Reusing old articles without admitting it, as the new young  New Yorker  writer Jonah Lehrer did , is something you really shouldn’t do. You know you shouldn’t do it because it fails to pass a very simple test. As a writer for the website Gawker put it (the link is in the article linked to above),

A good rule of thumb for writers who are concerned about whether they’re reusing too much old material is to simply ask themselves, “Would my editor be okay if I told him how much of this is reused?” The answer will be “no,” so then you can stop reusing things, you lazy bum. In the event that the answer is “yes,” you probably work somewhere near the bottom of the media barrel, like at an internet blog. Sorry.

“Could I get away with this if I told the truth?” is a good question for other enterprises than journalism.

Interesting to me was the response of many of the writers and blog commenters to the story: their flat out simple black-and-white you-just-don’t-do-that moralism. It’s a note you don’t often hear when someone’s sins are discussed on such websites (unless those sins are racism, homophobia, sexism, fundamentalism, conservatism, etc.). There are a number of clueless defenders among the commenters, but all in all, the responses are cheering.

Here’s a slightly newer and more damning story , for those who are interested in Lehrer’s career.

Articles by David Mills

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