Its Pulitzer Prize time! I love this time of year. It reminds me of when I first figured out how phony the media is.
Set your Way Back Machine for 1980 and our then hero, Janet Cooke, fabricator of a story about an 8 year old heroine addict. She won/earned/acquired/somehow wound up with, a Pulitzer Prize for that concoction. Good for her!
And then, as quickly as it appeared on the scene, the politically correct story began to show signs of leakage – like an extra large soft ice cream cone on an August day, the buyers couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.
The phony Pulitzer Prize winning story of the 8 year old heroine addict was breaking down on the regular news sources, which were limited in those days. So like any “intelligent” person I turned to PBS and the The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.
On this high-brow, above the fray, independent, news show I was about to find out how news is really reported – or not.
The guests were talking about the fabricated story and how everyone was tricked into believing Mr. Cooke had a real college degree or if that was a fake as well – it was. How could so many super-smart media professionals become so tangled up in this?
After the story broke, one News Hour guest, by phone, was a gentleman who was on the Pulitzer Prize Committee, the people who pick the winner from the list assembled through nominations. The deal is, you get nominated then, they, the committee, picks from that list and there are your winners. It sounds pretty simple.
Every time Lehrer or MacNeil went to this particular committee member he would ask the same question: “How did Mrs. Cooke win a Pulitzer in the first place, because she wasn’t on the list?”
“Back to you Jim,” “Back to you Bob,” “No back to you Jim,” and so it went.
As each person was asked about how this made-up story could have gotten so far without being discovered, the Pulitzer Prize Committee member would ask again: “How does one win the prize if your name wasn’t on the list?”
I thought that simple question might be an interesting, newsy, tidbit for the MacNeil/Leherer “news team” to explore but they repeatedly just passed the guy off and went to another guest. What, no who, what, where and why, follow-up questions? Wouldn’t a question like that get to the heart of the matter?
Never again did I trust those two solemn, studied, award encrusted posers. They were and are, in my opinion, no better than Janet Cooke.