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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Surrender the Russian hoax Pulitzers

Tom Kuntz helped edit the New York Times's Pulitzer Prize submissions in several years of his 28-year tenure as an editor at the paper ending in 2016. He knows how this game is played.

Now editor of RealClearInvestigations, he unloaded on the Pulitzer the New York Times and Washington Post shared last year for the Russian collusion story. A nearly two year investigation concluded last month and found no crime, much less any perpetrators.

Kuntz wrote, "Their heavy investment in shaping and advancing the collusion story is telegraphed by some of the headlines alone. Imagine them with exclamation points and they could easily have appeared in the sensational sheets published by Joseph Pulitzer himself:  Sessions Spoke Twice to Russian Envoy! (Washington Post); Emails Disclose Trump Son’s Glee at Russian Offer! (New York Times); Trump Reveals Secret Intelligence to Russians! (Post).

"This work is not comparable to earlier Pulitzer scandals that still haunt the Times and Post. But in a way, a lot of it is worse. The Walter Duranty and Janet Cooke embarrassments mainly involved individual fraud or malpractice – outlier transgressions. The articles at issue now generally reflect abuse of a widely accepted but problematic practice that the profession is unlikely to abandon: anonymous sourcing."

Duranty was the Times Moscow bureau chief who blew off the Holodomor in which Stalin starved 6 million Ukrainians, a holocaust that presaged Hitler's Final Solution.

Cooke made up a fictional 8-year-old heroin addict.

The Russian hoax stories were yellow journalism steeped in anonymous sources. Kuntz said they were published with insufficient skepticism.

He wrote, "Rereading the stories, I searched mostly in vain for answers to these questions: Which government departments did the sources work for? What were their motivations? Were any of them seeking to deflect attention from their own failure to prevent Russian meddling in the 2016 election? How many were current and how many former (i.e. Obama administration) officials? Were any of them connected to former high-ranking officials who publicly – and profitably -- turned against Trump? (Men such as James Comey of the FBI, John Brennan of the CIA and James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence.) For that matter, were those high-profile men also serving as anonymous sources? And – a problem little discussed in journalism – could the same people have been sources for multiple stories, creating a distorted, snowballing impression of major wrongdoing?"

These grand journalists fell for Chicken Little's jumping to conclusions.

We have seen this over and over again in journalism, as too many reporters talk among themselves when they should be hitting the streets and finding new information first hand.

He wrote, "Just as important, apart from White House denials of allegations, I usually searched in vain for voices both inside and outside the government who dissented from the dark interpretations that were offered."

While he does not say it, he shows the anti-Trump bias brought out the worst in journalism, a bias that the Pulitzer board shares.

He wrote, "A central premise of the stories – that acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates felt the 1799 Logan Act was a good reason to raise alarms about Flynn – should have provided a strong tipoff that the sources might have been politically driven. Democratic Party partisans had long had the knives out for the maverick ex-general, whom President Obama had forced to resign as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. But that context is missing as the Post presents at length, with grave seriousness and little skepticism, deep official suspicion seemingly of Flynn's every recent move. He's flouting the Logan Act! That the Logan Act is a moldering, never-used statute against private diplomacy routinely honored in the breach – and almost certainly not applicable to members of an incoming administration – is referred to only as a challenge to be overcome in nailing the guy."

There was another motive for this hoax hysteria.

Kuntz wrote, "The prize-winning articles appeared at a time when both publications, only recently flirting with extinction in the digital age, were enjoying anti-Trump surges in online clicks, subscriptions, and circulation. In the runup to the 2016 election the Times’s newsroom, not opinion, editors -- that is, people who would oversee Trump-Russia coverage -- had given premier front-page display to its media columnist articulating a rationale for anti-Trump media bias. In this charged atmosphere, and no doubt with an eye to posterity, the Times let cameras follow its journalists into their work spaces and personal lives in real time for a brand-extending documentary series on left-leaning Showtime."

Ah, those Drudge Report links can get you a million hits. And Matt Drudge is generous with them when it comes to the Times and the Post and Donald John Trump.

How they got the Pulitzer was interesting.

He said, "In its announcement, the Pulitzer Board praised the papers, probably Washington’s biggest recipients of unauthorized government leaks, for their 'deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage.' I asked Dana Canedy, the Pulitzer Prize administrator, how the board knew enough about the unnamed sources and the relentlessness of the work to say this, and she said it concluded this from the work itself, and the papers’ prize applications.

"But if anything was 'deeply' demonstrated, it was the deeply embedded Washington Post and New York Times DNA on last year’s Pulitzer Board, a third of whose 18 members were current or former Times or Post journalists. In addition, two board members, ex-Timesman Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica and Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune, head nonprofit newsrooms that share coverage with the Times and the Post."

Finally, we have the collusion, mate.

Bear in mind that the Times and Post are journalism at its best.

Be kind. People who believe what they read in the newspapers are an endangered species. The Pulitzer Board is one of the last refuges for them.


  1. The Gray Lady still has Walter Duranty's Pulitzer in its trophy case.

  2. And yellow journalism ignited the Iraq War just the way Pulitzer and Hearst did with the Spanish American war. Showing the more things change...

  3. Roxanne and the trumpet. That’s all I think about when I see that name any more.

  4. Three questions for these Pulitzer Prize winners: 1) Did they know their sources were lying? 2) Did they lie about the content of the classified documents they were illegally given? I am thinking about whore Ali Watkins and the countless other whores the MSM employs that we don't know about. 3) Were they paid to knowingly publish false information?

  5. Maybe it should be the Pull-it-surprise since many liars, when caught, claim, Aww, I was just pullin yer leg.
    The Pulitzer, along with many other awards like the Nobel Peace Prize, are meaningless garbage. You can lump all the Hollyweird ones in there as well.

  6. Don, I've said before, and I'll keep saying it: that there will be real journalism again someday, and your books will be on the required reading list in the j-schools.
    Our small town newspaper (a weekly out on Wednesdays), with a staff of about six keeps hiring newbie reporters out of school. They generally are ambitious and hard working. They run their tails off covering everything local--something the internet cannot do. After they hone their writing and resume's they often move on after a couple of years, and the editor hires new ones.
    Life in the Oregon Outback(tm) is an acquired taste, certainly not for most people, but for us locals, we love it here. Look at a map, and then realize that there isn't a stoplight in Lake County!

    1. No stoplights
      As was Poca 30 years ago.
      Then they added one at the high school.
      Then the industrial park.
      Then the Sheetz.
      Enjoy your oasis while you can

    2. I hear you Greg. I too live in a stoplight free county In Mississippi. And a fast food free county. And there are only two 4-lane roads. Life is good semi-off the grid.

  7. The Pulitzer can give way to the Shoveitzer.

  8. The Pulitzer is just another worthless prize. So degraded and meaningless because off all the later debunked winners and its' total politicization. Sad to say but the Oscars are less political.

  9. The Dem media are part of the conspiracy, not sure if they're liable for the slander and defamation, tho.