Johann Hari's interview etiquette: some civilian responses

Johann Hari has admitted - and defended - copying quotes and passing them off as material obtained at interview. This is a snapshot of some reader and non-media-folks responding to the revelation.

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  1.  Yahoo! Ireland editor Brian Whelan posted this article yesterday, taking a sharp look at whether Johann Hari had copied quotes from a recent interview from other stories and writing. He concluded that there were definitely questions for Hari to answer.
  2. And Hari answered them with this post on interview etiquette, in which he defends including alternative quotes to the ones he actually elicited at interview. He suggests it's "normal practice" according to "a few other interviewers for British newspapers", and says that he only ever used previously-written quotes where they covered more eloquently a point made in the interview itself.
  3. The general reaction from journalists I follow on Twitter this morning was that Hari's approach was unacceptable, though since the initial rush of comments I've seen a few media folk saying this is not as big an issue as it's being made out to be. A couple of representative tweets from this morning:

  4. I decided to try and find out what some folks who don't work in the media thought of this. Responses ranged from the politely confused to the infuriated - but none said they didn't see a problem here.
  5. Linda's long response is well worth reading, because it expresses perfectly the loss of trust journalists risk when they do this sort of thing. And it's clear that the issue here isn't Hari doing his research and including other sources - it's the misrepresentation of those sources to the reader.

  6. Some people expressed the opinion this was laziness - churning other people's copy - on Hari's part.
  7. Some indicated they felt this was a failure on Hari's part to strive for a new angle in an interview, questioning why an interviewer with his reputation would need to rely on the work of others.

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