How wrong is it to steal from yourself?
As Jonah Lehrer is learning, if you’re a writer, it’s really wrong. The journalism world has been in a tizzy this week after Lehrer, author of the best-selling book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” was caught reusing something he had written for the Wall Street Journal last fall in a piece for his New Yorker blog on June 12. The New Yorker piece was titled, “Why smart people are stupid,” which caused only more snickering.
Lehrer, 30, who used to live in Boston and wrote numerous pieces for The Boston Globe’s Ideas section prior to his book, has apologized. But new examples of his practice of recycling his own material or someone else’s keep surfacing. The latest was a quote by Noam Chomsky that Lehrer used in a New Yorker story in January, but which actually came from another writer’s story in the MIT alumni edition of Technology Review.
Tech Review publisher and editor Jason Pontin said by e-mail, “We reached out to Mr. Lehrer’s editor once we noticed the matter, and it was settled to our satisfaction.”