Jonah Lehrer’s misdeeds require new phrase

Jonah Lehrer’s recycling fetish has forced NewYorker.com to get prolific on editor’s notes. For contributions to the magazine’s Frontal Cortex blog, Lehrer was found to have used material from other writings. Here’s one of the editor’s notes:

Editors’ Note: Portions of this post appeared in similar form in an April, 2011, post by Jonah Lehrer for Wired.com. We regret the duplication of material.

And another:

Editors’ Note: The introductory paragraphs of this post appeared in similar form in an October, 2011, column by Jonah Lehrer for the Wall Street Journal. We regret the duplication of material.

So Lehrer gets a lot of mileage out of his material, an infraction that the media commentariat has noted, often through the use of a single term. The Daily Beast: “Jonah Lehrer’s ‘Self-Plagiarism’ Scandal Rocks The New Yorker.” Slate: “Why Did Jonah Lehrer Plagiarize Himself?” Poynter: “Under the Microscope, Lehrer’s Work Shows Bigger Problems than Self-Plagiarism.”

Enough with “self-plagiarism.” Plagiarism means taking someone else’s work and representing it as your own. Lehrer took his own work and presented it as his own (fresh) work. That’s bad, but it’s not so bad that it should be described with any variant of the term “plagiarism.”

Journalism is a field of wordsmiths. Can we not come up with a better term for this literary transgression? Recycliarism?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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