At 7 p.m. Friday night--the time during the week when people release news items they hope nobody will see--Evan Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Wired.com, announced that a "preliminary Wired review" had found that numerous posts by Jonah Lehrer on his Frontal Cortex blog at Wired did not meet Wired's "editorial standards."
Even for a Friday night release on a holiday weekend between two noisy political conventions and after a hurricane, that's pretty tepid language. Here's what Hansen did not say: The review was intended to do much more than discover whether Lehrer violated "editorial standards." It was intended "to determine whether he [Lehrer] recycled, fabricated, plagiarized, or otherwise breached journalistic ethics." And it "came to the conclusion that he had."
The review was written by the science writer and New York University journalism professor Charles Seife. And the only reason we know what he found out is that Laura Helmuth, the science and health editor at Slate.com, decided to publish the review. (Note to Wired: When you ask an outside expert to review something in your publication, you are supposed to commit to publishing his findings, whatever they are, before he begins.)
If you haven't heard enough about Lehrer to last a lifetime or two, take a look at Seife's review. It's a model of journalistic investigation. (For more about what he did, see his interview with Poynter.)
And one closing thought, that I haven't seen addressed elsewhere: How much of the public and professional embrace of Lehrer had to do with his hip, smart image? A website called TheFrisky.com picked him as one of The Hotties of NPR, praising "his supermodel good looks." The Telegraph began a story on Lehrer's fall by describing his designer house in the Hollywood Hills, “'a glass box with a magnificent orientation,' surrounded by koi ponds and a 'jungle of trees' including an 85ft redwood." And, as you can see in the photo, he doesn't dress like most reporters. Take a look at that white jacket, with the carefully turned-up collar. When is the last time you saw one of those in a newsroom?