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Parsons - Probably the most infamous modern type of a newspaper brokering in fiction was 1980’s Pulitzer-winning feature in the Washington Post about a drug addicted boy named Jimmy. “Jimmy is 8 years of age along with a third-generation heroin addict, a precocious little boy with sandy hair, velvety brown eyes and needle marks freckling the baby-smooth skin of his thin brown arms.” Riveting writing, but fiction not fact. Little Jimmy would be a character concocted by journalist Janet Cooke. After the hoax was discovered, Cooke’s Pulitzer went pffffft and she or he quit. Apologizing for this grave journalism transgression , a contrite Ben Bradlee, then your Post’s executive editor, cited credibility as a newspaper’s paramount virtue. For once a paper lost its integrity, the resulting wounds, said Bradlee, were “grievous.”

In addition to mangling the important points and making stuff up, newspapers can suffer wrenching dyslexia when reading the tea leaves of current events. A brand new York Times art critic, reviewing Henri Matisse in the fabled The big apple Armory Show of 1913, excoriated his work with reducing psychology “to a purely animal significance” and “turning humanity back toward its brutish beginnings.” The usually puissant Walter Lippmann judged Franklin Roosevelt “a kind of amiable boyscout,” who didn't have grasp of “the great subjects which must concern the next President.” And the Chicago Daily Tribune, announcing the winner from the 1948 Presidential election, shouted this exquisitely wrong-headed headline high above the fold on page one: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”


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