Skip to comments.New York Times about to give up Pulitzer from '32
Posted on 11/09/2003 9:54:48 AM PST by Chi-townChief
Since Jayson Blair was exposed and fired on May 1, the New York Times has been performing atonement for partisanship and hubris.
First came the long and painful front-page account of how management had been guilty of astonishing incompetence in failing to recognize Blair's deceptions.
Next there was the establishment of the Siegal committee, which met for several weeks to recommend damage-control measures such as the appointment of an ombudsman for the first time ever.
When this failed to end the storm, Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. fired Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd.
(Sulzberger, a permanent boy who used to think "hate" was spelled "hait," is just as culpable as Raines and Boyd in the Blair debacle. But one of the perks of inheriting a job from your father is you don't have to fire yourself.)
Next, two more reporters, favorites of Raines, were greased out: Rick Bragg and Lynette Holloway. Reportedly the former was guilty of fudging datelines, the latter of sheer incompetence.
Next, the paper's editorial page hired David Brooks away from the Weekly Standard to be its token conservative columnist. The previous token conservative, Bill Safire, is nearing the end of his career, and besides, he voted for Clinton in 1996.
Finally, the impotent, indignant campaign against Augusta Golf Club in Georgia seems to have been spiked.
But the Times' atonement is not over yet. I make a prediction here: Before the month is out, the Pulitzer Prize committee, with the acquiescence of Times management, will revoke the prize that it awarded in 1932 to Walter Duranty.
Duranty, the Times' correspondent in Moscow over two decades, was Stalin's biggest protector in the West.
One writer says he was of "more value to Stalin than the entire Communist Party of the United States."
Duranty was a dupe for Stalin's show trials, writing things such as: "It is unthinkable that Stalin and the court martial could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proof of their guilt were overwhelming."
Not only was Duranty professionally corrupt, he was also personally louche. At various times, he was addicted to alcohol and opium. He had a mistress in Moscow and a wife in France. But even in their presence, according to Sally J. Taylor, author of the book "Stalin's Apologist," he did not seem to be the sort of man to restrain himself from attempting a new sexual conquest.
And as a graduate of the British public school system, he once declared that homosexuality was a normal part of a young person's development and nothing to worry about.
But that was his business.
Our business is that he covered up one of the greatest crimes of the century: Stalin's deliberate starvation of Ukrainians over the winter of 1932-33 in order to punish middle-class peasants. Stalin feared they were a threat to his agriculture collectivization program.
How cruel was the crime? Sally Taylor notes that at the height of World War I, the death rate was 6,000 a day; at the height of the famine, the death rate was 25,000 a day.
Taylor describes starving children who no longer had human faces. Malnutrition had shrunk their skin so tight against their skeletons that they now appeared to have "beaks" or "frog heads."
Starving peasants ate their dogs. Then they ate one another.
Duranty was unmoved. He declared: "The 'famine' is mostly bunk." He conceded perhaps there were "food shortages," but nothing more. It was good to demonstrate the lesson that "those who do not work do not eat." And, of course: "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
The famine killed even more people than the Holocaust 10 million as compared with 6 million.
Not that the Ukrainians were the innocents of the century. Just a decade later, many of them were happy to cooperate in the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews.
Like the Lithuanians, Poles and Rumanians, the Ukrainians often hated Jews even more than the Germans did.
But this does nothing to clear Duranty.
In the final column of his career in December 1974, Joseph Alsop denounced Duranty, saying he "covered up the horrors and deluded an entire generation by prettifying Soviet realities. He lived comfortably in Moscow, too, by courtesy of the KGB."
The Times acknowledges the deceit. Next to Duranty's photo in the lobby of the Times building, there's a note saying the work has been discredited.
But the Times has not seen it necessary to return the prize, pointing out that Duranty won it in 1931, whereas the famine did not start until 1932.
Ah, but then came Jayson Blair.
There's no need to be overly impressed with this new Times mea culpa. Like Stalin's mass trials, the return of Duranty's Pulitzer will be mostly for show.
The new touchy-feely Times is not going to abandon its service as the house newspaper of the American Democratic Party. It will just be more discreet about it.
In fact, little at all has changed in American journalism since the '30s. Back then, reporters protected communists and undermined capitalists. Today, they protect Democrats and undermine Republicans.
Duranty indulged in this bias more flagrantly than most. But in the main, he was just doing what reporters have always done.
But then, that goes without saying, doesn't it?
I will say this about Duranty. He recognized something that a lot of newspaper editors today do not recognize. He recognized that the way to sell newspapers is to be interesting. He knew to write what people actually want to know.
Duranty once told young reporters: "What most people are interested in are sex and gold and blood, and if you get a story in which the lead combines all of those, you've got something."
The English writer D.K. Edgerton put it another way:
"Journalism largely consists in saying 'Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive."
Newspapers must change this if they want to survive.
I will return to this topic in the future. In the meantime, watch for that Pulitzer Prize to drop off the wall at the New York Times.
Michael Bowers is a copy editor for The Star. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
Only a fool would think so.
Plus their website (and presumably the print paper also) have been on this extremely weird campaign to make it normal for men to wear skirts. That really gives me the squicks **shudder**.
I'm proud to say I haven't bought a copy of the Times for at least a decade.
I have always known that quote to be:
Someone once defined journalism as saying "Lord Fitzbuggherie is dead" to a readership that didn't even know he was alive.
Don't know which of us is right but I have been aware of that aphorism for many years.
The Old Red Lady!
I don't have a problem with REAL men wearing skirts.
The urban girly-men in skirts certainly bother me, though.
Chacun a son gout...
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