April 13 – A Pulitzer Is Won! (soon to be lost)

Posted on April 13, 2016

There has probably always been lying and cheating, and there will probably always be lying and cheating. But we should all strive to minimize them – and we should certainly not reward them!

Today's post is about a big lie.

A woman named Janet Cooke told some small lies about herself when she
applied for a job as a Washington Post reporter – and she didn't get caught (for a while, at least). 

Like other journalists, Cooke researched and wrote various stories about true events for the newspaper.

In September of 1980, she wrote a really upsetting article about a heroin addict who was just eight years old!

She titled the story “Jimmy's World.”

Many readers were moved and demanded that something to be done to help Jimmy. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry, organized a police search for the boy. No Jimmy turned up, and readers were clamoring for someone to find the boy and help him! Finally, Barry explained that Jimmy had been found and was receiving treatment.

Not long after that, it was announced that Jimmy had died.

Tragic, right?

Cooke's assistant managing editor submitted “Jimmy's World” for consideration for the most prestigious award in newspaper journalism, the Pulitzer Prize. And on this date in 1981, Cooke won!

Trouble is – it was a big lie!

Cooke made up the story about Jimmy. She didn't change the name to protect the innocent – she made the whole thing up. She didn't meet an 8-year-old heroin addict at all!

You may ask, “What about what the mayor said?”

Another lie! He was under public pressure to find Jimmy, to help Jimmy. Since they couldn't find him, he lied and said that they had – and then he lied again, saying that Jimmy had died, to cover up his first lie.

Naturally, Janet Cooke resigned. She returned the Pulitzer Prize (it was later awarded to another journalist). The editors of the Post apologized publicly.

Cooke had the Pulitzer just two days. But what bugs me about this story is that she still managed to profit from her lies, even after she was “outed” as a liar – another reporter and Cooke were able to sell the film rights to the story about the fraudulent article for $1.6!!

By the way...
Jimmy's World Grill and Bar
has no connection to this
fraudulent story.

Nor does the rock band Jimmy Eat World.

Also on this date:

Apollo 13 Day

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