For his lengthy mea culpa on Tuesday afternoon, delivered at the Knight Foundation in Miami, the disgraced science writer Jonah Lehrer was paid $20,000. Following near-immediate backlash from journalists, the Knight Foundation, whose mission is to "support transformational ideas that promote quality journalism," is now apologizing for paying a serial violator of journalistic ethics. The foundation's apology minces no words: "[The] Knight Foundation should not have put itself into a position tantamount to rewarding people who have violated the basic tenets of journalism. We regret our mistake." Knight also clarified why they had paid Lehrer in the first place: "The fee was not unusual for a well-known author to address a large conference."
That's true. Plus, there's a part of us that feels bad for Lehrer: he put himself out there, in front of a large audience — along with the rest of Twitter — and tried to apologize. And he lost his well-paying job at The New Yorker and had one of his books recalled from stores in the midst of raising a one-year-old daughter with his wife, so he probably needs the money. But many, as we noticed yesterday, found his apology deficient, and doubted whether Lehrer truly understands the weight of his errors not just on himself, but on the profession of journalism. It's understandable, then, why the outcry intensified when Lehrer was compensated handsomely for his stained past:
OUTRAGEOUS. Pays to lie. Jonah Lehrer earns $20,000 honorarium for talking abt plagiarism at Knight lunch | Poynter.: poynter.org/latest-news/me…— Alicia Shepard(@Ombudsman) February 14, 2013
"Wish I could get paid $20,000 to say that I'm a lying dirtbag." On Jonah Lehrer and the $20,000 confessional. poynter.org/latest-news/me…— andrew colgoni (@colgoni) February 13, 2013
Gotta start lying more. Jonah Lehrer earns $20,000 honorarium for talking about plagiarism at Knight lunch | Poynter. ow.ly/hHu75— T. Christian Miller (@txtianmiller) February 14, 2013
If you're going to plagiarize go big, I guess is the lesson here.Plagiarist Jonah Lehrer Gets $20,000 for Speech nyti.ms/VSSAuj— Robbie Sherwood (@RobbieSherwood) February 13, 2013