After being disgraced for plagiarism and sock puppetry Johann Hari has resurfaced again with a new book. A very good piece here by Jeremy Duns sets out how he has not changed his slipshod ways and that he is still being accepted at face value when he should be treated with caution.
Hari has now published audio extracts on his website of his interviews, to waylay fears he is still cutting corners. Sounds good!
But due diligence isn’t simply ‘Oh, there are loads of endnotes – it must be well-researched, then.’ Or ‘Oh, he has posted the audio clips of his interviews: he’s reformed. Phew.’ Sorry, but it isn’t. That is laziness of the kind that allowed Hari to get away with being a plagiarist for so long. You have to follow the endnotes and check that the sources say what is being claimed. You have to listen to the audio and check that the quotes accurately reflect them. Hari himself gave this as a reason for posting audio: ‘so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.’ But in just a few minutes of listening to the audio he has posted, I found several alarming problems.
Some of the quotes aren’t even in the articles he claims they are in, which suggests a certain level of carelessness. Some present challenges in that he was interviewing people through a translator, but by and large he seems to have been reasonably fair with these, although I think he cleans up rather more infelicities than I would. ..
We don’t know the full extent of what Hari did in his journalism for ten years, because he refuses to say and nobody has bothered to look. But what about his new journalism? What about his book? Presumably, as per his promise, he will publish all the audio for his quotes for it on his website. Presumably, Bloomsbury has already checked them to make sure, despite not having any record of what he got up to for a decade, that he is now scrupulously honest and accurate in his work.
But I have my doubts. Hari lied in 2011, and he is still lying now. The reasons why nobody has bothered to do anything about it should depress you.
Read the whole piece – it’s good not only about Hari but about standards of journalism in general.