After reading "Jimmy's World," read the following two articles before class on Friday, September 18.
The first of the
two articles was printed a few days after Cooke was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, journalism's highest award. The
second article was written by Bill Green, the Washington Post's ombudsman. An ombudsman is a person who is paid
by the newspaper to assess that paper's coverage, often critically.
These articles were taken from Lexis-Nexis and
Post Reporter's Pulitzer Prize Is Withdrawn;
Pulitzer Board Withdraws Post Reporter's Prize [excerpts]
16, 1981, Thursday, Final Edition
By David A. Maraniss, Washington Post Staff Writer
The Pulitzer Prize Committee withdrew its feature-writing prize from Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke
yesterday after she admitted that her award-winning story was a fabrication.
Cooke's story, "Jimmy's World," was about an alleged 8-year-old heroin addict in the District of Columbia. It was said
to be based on interviews with the boy, his mother and his mother's boyfriend. Cooke now acknowledges that she
never met or interviewed any of those people and that she made up the story of Jimmy based on a composite of
information about heroin addiction in Washington gleaned from various social workers and other sources.
Her admission followed revelations that certain statements she had made in an autobiographical report to the Pulitzer
authorities also were false. Cooke had said that she was a magna cum laude graduate of Vassar College and held a
master's degree from the University of Toledo. In fact, she attended Vassar for her freshman year and received a
bachelor of arts from the University of Toledo.
Cooke resigned from The Washington Post yesterday.
"It is tragedy that someone as talented and promising as Janet Cooke, with everything going for her, felt that she had
to falsify the facts," said Benjamin C. Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post. "The credibility of a
newspaper is its most precious asset, and it depends almost entirely on the integrity of its reporters. When that
integrity is questioned and found wanting, the wounds are grievous, and there is nothing to do but come clean with
our readers, apologize to the Advisory Board of the Pulitzer Prizes, and begin immediately on the uphill task of
regaining our credibility. This we are doing.".
In a statement yesterday, Cooke, 26, said: "The [article] was a serious misrepresentation which I deeply regret. I
apologize to my newspaper, my profession, the Pulitzer board and all seekers of the truth.".
Upon publication, the Jimmy article prompted a strong and immediate response in the city. Mayor Marion Barry and
Chief of Police Burtell Jefferson assigned a task force of police and social workers to locate the 8-year-old cited in the
city and to obtain medical treatment for him. When the child could not be located, Barry and Jefferson voiced deep
skepticism about the validity of the story. Barry said he believed "Jimmy" did not exist, or was a composite of several