Wired, you’re making a mistake. (Or, part “deus (ex machina)” in the Lehrer saga.)

UPDATE: Wired has clarified Lehrer has no further assignments.

We want to ensure that there is no confusion regarding reports today about writer Jonah Lehrer and WIRED. Jonah has not been “hired” by WIRED; he’s been a contributing editor at the magazine and the website for years. When allegations surfaced about his work elsewhere, we immediately began a thorough review of his feature stories and columns in the magazine. So far we have found nothing unusual. Jonah also wrote tens of thousands of words for Wired.com, and the process of vetting that work continues. He has no current assignments. After gathering the facts–from our inquiry and elsewhere–we’ll make a decision about whether Jonah’s byline will appear again at WIRED.

ORIGINAL POST: Well, folks, we called it too soon. The ongoing implosion of Jonah Lehrer may just have been stopped in its tracks.

News down the wire today is that Wired is keeping its contract with the disgraced wonder boy, who resigned from the New Yorker two weeks ago after Tablet‘s Michael Moynihan found Lehrer fabricated quotes in his nonfiction book Imagine. And though commentary on the Web has ranged from attacks on the depiction of science in his work to condemnations of his “male arrogance,” Wired has said it hasn’t found anything “too troubling” in its review of Jonah Lehrer’s work so far. (This, despite the fact that he’s already self-plagiarized work for Wired in a previous scandal only weeks before this one.)

In light of this summer’s dismal track record — Liane Membis, Paresh Jha, Fareed Zakaria — the example Wired is setting is far-reaching. Apparently, if you’re enough of a hotshot, you can make up all the quotes you want and get away with it.

Even outright fabrication isn’t enough of an excuse to fire you.

By keeping Lehrer on, Wired is spitting in the collective faces of all journalists dedicated enough to get the story responsibly, ethically, conscientiously. It’s hardly easy work: the staff cuts at newsrooms across the country speak for themselves about the shortage of reporters behind the stories we read every day. But that context only adds insult to the injury Wired inflicts on the larger journalistic community.

As Moynihan said in an interview with Reuters earlier this month, “this job that we do is at times very frustrating. […] But at no time have I ever decided, ‘Well you know what, screw this, I am going to make this work and I am going to cut corners,’ — I just don’t think it is fair.”

Journalists across the country are exercising the kind of ethics Lehrer did not. To reward him for flouting the rules flies in the face of reason.

When his fabrications were first exposed, Lehrer took responsibility and resigned from his post at the New Yorker. I’m calling on Lehrer now to consider resigning from Wired as well. To blatantly ignore his wrongdoings, especially those as severe and public as these, does a disservice to both Wired and the larger journalistic community.

Lehrer’s already failed his profession’s code of ethics once. Do the honorable thing — don’t do it again.


P.S. Poynter’s Scott Leadingham has an interesting suggestion in today’s article, “Why journalism should rehabilitate, not excommunicate, fabulists and plagiarists,” arguing that “plagiarism, deception, quote invention, etc. are facts of life when fallible humans occupy journalism (and any) jobs,” and that “permanent blackballing from the industry is not an effective deterrent.”

Leadingham acknowledges that “[s]ometimes a journalism death penalty or life without parole is indeed the only option,” but proposes a rough draft for retraining the “run-of-the-mill plagiarist or quote fabricator.” We’ll leave it up to you to decide where Lehrer falls.

Lunchtime excerpts (or, sources):

“Wired” To Publish Jonah Lehrer, by Ben Smith and Reyhan Harmanci

Due diligence on Dylan: writer found fraud in first chapter

Why journalism should rehabilitate, not excommunicate, fabulists and plagiarists, by Scott Leadingham

Wired clarifies: Lehrer has no current assignments


“Sorry. We must have been drunk.”

It’s been a bad month for journalism, so you can’t blame them for turning to drink.

At least, that’s what The Economist is citing as its reason for a minor blunder in its astonishingly alliterative article, “The Boredom of Boozeless Business,” published online three days ago.

According to the article, “[h]acks at Bloomberg Businessweek can be disciplined for so much as sipping a spritzer,” and hack-in-chief Editor Josh Tyrangiel took umbrage at the charge.

“GAME ON,” he tweeted this morning at The Economist.


In a separate tweet, he declared, “According to @theeconomist, @bw is leading the new journalism temperance movement. We will have… VENGEANCE!”

"According to @theeconomist, @bw is leading the new journalism temperance movement."

The Economist, in response, gracefully corrected the mistake after the article:

"Sorry. We must have been drunk on the job."

“Sorry. We must have been drunk on the job.”

Tyrangiel’s equally adorable response?

"Next round on us."

“Cheers to @theeconomist on a classy correx to the @bw booze story. Next round on us.”

Everybody say it with me: aww.

What do we take away from this? Journos might be hung over half the time (read: all the time) but we can still charm the pants off you in less than 140 characters while talking intelligently about the world.

Or, we’re good at being distracted from the generally terrible reputation of journalism in the past few weeks (read: the twin implosions of Fareed Zakaria and Jonah Lehrer — what’s up, New Yorker, TIME, CNN?) and it’s a nice piece of cheerful non-news. Shush, don’t judge.

Like what you see? Coming up soon: an open letter to journalism, and some serious thoughts about Lehrer and Zakaria (honest, I swear).


The cute distraction from my not-so-boozy lunch break (or, source):

The Economist corrects claim that Businessweek journalists can’t drink on the job, by Craig Silverman