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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Aug 23, 2012 / 5 Elul, 5772

Our shortcut culture

By Meghan Daum



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Not even the Olympics were a sufficient distraction from the scandal of Jonah Lehrer. He's the 31-year-old who rose to prominence writing such bestselling books as "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" and "How We Decide," and delivering lucrative corporate lectures to go along with them.

On Monday Lehrer admitted to fabrications and "improper combinations" of quotes in his latest book, "Imagine: How Creativity Works" — specifically, material he'd attributed to Bob Dylan but in fact simply invented. As he announced his resignation from the New Yorker (he'd been there less than two months), his publisher announced that it had removed access to the electronic version of "Imagine" and recalled all copies of the printed version.

Lehrer was already slightly tarnished. In June, he admitted to self-plagiarizing, recycling previously published work, sometimes word for word, in his blog on the New Yorker's website. Though he avoided widespread excoriation for that, this latest revelation has the publishing world choking on its own special blend of schadenfreude and sanctimony, blaming Lehrer's fall on the arrogance of stardom or the scrutiny afforded by the Internet.

Whenever a saga like this erupts, we journalists tend to wag our fingers the hardest. And for good reason. These cases erode the already tenuous contract between reader (or listener or viewer) and reporter. They take the axiom "don't believe everything you read" and give the public an excuse to twist it into "don't believe anything you read."

What Lehrer did was plainly wrong. Still, it would be naive to think that quotes are never massaged. Though making up words and thoughts is obviously unacceptable, "cleaning up" a quote is something of a tradition.

If someone speaks in awkward stops and starts, repetitively, ungrammatically or otherwise in a way not conducive to a verbatim appearance on the page, there is no hard-and-fast rule for making those words more reader friendly. Ellipsis points and brackets? Indirect quotes? Taking out only the "ums" and "you knows"? It all requires having enough trust in ourselves that we can also ask our readers (and those we quote) to have that trust too.

That's a lot to ask. And in this era, frankly, it may be too much.

It's worth noting that Lehrer's impulse to come up with tidy quotations that seamlessly fit into his theme happened in the context of a culture in which the concepts of "documenting" and "manipulating" are no longer always at odds. Indeed, they often cannot afford to be because ideas expressed in anything but the most succinct and entertaining terms run the risk of losing the ratings wars. That is, audiences are inclined to not only prefer cleaned-up quotes, they're likely to favor a more staged version of events over the more banal, factual version.

Reality TV shows, which now often fall unapologetically under the rubric of "documentary television," are known to be staged for greater dramatic effect. Even some of the most acclaimed traditional documentary films can push the limits. Lauren Greenfield, director of the new release "The Queen of Versailles," admitted in a recent interview to playing around with the order of a few scenes for the sake of a narrative arc.

Once in a while, journalists get handed something that is so juicy and so neatly presented that we need only slap it on the page and we've got a sexy story. But real life is complicated and generally unsexy, which means that, most of the time, the sentences and paragraphs we use to describe it will be too. Jonah Lehrer was rewarded for making complicated ideas seem simple and appealing, for making people feel smarter than they are by making things like neuroscience and the works of Proust seem easier to grasp than they are.

But his downfall is not his alone. What has also collapsed is our collective tolerance for complexity, our appetite for concepts that can't be captured in catchy book titles or appropriated for corporate mantras and self-help seminars. In the wake of all that, should we really be surprised when a writer opts for a made-up Dylan quote over the real thing?

Sadly, no. Besides, it's always been hard to understand what Dylan was saying. It's not for nothing that some people thought "the ants are my friends" was what was blowin' in the wind.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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Meghan Daum is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.


© 2012,the Los Angeles Times

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