A new staff writer at the New Yorker has already taken to plundering the work of others. Well, one other—himself. Three paragraphs in Jonah Lehrer's June 12 blog post appear in a Wall Street Journal piece he penned last year, media commentator Jim Romenesko revealed yesterday. Some of the text is a word-for-word copy. And it's not an isolated incident: All five of Lehrer's blog posts now contain editor's notes pointing to similar earlier pieces. At Slate, Josh Levin offers an explanation for Lehrer's self-plagiarism.
Basically, the prolific journalist and now author of successful books How We Decide and Imagine: How Creativity Works has morphed into an ideas guy. This places him in "the world of TED talks and corporate lectures, a realm in which your thoughts are your product." Levin writes. To sell those books, he gives interviews in which he cherry picks a choice anecdote (Levin cites one about the brilliance of the Swiffer), perfects the story, and repeats it "to anyone who will listen." For Lehrer and other such thinkers, "the key to maintaining a remunerative career is to milk your best ideas until there’s no liquid left and pray you’ve bought yourself enough time to conjure up new ones." And that means the fast-paced world of blogging, which requires "constant bursts of insight," may not be right for Lehrer. Click through for Levin's full piece, which explains why Lehrer may be like Malcolm Gladwell ... but is no Gladwell.