When Jonah Lehrer’s self-plagiarism scandal jumped a level to fabrication, leading to his resignation from The New Yorker, the first two names out of media-watchers’ mouths were Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair, the biggest marquee journo-stars in recent years to lie themselves out of a job. Blair himself even spoke to Salon last night about the similarities between the their stories — “his youth, his prominence, even the way that I think he tried to defend himself by minimizing the story,” the former New York Times reporter said. “All of it just rings so familiar.” He also said there’s hope yet, although he would: It’s his job.
“I certainly understand that pressure,” Blair continued. “Once you’re young and successful, I think, in this profession you’re only as good as your last story — and you want every story to be better.” In his expert opinion, Lehrer “probably feels a sense of relief” since getting caught, but also “shock” and “a lot of sadness.”
And moving forward? “I know it doesn’t feel this way now,” Blair explained, “but redemption is possible, and perhaps the best way to find that redemption — and, more importantly, peace — is to learn lessons from your experience and be able to help others through those lessons.” For him, that’s taken the form of life-coaching. For $130 an hour. Who needs journalism anyway?
As for Lehrer’s own cash flow, sales of his book Imagine, which contained the made-up Bob Dylan quotes that led to his resignation, have been halted, while his agent has declined to comment on additional career fallout, like Lehrer’s lucrative speaking gigs.
“Conjure me up a guy who talks science winningly, who shows you that everything is transparent, and does it in a self-help-y spirit,” Columbia professor Todd Gitlin told the Times. “In our age, a guy who looks cute and wonky is better positioned to get away with this than others.” Just not forever.