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!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • 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.