Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hari and me

A long time ago - around 11 years now - Johann Hari wrote his first article for a big London paper, a front page splash in the New Statesman. It was rubbish and I wrote a response to it but it was rejected, I was told, because the Statesman doesn't publish articles critical of its own work.

Hari's article was a dull prediction that drugs would be legalised in 10 years' time. It was a typical post-student 'radical' article that could have been written at any point in the previous 40 years using the same arguments and ideas. Indeed, given today's Twitter storm about Hari plagarising others' interviews, maybe he did lift those articles.

I have avoided much of Hari's output since because he represented the type of journalist I dislike: a preference for controversial views over facts and a willingness to exaggerate reality to fit an argument. Moreover, he appears to have no background of reporting, only trying to win arguments.

The #interviewsbyhari trend on Twitter today was a belated lesson for this junior-level hack. It was also very funny. And he's now famous in the US! (For all the wrong reasons.)

Today, Independent editor Simon Kelner defended his columnist stating that no-one had ever made a complaint about Hari's writing. That's hardly the point and he knows it - no journalist can state they did something when they actually didn't. Hari's own initial defence reads very weak.

Interestingly, the last time I read an article by Hari I was compelled to respond. That response is here with details of what he got wrong. I was saddened but not surprised that Hari continued to abuse facts in his articles to suit his own arguments. I was particularly saddened that no-one in the London media was willing to point out that Hari was simply a bad journalist.

Hari is set to defend himself in The Independent tomorrow. Let's hope he sticks to the facts. For once.

Updated to add: Hari attempts to defend himself here. It's so bad it's steaming. Lesson one in journalism school is that a story that's a bit wrong is completely wrong. That Hari doesn't know this suggests he needs to start again from scratch, or leave the business. That his editor has again stood by him and claimed the criticisms are 'political' only reflects badly on The Independent; it was a big and wrong call.

3 comments:

robocoup said...

Surely you meant to finish with a Hari quote, e.g. "I'm going to write a weak response in the independent tomorrow. By the way, T1, you're so funny and handsome"

T1 said...

Johann leaned back in his wing-backed chair, a pensive expression on his face. "Tom, I’ve thought carefully about whether I have been wrong here."

He chewed his lip. "It’s clearly not plagiarism or churnalism. An interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks."

Johann leaned forward, waiting for my reply, an expression of hope on his face.

"Bollocks," I said. "You're a sh*t journalist and no-one should ever forget that. There are thousands of better journalists than you who never had the breaks you had, breaks you wasted with your lies and exaggerations."

robolump said...

*like*