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June 29, 2011

Simon Kelner: ‘those who live by Twitter, die by Twitter’

By Myriam Dijck

The Independent editor Simon Kelner said the storm surrounding Johann Hari was no ‘great scandal’and that the writer remained a ‘serious force for good in the world”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s The Media Show this afternoon, Kelner admitted that Hari’s practice of using unattributed quotes was wrong and that it was something he ‘deeply regrets”.

He also admitted that neither he nor any other editors on the title were aware of it – but they were now investigating the matter.

‘In the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s a great scandal,’he said. ‘It was a naïve error which we recognize. Johann, of course, should have credited the interviews that he was quoting.”

He continued

Johann has been vilified on the Twitter sphere for what he has done. It feels politically inspired, some of the, I think, fabricated anger about what Johann has done.

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I think Johann is a very serious force for good in the world. The very fact this has come to light is because every piece that Johann has written is picked upon by his enemies and he is liable to a much greater level of scrutiny than a lot of columnists, and a lot of people doing the same work he does.

Kelner said that while it was common practice for writers to quote from past interviews, Hari made the ‘big mistake’of not quoting his source.

Asked if any disciplinary action would be taken against him, Kelner replied:

The punishment should fit the crime and I think that Johann has been punished enough for the vilification that he has had on Twitter. I said to Johann, ‘those who live by Twitter, die by Twitter’, and Johann has used that forum very much over the last year or so and he can’t be surprised when it turns against him.”

Guardian journalist and former colleague of Hari, Deborah Orr, said that one of his “problems” was that he had met with success at a young age.

She said:

He hadn’t done a journalism course, he hadn’t had any training, he was learning has he went along.

He was high profile and it has taken a very long time for this to come to light, which is very unfortunate.

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