One of the primary reasons I never dove into journalism is because I tend to fictionalize events. My personal belief is that I convey the same messages and emotions as real-life through creative accounts of people who never existed, yet are immortal in our imaginations. On occasion, however, some nonfiction writers, primarily journalists, abuse my love for the unreal in order to secure their position in the literary world.
5. Jonah Lehrer
It's difficult to get into The New Yorker. And by difficult, I mean damn-near impossible. Once a writer is in the most popular clique of the literary world, certain pressures tend to drive them to less than admirable lengths.
This was the case with Jonah Lehrer, who up until this week wrote for The New Yorker. Tablet's Michael Moynihan suspected Lehrer's "facts" in his book about Bob Dylan called Imagine: How Creativity Works were something less than true.
Lehrer was originally charged with "self-plagiarism", which primarily consisted of Imagine content appearing in his blog. Granted, stealing from yourself is a strange offense, it is considered dishonest. Although Lehrer apologized for borrowing his own work without mentioning it was previously published, the act served as a catalyst for other scrutiny, which lead to numerous accusations of fabricated quotes and facts.
Ultimately, Lehrer admitted to his lies and the bestselling book Imagine was placed on a stop-shipment by Houghton Mifflin Harcourtt prompted by Lehrer's resignation from The New Yorker. Of course, Twitter users are having a ball with fake Bob Dylan quotes.
4. Jayson Blair
New York City is a gold mine for writers. It might be one of the few states that offers significant writing positions. When I visited, I was looking for writing internships and there were so many I had to turn a lot of them down. I currently search for side gigs in Indiana. So far I was a SEO article writer and was let go after a week. You see why New York is home to so many famous writers and an equal amount of scandals. It's the law of averages.
At any rate, in 2003 Jayson Blair resigned from The New York Times. He wrote for the paper for around four years - and man did he write. As with the Lehrer scandal, the suspicion was that he was too hard pressed to keep turning in new material that he finally made up stories completely.
After admitting to several cases of fabrication and resigning, Blair left the almost 160-year-old paper but the eyes didn't. The attention he brought to the paper ended up with a long trail of other deceptions, which changed the way Americans viewed the once-credible news source.
3. James Frey
You might remember this one or at least remember the South Park parody of the book A Million Little Pieces.
There's really only one thing worse than fudging a source: Lying about yourself. I mean, it seems to easy to writer a memoir or biography. You just tell your life's story. What might be boring to you could be reassuring or curious to others. There's no reason to lie, and if you feel the urge, you could polish your tales.
No, but Frey, master of the first writing sweatshop, lied a lot.
Frey is known for A Million Little Pieces, in which he lied about every major event. He was originally an overnight success due to Oprah's approval. She gave him a chance to appear on her show again to explain how the same curse that led to his addictions led him to lie. In short, she made him out to be a real ass.
Now Frey is misleading dozens of MFA students in a quest to publish the next Twilight.
2. Stephen Glass
Click photo for source.
Head south from New York to Washington DC and stop at The New Republic. This magazine is famous for exposing political corruption, which Stephen Glass was a master of. In fact, he was the go-to guy for such things.
That was until he was exposed.
He was accused of going so far as making up stories, facts, and sources. He was good at fabricating information and often created fake articles, websites, photographs, etc.
Now Glass is in a constant battle to regain his credibility. He wrote a fictionalized book about his fictionalized stories and went to the Supreme Court to make sure his bar exam counted and that he could become a lawyer.
Oh, and if you haven't seen the movie about this, I highly recommend it.
1. Jack Kelley
Click photo for source.
A lot of people don't know who this guy is, but there's a reason I made him #1.
His a quick bio: He's not the hockey coach. He was once a famed long-time writer for USA Today and a nominee and finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize.
Before March 2004, Kelley was the journalist many sought to be, but the USA Today reported about the ex-USA Today reporter . . .
"Seven weeks into an examination of former USA TODAY reporter Jack Kelley’s work, a team of journalists has found strong evidence that Kelley fabricated substantial portions of at least eight major stories, lifted nearly two dozen quotes or other material from competing publications, lied in speeches he gave for the newspaper and conspired to mislead those investigating his work."
If I'm missing a major player in the lying game, let me know in the comments.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.