Pulitzer fraud furnishes mini-beat for msnbc.com reporter

June 29, 2012

Investigative reporters crave impact. For msnbc.com’s Bill Dedman, it has come recently in several forms: torn-up ads, torn-up book jackets, revised resumes and statements of regret about overblown bona fides.

Dedman polices the Pulitzer-fraud beat.

It’s an investigative arena that thrives on terminology. The Pulitzer Prizes have a way of categorizing the accomplished individuals who rise to the top of a huge pile of submissions. They’re called “nominated finalists.” Yet many writers and poseurs have taken to calling themselves “Pulitzer nominees” even though they’ve never achieved this distinction. It’s resume fraud, public deception; “entrants” is the most exalted way of describing their Pulitzer status.

In recent months, Dedman has reduced a few faux nominees back to their status as entrants. Jonah Goldberg, the political opinionator of National Review Online and Fox News fame, came first. “I was looking at the top 100 books on Amazon, and saw Jonah Goldberg’s name,” says Dedman via e-mail, noting that Goldberg’s bio claimed he’d been nominated two times for a Pulitzer. “I thought immediately, I’ll bet that’s not true. I checked the Pulitzer site for his name, sent him an e-mail, and it wasn’t true. The publisher said it would pull the claim [from the book jacket] in the next edition, so I wrote that up. I referred to prominent others who have made the same claim, but wasn’t intending a series.”

But then things happened. “[O]n the train home, I saw an ad promoting Betty Liu as Pulitzer nominated.” Bogus. The anchor of Bloomberg TV’s “In the Loop with Betty Liu had never achieved such standing. The organization pledged to correct the ads.

Dedman: “Then a reader called and said, what about Charlie Gasparino? He’s been claiming this for years, the reader said, but he didn’t seem to have been nominated.” Gasparino is an outspoken correspondent for Fox Business Network.

Busted, again. Fox issued this statement, as presented in Dedman’s piece:

“The Wall Street Journal submitted Charlie Gasparino’s reporting of Wall Street research scandals to the Pulitzer Board in 2002,” said the statement from Kevin Magee, executive vice president of Fox Business Network. “While Fox Business never claimed he was a finalist for the award, we’ve clarified his bio to reflect the submission as opposed to a nomination.”

Dedman isn’t exactly gung-ho about repeating this line of inquiry: “I hesitated to write up any of them. I’d never heard of any of these three journalists, but my colleagues had heard of them, and they seemed to have a public presence, so I wrote them up. I guess it’s like a radar gun — once you set it up by the road, you might as well write the tickets, but you wouldn’t write up every driver,” he notes.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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