So it was no great surprise to me that he should turn out to be more at home copying passages out of his interviewees' books than taking notes of what they say.
That said, I did not find his defence, with its implication that there is no middle position between that copying and including his subjects' every um, ah and repetition, at all convincing.
But it was a positive shock to find an experienced editor like Peter Preston repeating the same spurious argument in this morning's Observer:
the life of me, I can't work up a head of steam over Hari's occasional habit (in Indy interviews) of using a cleaned-up pre-written version of his subject's answers rather than a ... you know … more um! … rambling live response.The explanation that Preston deploys this silly argument, as far as I can see from reading the whole column, is that Hari's delinquencies were exposed by bloggers, and Preston hates bloggers because they are not proper reporters. But, in an age where, more and more, people get their news from television or the net and rely on newspapers for comment, that distinction is very hard to maintain.
Preston also distrusts bloggers because they can be anonymous. And you have to concede that Preston has at least been consistent in his disapproval of anonymity.
In 1983 a civil servant called Sarah Tisdall (a cousin of my GP, I learnt recently) anonymously sent the Guardian documents detailing the plans for the deployment of American cruise missiles in Britain. She was later shopped to the government by the newspaper, whose editor was then one Peter Preston.
It happens that today's Observer contained another piece that explained what a real interviewer does.
In his profile of Rupert Grint - the Ron Weasley of the Harry Potter films - Tom Lamont writes:
With Grint you have to ask, and ask, and ask the same thing, to shake him from languor and from his reliance on dusty answers that have seen him through interviews for years.That tells you a lot about modern Britain. Prize-winning political writers copy passages out of books, while probing interviewers devote their attentions to the stars of children's films.