A Pulitzer Prize administrator announced today the 1932 award to a New York Times reporter accused of ignoring Stalin’s forced famine will not be revoked.
“The board determined that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case,” said a statement from Sig Gissler, according to the Associated Press.
A Pulitzer subcommittee launched a review of Walter Duranty’s work in April after protests by Ukrainian groups, which flooded the Pulitzer board with more than 15,000 letters and postcards.
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America criticized today’s decision.
“The Pulitzer Prize committee must review their standards of journalistic integrity,” said the group’s president Michael Sawkiw.
Duranty’s writing about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. has received widespread condemnation for his covering up the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, which killed as many as 7 million people, and other Soviet atrocities. His Pulitzer actually was awarded for writing he did in 1931.
The review said Duranty’s work “measured by today’s standards, falls seriously short,” but the board concluded revoking the award “would be a momentous step” it opted not to take, according to the Associated Press.
Sawkiw said the decision would not end its efforts to have the prize revoked, only “prolong our struggle.”
The Times displays the 1932 Pulitzer with the caveat: “Other writers in the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage.”
The paper recently commissioned a report by Columbia University history professor Mark von Hagen, recommending the award be rescinded.
The report marked a change in the Times’ position on the controversial award, the New York Sun said.
In June, the paper responded to a study by a Pulitzer subcommittee into the award by saying, “The Times has not seen merit in trying to undo history.”
Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. reportedly read the new report and then forwarded it to the Pulitzer board with a recommendation.
The study of the Duranty Pulitzer, the Sun reports, was commissioned less than a month after the resignation of the Times’ executive editor, Howell Raines, over the Jayson Blair fraud scandal.
“I was really kind of disappointed having to read [Duranty’s] stuff, and know that the New York Times would publish this guy for so long,” von Hagen told the Sun.
Von Hagen’s report said Duranty’s 1931 pieces were “very effective renditions of the Stalinist leadership’s style of self-understanding of their murderous and progressive project.”
He said Duranty’s reporting was “neither unique among reporters” nor “particularly unusual, let alone profound,” according to the Sun, saying the reporter “ignored the history of 20th century Russia.”
Concluded von Hagen: “I wish they didn’t give Duranty the prize in the first place. But I think it should be rescinded now, for the honor of the New York Times, if for nothing else.”
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