I've just been re-reading some old media articles about Daniel Tammet which I have kept on file, which I had collected in the process of compiling my lists of famous autistics and famous synaesthetes. Both interview articles are from the year 2009 and both were a part of a publicity drive to promote the second autobiography by Tammet which was released that year. Neither article mentioned anything about Tammet's 2001 name change or his impressive memory competition achievements from before his name change, or his participation among a group of memory championship participants in the "Routes to Remembering" study which was published in 2002-2003. In fact one of the articles, the one that was published in The Australian, puts a positively deceptive spin on Tammet's personal history. Journalist Peter Wilson characterised Tammet's highly publicised Pi recitation record as a kind of coming out following "a confused, restricted adult life" in the grip of autistic disability. We now know that Tammet's life was not previously so restricted that it precluded competing twice in the world memory championships, winning in gold medal and being the subject of an fMRI study.
I guess the lesson to be learnt is that there are two kinds of journalism. There is journalism which cooperates with the body or the individual who is the subject of the story. This type of journalism can include personal interviews, and the journalist can gain privileged access to the subject in this type of journalism, but one cannot expect much in the way of independent investigation or information that does not reflect well on the subject. One could call this "media release journalism", but I can think of less polite terms that could be used. Then there is the other type of journalism, real journalism which might have to contend with an uncooperative subject, but which is free to dig up dirt and ask uncomfortable questions. This is the type of thing that Joshua Foer did in his book Moonwalking with Einstein, and he managed to gain access to Tammet for interviews regardless. All the credit goes to Foer, and Celeste Biever from New Scientist magazine and journalist Peter Wilson both look rather foolish in hindsight.
Biever, Celeste (2009) Peek inside a singular mind. New Scientist. January 3rd 2009, number 2689, p. 40-41.
Biever, Celeste (2009) Inside the mind of an autistic savant. New Scientist. January 7th 2009. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126881.800-inside-the-mind-of-an-autistic-savant.html
Foer, Joshua (2011) Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything. Allen Lane/Penguin, 2011.
[includes a chapter about Tammet in which Tammet’s achievements in the World Memory Championship under his original name of Daniel Corney in 1999 and 2000 are discussed, Tammet’s synaesthesia and savantism is questioned and the author considers whether Tammet’s remarkable talents are best explained as the result of training]
Wilson, Peter (2009) A savvy savant finds his voice. Weekend Australian. January 31-February 1 2009, Inquirer p. 19.