Janet Cooke and Jimmy's World (7/24/2011)

Photo by dionhinchcliffe

I was on the Metro today and a man next to me had his newspaper opened to a section about scandals in journalism. This retrospective was written due to the current phone hacking scandal in the UK. I was aware of most of the perpetrators like Jayson Blair but the earliest on the list was Janet Cooke. I just read briefly that her Pulitzer Prize had to be returned because she fabricated her story. I wanted to find out what the story was that she made up. As a reporter for the Washington Post, she had written a feature story on a boy named Jimmy who was 8 and addicted to heroin. The made up article can be found here.

The editor, Bob Woodward had sent in the piece for a Pulitzer Prize and it won. This instant fame brought on a lot more questions about Ms. Cooke and her story, "Jimmy's World." With all this pressure and questioning, Ms. Cooke confessed and her award was taken away. 

Journalism ethics (or lack of) was highlighted in the 5th season of The Wire (written by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon). Great show, you should check it out!

The interesting note in the article that was in the paper today was that the idea that these scandals aren't rare, what is rare is when they are discovered, the journalism industry reflects on itself and organizations redefine their own policies. I think it is harder to get away with fabrication and plagiarism these days since information sharing is a lot easier and cheaper. It's a lot easier to get caught so please just stick to the story because often real life is stranger than fiction!