The former New Yorker and Wired writer addresses his journalistic transgressions at a Knight Foundation seminar
Jonah Lehrer addressed his plagiarism scandal in a speech at a Knight Foundation seminar on Tuesday, blaming his journalistic transgressions on personal arrogance and hunger for attention.
Lehrer was forced to resign from the New Yorker and Wired magazine last July after reporter Michael Moynihan, writing for Tablet Magazine, revealed that Lehrer fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his bestseller, "Imagine: How Creativity Works." The exposé prompted editors at both publications to review Lehrer's work and they revealed he had plagiarized other writers and recycled his own, previously published work.
"Imagine," labeled as nonfiction, was pulled from publication, and some booksellers offered customers their money back.
"My mistakes have caused deep pain to those I care about," Lehrer told the audience at the seminar, which was streamed live online. "I am constantly remembering all the people I have hurt and let down — friends, family, colleagues, my wife, my parents, my editors. I think about all the readers I’ve disappointed, people who paid good money for my book and don’t want it on their shelves."
Lehrer, whom Poynter reported was paid an honorarium of $20,000 to speak at the event, said he hoped to redeem his reputation by analyzing and publicly discussing what caused him to carelessly breach the trust of others.
"My arrogance, my desire for attention, my willingness to take shortcuts provided I don’t think anyone else will notice, my carelessness, matched with an ability to excuse my carelessness away, my tendency to believe my own excuses," Lehrer listed as reasons for his misdeeds. "But then, once I came up with this list of flaws, once I began to understand how these flaws led to each of my mistakes, I realized that all of my explanations changed nothing."
Watch the full video of the speech: