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Anorak | Chris Blackhurst fails to tell Leveson why Johann Hari’s lies are still on Independent website

Chris Blackhurst fails to tell Leveson why Johann Hari’s lies are still on Independent website

by | 11th, January 2012

 Chris Blackhurst fails to tell Leveson why Johann Haris lies are still on Independent websiteCHRIS Blackhurst, the Independent’s editor has made an appearance at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards. Talk turned to the Johann Hari – the Independent journalist who spiced up his copy with quotes from other sources and passed them off as his own work. Johann Hari also made things up, used the pseudonym David Rose to attack his critics and altered Wikipedia pages. His work won him prizes.

Blackhurst says the revelation that Hari was a cheat came as an “enormous shock“. He says the  Independent’s standing had been “severely damaged“.

So damaged is the Indy that the Hari interviews remain visible on the paper’s website. They are uncorrected and with no word of apology.

After Hari had been exposed as a good writer but bad journalist, the Indy ran a front-page story back in June 2011:

“Johann Hari – What I think of the attacks on my professional integrity”

Not exactly a sorry, then. The Indy said Hari has been “subjected to trial by Twitter“. And we know how wrong that is.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Haynes wrote:

selling a paper on the basis of interest in a journalist’s dubious practices is an interesting move

Although, Hari has apologised.

Hari’s fraud was conniving. Guy Walters looked at one of Hari’s pieces: Johann Hari, The IndependentHugo Chavez – An ‘Exclusive’ Interview, 14 May 2006

I was in close contact with poverty, it’s true, I cried a lot…” – Lally Weymouth, Interview with Hugo Chavez in Newseek, October 2000

I was in close contact with poverty, it’s true. I cried a lot.” – Johann Hari

“It is possible I have something of this . . . tragic sense of life,” he [Chavez] acknowledged. He recalled that on the eve of the 1992 rebellion he had said goodbye to his wife and three children, and led his soldiers out of their barracks. He was the last to leave. After locking the big front gate, he threw away the key. “I realized at that moment that I was saying goodbye to life,” Chávez said. “So it is possible that one has been a bit . . . imbued with that . . . ever since, no?” – Jon Lee Anderson, The New YorkerThe Revolutionary, 10 September 2001

The spectre haunting Latin America – the spectre of Hugo Chavez – furrows his big, broad brow, pats my knee, and tells me about the night he knew he was going to die. “I will never forget – in the early hours, I said goodbye to my wife and three little children. I kissed them goodbye and blessed them.” He knew in his gut he was not going to survive that long, bloody day in 1992, when he and his allies finally decided to stage a revolution against the old, rotten order loathed by the Venezuelan people. “I realized at that moment that I was saying goodbye to life,” he says, looking away. “So it is possible that, after surviving, one has been a bit… imbued with that sense ever since,no?” -

Get a load of that intimate pat on the knee.

As we wrote:

A newspaper ‘interview’ is nothing more than entertainment whether it’s in the Sun or Le Monde Diplomatique. The object of the exercise is to bring to vivid life an encounter of usually short duration. The good writer-interviewer, as the ruthless, opportunist carnivore he or she must be, will be alert for signs of weakness in the subject, ie for signs of entertainment material that makes a mockery of the PR or of the book/film/whatever that whorishly accounts for the interview in the first place.

If, say, a star interviewee-author coughs up blood and dies while boring the shit out of us on atheistic conformity in British journalism then there’s your money shot. Readers are not interested in ideas or lectures, not even godless ones. Alas, Hari imagines his role to be that of transcriber of great words – or great words obtained by others’ efforts if needs be. Reality check: any collection of his interviews will struggle to sell 500 copies (100 of those flogged to friends and relatives), eBook or otherwise.

Hari wrote on his Interview etiquette:

When I’ve interviewed a writer, it’s quite common that they will express an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing – and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in writing than in speech. (I know I write much more clearly than I speak – whenever I read a transcript of what I’ve said, or it always seems less clear and more clotted. I think we’ve all had that sensation in one form or another).

So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech. It’s a way of making sure the reader understands the point that (say) Gideon Levy wants to make as clearly as possible, while retaining the directness of the interview. Since my interviews are intellectual portraits that I hope explain how a person thinks, it seemed the most thorough way of doing it…

Adding

It depends on whether you prefer the intellectual accuracy of describing their ideas in the most considered words, or the reportorial accuracy of describing their ideas in the words they used on that particular afternoon. Since my interviews are long intellectual profiles, not ones where I’m trying to ferret out a scoop or exclusive, I have, in the past, prioritised the former. That was, on reflection, a mistake, because it wasn’t clear to the reader.

Hari’s interview with Gideon Levy for the Independent in 2010 was a cheat. You can still read it on the Indy’s website. Brian Whelan fact checked Hari:

With a shake of the head, he says: “We had now two wars, the flotilla – it doesn’t seem that Israel has learned any lesson, and it doesn’t seem that Israel is paying any price. The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative.” – Hari, Independent 24/09/10;

These words first appeared in an article by Levy for Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israelis-don-t-pay-price-for-injustice-of-occupation-1.280237) on 19/07/09 without the dramatic ‘shake of the head’ (see “pat on knee” above”].

The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before the Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative, and why should they?

Where I described their body language, for example, I was describing their body language as they made the same point that I was quoting – I was simply using the clearer words from their writing so the reader understood the point best.

He has, though, after ten years at the Independent and winning multiple journalism awards, learned an important lesson:

I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn’t do it again. Why? Because an interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Hari explained those pats and shakes he, as a reporter, witnessed first hand:

Where I described their body language, for example, I was describing their body language as they made the same point that I was quoting – I was simply using the clearer words from their writing so the reader understood the point best.

Adding:

I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn’t do it again. Why? Because an interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Johann Hari is not a reporter. He is something other. He is a writer.
In July 2010, the Indy suspended Hari. Although his most recent post for the paper – an apology  – appeared in September 2011.

Also in July, Hari spoke at a Royal Institution talk on free speech. Having made a name for hismelf, Hari should be in line for a career as a TV celebrity:

Hari made a joke of his paper and of himself. So. Why are his stories still on the Indy’s site? Is it because he’s famous now – and celebrity sells?
 Chris Blackhurst fails to tell Leveson why Johann Haris lies are still on Independent website

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Posted: 11th, January 2012 | In: Key Posts, News Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink