would have been enormous, the sinner would have been discredited and hounded mercilessly.

I'm not sure how many would come to their defence.

I believe that Hari should be held to this level professionally. If all the allegations are found to be true - and there needs to be a proper investigation at the Indy into his work to see just how far his invention did go - he should be fired and allowed time to atone and maybe return a better man. He should not be hounded and vilified as a man however when a furore gets to that point it has ceased being just and has turned to spite.

MKB said...

Is it true that the Indy ignored complaints from the charity that hosted Hari in the Central African Republic? Did his translator point out that his report was a complete fabrication at that stage? If so then surely Kelner has big questions to answer. Making up that stuff about children carrying their parents' severed heads is even more pathological than the wiki character assassinations - it does seem like the doing of someone who needs help, and sounds like Kelner was in a position to take action and didn't.

Christie said...

You're having a laugh mate. You hounded and ridiculed Hari for weeks and now that he is fully disgraced you claim that you're suddenly concerned about his wellbeing. Pure comedy. Admittedly Hari brought all of this upon himself but stop trying to redeem yourself....

jmcefalas said...

Johann is an excellent journalist. He deserves his prize. He is also an adult capable of taking fair criticism and defending his position. So let's keep it fair, respectful and balanced and allow him the full right of reply.

Neuroskeptic said...

I think David has hit on a very important point when he says that "it is clear that those responsible for editing his work also have difficult questions to answer."

Taking the example of the CAR piece, for example, the claim is that problems with this piece were brought to his Editor's attention, but they did nothing.

Hari can only have interpreted this as vindication. "This is how journalism works - that kind of thing is OK". How could he not have?

I'm not sold on this idea that because he's 32, he's not young. Bear in mind that many of the things he (allegedly) did, were done several years ago, and presumably, he has been doing them for ages. The first Private Eye criticism came out in 2003 when he was 25.

None of this excuses his actions but it does suggest that responsibility has to be shared. If you hire a 25 year old, with no formal training in the profession in question, and let him go his own way - you're saying, implicitly at least, "Your way is the right way".

Jack of Kent said...

@ Neuroskeptic

I agree.

Charon QC said...

For the avoidance of doubt - as I posted on my own blog - I am not being critical of David Allen Green's work on this story. His analysis was more than fair and balanced.

I worry about the pack mentality on twitter - not the serious bloggers/journalists.

DAG had the courage to flag this issue up. I should have made that more clear in my comment above. I I had wished to be directly critical of DAG - I would have been.

Sorry for any misunderstanding on my view.

Aneliya said...

As an occasional buyer of the Independent I used to read Hari's columns. Some were annoying, some pointed me in a direction I hadn't considered.

I feel let down by the plagiarism and the David R aspect does not look good. I hope he comes clean and explains what has happened.

As for his future, he is surely finished in his old role. Here's to going he is safe and getting some support.

He'd probably be a good novelist.

gimpyblog said...

I find Hari simply a left wing version of James Delingpole or Brendan O'Neill in his reluctance to consider disagreeable evidence, denial of accepted facts and the bile he reserves for the enemies within his prose.

He may be likable on a personal level, but as a professional writer he is representative of a systemic failure of journalistic standards no different from the angry climate and genocide denialists who also frequent the broadsheets of various political hues.

Archie Valparaiso said...

The puzzle for me is why has hasn't issued a terse statement - "Distressed to see that my professional integrity is being called into question, I feel I have no option in the light of the flurry of largely unfounded accusations...blah blah", resigning from The Independent and returning the Orwell and Gellhorn prizes. Surely even he must realise by now that the game is as up as up can be.

Wouldn't pre-empting Whittam Smith's investigation by leaving of his own accord, albeit under the darkest of clouds, be a better bet than the only likely outcome otherwise: being frogmarched off the premises and having his shiny medals ripped off his chest?

Kate Bevan said...

