Saturday, September 1, 2012

Jonah Lehrer Reminds Us of Something Important

Wired magazine announces that it, too, is ending its relationship with science writer Jonah Lehrer, who has been undergoing a public humiliation as his New Yorker and other writing gigs have been found to be rife with re-used or even made-up information.

The final paragraph of Huffington Post's article is significant, because it points out the importance of the often-underappreciated work of editing and review. It quotes a media scholar:
Lehrer's transgressions are inexcusable—but I can't help but think that the industry he (and I) work for share some of the blame for his failure. I'm 10 years older than Lehrer, and unlike him, my contemporaries and I had all of our work scrutinized by layers upon layers of editors, top editors, copy editors, fact checkers and even (heaven help us!) subeditors before a single word got published
It's worth noting that Newsweek magazine was publicly shamed when its recent cover story on the election was found to be rife with errors and it admitted that it does not fact check its articles. The magazine even offered the lame excuse that the writer, conservative Niall Ferguson, was writing opinion, as if that means they're not responsible for determining if the charges – presented as fact – in his opinion piece are truth, errors, or lies.

Editing still matters. Editorial review, research, argument, and contemplation still matter. Speed and opinion should not be the highest goals for media.

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