Andrew Stuttaford has several times drawn attention to the decision of the Grey Lady to keep the Pulitzer Prize that was awarded to Walter Duranty for his reporting of Soviet Russia that praised Stalin, sugar-coated the crimes of the Soviet regime, and in particular denied the forced Ukrainian famine. Duranty — about whom Roger Simon has recently written a fine play — was a real piece of work: an acolyte of the Satanist Aleister Crowley and a Soviet agent of influence. His journalistic dishonesty is no longer in any doubt. So it’s surprising that the Pulitzer committee is equally — arguably more — complicit with the Times in insisting that Duranty’s Pulitzer should stand.
An opposite situation has now arisen. Both organizations are jointly resisting the posthumous award of a Pulitzer to Ed Kennedy, the Associated Press reporter, who broke the official 24-hour embargo on releasing news of the German surrender to the Allies at Reims on the Western front. The censor’s decision was the result of a deal between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill that would allow the Soviets to get their German surrender in Berlin into the news at the same time. The deal was actually moot because the Germans themselves inadvertently broke the embargo by announcing the Western surrender, and the Soviets have apparently never (to this day) run the report of it that was written by the lone Russian journalist admitted (with a handful of U.S. and allied war reporters) to the signing. So the attempted censhorship was the first fruit of the Yalta appeasement of a Soviet regime bent on monopolizing the credit for the Allied victory. It had little or nothing to do with the legitimate purposes of military censorship.
Of the three American war reporters there the AP’s Kennedy alone broke the embargo and gave his agency’s clients, including the New York Times, a terrific account of the end of the Second World War. The Times ran it over two pages. When the authorities complained, he was fired by AP — which has now apologised — and criticised roundly by the Times in a solemn editorial (“a grave disservice to journalism.”) Kennedy went onto a distinguished career in journalism, but his career was undoubtedly damaged. A full and highly readable account of this episode is to be found in Bruce Brugmann’s blog on the website of the San Francisco Bay Guardian here.
The story, however, is not over. As Brugmann reports, a distinguished group of journalists, including Ed Kennedy’s daughter, have applied for the Pulitzer committee to give Kennedy a posthumous award. In the latest round of Pulitzers this recommendation was rejected by the Pulitzer committee, and the New York Times celebrated the awards it got without reporting the rejected posthumous award and the story behind it. To simple minds like mine the obvious solution would be for the Times to request the Pulitzer Board to withdraw the Duranty Pulitzer and to award one to Kennedy and the AP for which the Times could claim some reflected glory. And it would help dispel the unfortunate and entirely unfounded impression that the Pulitzers keep ending up on the wrong side of the Communist barricades.