@jmcefalas He's a very good writer. But he's not a very good journalist. Writing is only one of the skills a journalist needs. Others include the ability to interview - and, given that he seemed unable to get his subjects to open up to him, I'd say Hari isn't a good interviewer. You also need to be able to find out facts and stand them up: the CAR allegations suggest that Hari couldn't do that, either. You need an understanding of the ethics of reporting - Hari doesn't seem to tick that box. You need to be able to take yourself and your opinions out of what you're writing: I don't think Hari is capable of being a dispassionate reporter.

There's a lot more to being a journalist than being able to write.

Adam Richards said...

I was someone who initially thought this matter was being blown out of proportion. Cut and paste was not analagous to lying, making up quotes altogether or taking things people say or things seens massively out of context. What he did was very poor journalistic practice and he deserved criticism but it was not akin to, for exam, the worst Daily Mail or Sun columnists.

However, it increasingly appears that incidents, facts, quotes were fabricated altogether. I used to be a fan of his writing but now I don't know what was fact and what was fiction -I often nodded along to his polemical pieces but were these all based on unsourced facts/evidence being created by Hari to justify his opinions? And if so, what evidence is there of any actual talent? At best facts were exaggerated to support his case and at worst fabricated altogether. No matter how much I agree with his point of view, this makes him little better than the Jan Moirs or Richard Littlejohns of this world.

While I understand and share the concerns surrounding how he is treated, his career in the Indie and as a leading liberal journalist should be over for now. He has zero credibility. Everyone deserves a second chance if they are truly contrite. But he should then build up his reputation from his own blog and not be allowed to write for a mainstream paper until and unless he shows that he has the talent to do so when he's writing honestly.

sackcloth and ashes said...

I'm sorry, but I don't accept this at all.

These are not youthful indiscretions on Hari's part. He is a plagiarist, as he has taken material from his sources and from other journalists (as with the Chavez and Thomas pieces) and presented them as his own work.

He has also concocted reports, as per his wildly embellished piece on the CAR, and also by his false claim that he witnessed Carlo Giuliani's death during the Genoa riot of July 2001. He may be a great writer, but he was not supposed to be employed by the Indie for fiction.

The Wikipedia stuff remains to be absolutely proven, but it suggests that he is also quite a spiteful little man. His conduct in the CAR towards the aid workers who helped him is also an issue here.

If he is feeling fragile and abused right now, there is a simple solution, and that is for him to front up and be honest for a change. That way, he'll actually get some respect.

Jack of Kent is right insofar as this problem is bigger than Hari, as it reflects a dramatic decline in the Indie's standards. Simon Kelner had clear indications that there was something fundamentally wrong with Hari's approach to journalism, and yet he continued to back him to the hilt. So too did sympathetic and quite prominent media individuals such as Jenni Murray, Peter Preston, Patrick Cockburn and Polly Toynbee. The basic reaction here seems to have been tribal. Hari is one of us, therefore we will excuse actions on his part that we would have happily condemned if they were done by someone on the right of the political spectrum.

The Independent was set up in 1986 as a flagship for good and reliable reportage, and also to challenge the trend in the print media to sacrifice accuracy for ideology. The question now is not so much how much of Hari's output can actually be trusted, but how many other journalists at the paper have followed his example?

Snappy said...

I note with interest that some of the above correspondents have sympathy for Hari and ask us to consider his mental health before criticising him.
As someone with depression, I can say honestly that I have never, and would never, consider passing off someone else's work as my own, nor would I furtively attempt to undermine my critics by indulging in subterfuge and falsehood.
To use mental illness as an excuse for such behaviour is disrespectful to all those other people with mental health issues who do not lie, cheat and steal to retain their well-paid job.

sackcloth and ashes said...

Jack, have you seen this?

This is most bizarre:

http://theorwellprize.co.uk/news/statement-on-council-of-the-orwell-prize-meeting-about-johann-hari/

Mick Turatian said...

A journalist is, inter alia, someone who can take shorthand.

Op-ed, if that's what Hari's writing is, is different and requires no training and only the indulgence of an editor.

Hari is a busted flush as a newspaper man and as a polemicist he should be prepared to take any amount of stick or disappear.