Lifestyle & Belief

New Yorker writer Jonah Lehrer accused of recycling old material (UPDATED)


NEW YORK, NY - May 29: Science writer and contributer to Radio Lab, Jonah Lehrer attends the "You and Your Irrational Brain" panel discussion at Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City in conjunction with the World Science Festival on May 29, 2008 in New York City.


Thos Robinson

Jonah Lehrer, a new staff writer for The New Yorker and a bestselling author of "pop-psychology" books, has been described by his fans as a younger version of popular writer Malcolm Gladwell. But now, he's accused of recycling old material.

Reporter Jim Romenesko first broke the story on his blog that Lehrer seemed to be working from old material--his own. An essay Lehrer wrote for The New Yorker this week appears to be almost identical to an essay Lehrer had already written for the Wall Street Journal back in October. Romenesko said he called editor Nicholas Thompson, who was shocked to learn of the recycling.

“It’s a mistake. We’re not happy. It won’t happen again,” Thompson told Romenesko.

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After that story broke, New York Magazine found other examples of Lehrer re-using his old material. The New Yorker has since acknowledged this with corrections on Lehrer's blog posts.

New York Magazine also found a review of Lehrer's book in Columbia Magazine, which also seems to point out originality issues: "Despite Lehrer’s agile handling of a lot of complicated material, I never was quite sure about the line that separated his reporting from other people’s work," the Columbia Magazine reviewer wrote back in 2009.

Lehrer had previously written about pop-neuroscience for Wired Magazine. He made the move to The New Yorker just two weeks ago, The Daily Beast reported

The New York Times interviewed Lehrer today about the self-recycling. “It was a stupid thing to do and incredibly lazy and absolutely wrong,” Lehrer told the Times. Lehrer also apologized but wouldn't comment any further, the Times said. 

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect that Lehrer is accused of recycling his work, not "plagiarism" as originally stated.