Master plagiarist Jayson Blair has something to say about self-plagiarist and quote fabricator Jonah Lehrer: He probably wouldn't be in this mess if it wasn't for the Internet. Writing in The Daily Beast, Blair, who made up quotes, stole the work of others and tried to coverup his misdeeds during his tenure at The New York Times, makes a twofold case. First, the pressure to plagiarize is greater for journalists nowadays since they're under intense pressure to be faster and more prolific to keep up with the Web's pace. Second, their journalistic malpractice is easier to catch given the tools of the Internet. Oh, yeah: And if you were to compare Blair's journalistic sins to Lehrer's, they're on an equal plane of idiocy, per Blair:
It may sound funny coming from me, but I have to say fabricating quotes by Bob Dylan, who barely speaks publicly, was about as foolish as my fabricating quotes from prominent figures such as Jessica Lynch’s father.
Some might say our offenses are not comparable, but remember that nine years ago, the Internet was not as powerful a resource—or temptation—as it is today. It’s so much easier to plagiarize under pressure today, and so much easier to catch people doing it. Perhaps, if Lehrer had being doing this in 2003, he could’ve gotten away with it for much longer.
Blair certainly has a point about the Web: Its searchable pages and indices make it easier than ever to catch a cheat. And as our own Jen Doll pointed out yesterday, the rapid dissemination of Michael Moynihan's sleuthing of the Bob Dylan quote via Tweets and blog posts meant this affair could be wrapped up in "less than an afternoon." Still, while Lehrer and Blair may have been equally foolish, Blair's fabrication of nationally-important news stories was far more irresponsible and consequential than making something up that Bob Dylan said about creativity a few years back.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.