Someone called Johann Hari, a columnist on the UK Independent and a gadabout for various other up-there publications, has confessed to lifting quotes to beef up his celebrity interviews. If his star subject is not making much sense, Hari will pinch a better quote on the point-in-hand, truffled from the written work of the interviewee (uncredited), and pass it off as part of his own splendid cross-exam. Naughty!
Blogger scorn and fainting have greeted this confession: why, it's even trending on Twitter as I write.
Hari's problem, one of many I fear, may arise from what he thinks an interview is for. He imagines his interviews are 'intellectual portraits'. Oh dear, I wish he'd spoken to Madame Arcati first. 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.
Has Hari damaged his career? Absolutely not. He has already done the essential thing and made a name for himself. Once you're a name, it is very hard to self-immolate, professionally. What may look like public scorn and contempt now is nothing more than glamour-enhancement without sequins. Readers just love a name, and harmless notoriety goes down well with editor-scrotes desperate for promotional material (eg names).
If I were Hari, I'd go to the Independent editor - while he survives - and ask for a pay rise. A daytime TV show hosted by Johann Hari cannot be far away.
Click here to read his confession.