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Jun 28, 2011

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The thing I find most worrying about this is that Hari is apparently resigned to the fact that he isn't going to illicit anything more interesting or insightful from his questioning than has already been said by the interview subject before. I'm all for swotting up beforehand, but surely this knowledge should be used to probe for a deeper or more novel angle on the thoughts of the interviewee, rather than an end in themselves?

Agree that it's trigger-happy to brand this kind of practice as churnalism or plagiarism - but it does present Hari, perhaps, as a more effective interviewer than he actually is. If he was unable to elicit the exact quotes at the time of the interview (whether because of his own interviewing skills or because of the incoherence of the interviewee), he shouldn't pretend that he did, even for the sake of lucidity.

As an aside, the (common) defence of 'this is common practice' is one of many reasons some aspects of journalism are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Surely though this boils down to a matter of trust? The trust of your audience is one of the most important things in quality journalism - it's right at the top of the BBC's editorial guidelines, for example.

The Indie isn't the BBC, and I'm not going to cast any stones against Hari professionally; but if I was him, writing those articles, putting in quotes and pretending the interviewee was sitting opposite me when they said them, I would ask "if my readers found out about this, would they still trust me?"

Honestly (and this is just me) I don't see how I can believe a word he says from now on.

Shame really, because he was quite good.

"It may be more polished, but for me this undermines the credibility of the interview and the notion that it captures a one off moment in time."

This seems like a bit of a strange take on interviews. You're privileging the form (a documented conversation) over the function (to give insight into the interviewees thoughts on a given topic). I mean, I can understand the sentiment and am fully willing to admit there are situations where the form is just as, if not more, important (for example if something is explicitly billed as an intimate and informal conversation), but I don't think it's really applicable to Hari's work. His writing is almost exclusively political and is entirely about function.

I'd say that the concept of inserting an older quote if your interviewee doesn't give you the quote you'd like sets a bad precedent, but as long as the quotes express the same idea and the interviewee doesn't have a problem with it I'm not sure that Hari has done anything wrong. Certainly not anything that can undermine the credibility of his work.

I think the main point is that he's pretending that his interviewer has said what he's written, thereby passing off a 'profile' piece as an interview. Surely an interview should provide new insight, not the same old quotes? And what else has he pretended? Still at least he actually met the interviewee (we think, hard to tell now).

@MFHawkes: I think form and context are vitally important for any interview. If comments are made to a different interviewer, written elsewhere or said at a different time and place, presenting them as being 'in the moment' of the interview is at best misleading.

According to Fleet Street Blues, Hari introduced one of his recycled quotes with the following sentence:

"After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice:..."

I'd argue that it's important to understand that the quote which followed that set-up wasn't actually said in that moment - in a "quieter voice" or otherwise. Something similar, we're told (we don't know how similar) was said. But Hari doesn't convey the context, he imposes the one he has erroneously presented to the reader.

@Will Sturgeon

Perhaps it's just a difference in preference. If I'm reading an interview, particularly about politics, I'm interested in the viewpoints of the interviewee and not whether they were said "in the moment". If those viewpoints are communicated accurately then the purpose of the piece is still being fulfilled in my eyes. Likewise with Hari's additional context, if the following quote conveys the same idea I'd argue that it is still meaningful. That's not to say I think substituting quotes is good practice.

As I said, it sets a bad precedent and would be very easy to abuse. My only argument is that at the moment it isn't clear to me that Hari has abused it in any way that could undermine his work. I don't think he should continue to do it, regardless of whether it is normal practice.

For me, the value of an interview over a more general profile piece is putting the interviewee slightly out of their comfort zone and making them approach topics from the interviewer's angle rather than their own, or approach new topics entirely. That's where the new and interesting content comes from and it's something that substituting in old quotes is inherently incapable of doing.

I understand the plagiarism charge, though - he's claiming that the source of the quotes was his own interaction with someone, but he's actually sourcing the words in those arrangements from elsewhere, without acknowledging the source. That's pretty much plagiarism in a nutshell.

Comparing it to lip syncing is ridliculous. If an artist does this then they are still using their own material, they are not stealing others' work.

I'm astounded. This is obviously plagiarism. If it's not referenced, it's plagiariasm. Not stolen but plagiariasm. And not a job for a journalist of his calibre. Maybe 'Now' magazine but not him. It's not a rehash of Andre out at a club and his words to a bouncer. It's deliberately passed off as something else.
Come on, that seems entirely obvious.

Surely the point of an interview is to gleen something extra/different.
To make it up from a book or other interview is pointless.
And I agree with the previous point that as an interviewer your job is to gain extra insight to that already available.
Or, I could write a thousand interviews from so many other sources.
Consider the exchange between Peter Andre and Gaddafi. Yeah, that happened...

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