Questions about Jonah Lehrer’s reporting were raised in 2009

From Stephen S. Hall’s review of Jonah Lehrer’s “How We Decide” in the Summer 2009 issue of Columbia Magazine (second item on the page):

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. Lehrer’s account of the disastrous 1949 firefighting episode in Montana, for example, with which he began his July 2008 story about insight in the New Yorker, apparently represents no original reporting, but instead is an elaborate four-page retelling of Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire (1992).

Lehrer mentions the Maclean book in the main text, yet oddly doesn’t attribute his very detailed account to it. This and other derivative anecdotes are written with such immediacy and visceral detail that it is the kind of prose we normally associate with eyewitness reporting or fastidious, scrupulously sourced reconstruction. At minimum, it would have been gracious to acknowledge Maclean explicitly in the text as the main source of Lehrer’s extended, vivid account.

* Lehrer “understands he made a serious mistake,” says his editor (JimRomenesko.com)

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