Yesterday, New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer resigned after he admitted he made up Bob Dylan quotes for his bestselling book Imagine: How Creativity Works. Now, Jayson Blair, the infamous NY Times reporter who plagiarized and made up facts in stories, has been adding his insight to the scandal. In The Daily Beast, he writes, "Nine years ago, I was Jonah Lehrer... It’s remarkable to me that someone who grew up professionally in the context of my scandal could make such a similar set of colossal mistakes."
As Lehrer did, I used smoke, mirrors, and deflection, but eventually my defenses collapsed as the additional allegations rolled in. 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. (And we still don’t know the full scope of what he’s done.)
In an interview with Salon today, Blair is asked if Lehrer's move was self-sabotage, and he responds, "I certainly understand that pressure. 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. I think when you’re young and you’re immature — well, I’m unclear on why he did it, but when you’re young and immature, it’s just very difficult, I think, to resist temptation. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to really successfully analyze why I did what I did.
"Obviously, in my case there was a little bit of mental illness at play," Blair says, "That’s obviously not the reason it happened. In his book, David Carr, who’s a friend of mine and a columnist at the Times, he said for whatever reason I wrapped a rope around my neck, tied it to everyone else and then threw myself off the side of the building. Self-sabotage? I think there’s some real truth to that."