Forward Thinking

Jonah Lehrer's $20K Mea Culpa

By Anne Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Knight Foundation
Jonah Lehrer

‘I’m sorry’ never felt so good — nor paid so handsomely.

Jonah Lehrer, the disgraced New Yorker writer who quit his job in July after it was discovered he was recycling his own work, for blog posts, acknowledged his plagiarism and fabrications at a February 12 talk in Miami.

It wasn’t just any talk. It came during the Knight Foundation’s prestigious annual Media Learning Seminar, and was accompanied by all the trappings of a big-name performance on the lecture circuit.

And it paid a cool $20,000, Poynter reported.

Lehrer opened his speech by candidly describing himself.

“For those who do not know who I am, let me give you a brief summary: I’m the author of a book on creativity that contained several fabricated Bob Dylan quotes. I committed plagiarism on my blog, taking without credit or citation an entire paragraph from the blog of Christian Jarrett. I plagiarized from myself. I lied to a journalist named Michael Moynihan to cover up the Dylan fabrications,” he said.

He apologized to his readers, friends and family, whose trust he said he had broken, and cited arrogance, and “my tendency to believe my own excuses,” as reasons for his actions.

After listing his many professional mishaps, Lehrer explained why he chose to speak out.

“I am convinced that unless I talk openly about what I’ve learned so far, unless I hold myself accountable in public, then the lessons will not last,” he said. “ I will lose the only consolation of my failure, which is the promise that I will not fail like this again, that I might one day find a way to fail better.”

To add to the drama of his public apology, Lehrer was flanked by a screen running live Tweets reacting to his words, the Atlantic Wire reported

Hardly the way anyone who honestly wanted to acknowledge his errors would have handled the event.

And Regardless of the criticism, Lehrer ended the talk by saying that despite the controversy, readers haven’t seen the last of him.

Describing how he thought he would never write again in the direct aftermath of resignation, he concluded: “What I can say for now is I have rediscovered my love of the job. … I still want to write because I remembered when it was too late how much I love writing.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: plagiarism, new yorker, bob dylan, michael moynihan, knight, jonah lehrer, poynter

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.