Journalists, so accustomed to disseminating news, sometimes have a hard time keeping secrets.
So it was that within hours after more than 50 journalist-jurors picked the finalists for the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes, newsrooms around the country this week were abuzz with rumors about the identity of the front-runners.
Meeting at Columbia University in New York Monday through Wednesday, the jurors were advised -- "sternly," as one put it -- that they should not tell a soul about their choices: three finalists for each of 14 journalistic categories. But by Wednesday, some journalists were compiling lists, sharing them with other jurors and taking them back to their newsrooms.
"The whole thing about confidentiality is silly, really," said a juror who watched the scene with some amusement.
Said another juror who watched the information being traded, "I saw it done last year, but not so openly."
Already the Pulitzer board has moved the date of its final decision up by a month -- in part to shorten the agonizing wait. The board is scheduled to meet March 28-29 and announce its findings two days later.
Backing Jonathan Broder
Friends of former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Jonathan Broder have been trying to find ways to show him their support after he resigned amid charges that he was guilty of plagiarism. A number of sentences and phrases in a Broder dispatch were virtually the same as those of Jerusalem Post writer Joel Greenberg.
Some foreign correspondents have been considering letters or a petition to the Tribune, believing that Broder's resignation was too drastic a punishment. Others expressed concern that critics of the substance of Broder's reporting might use his mistake to discredit the rest of his work.
As Los Angeles Times Jerusalem correspondent Dan Fisher said, "As I understand what is happening, we're looking at capital punishment for a parking offense.
"I've worked with Jon. I've gone out on stories with him. I know he's one of the hardest-working reporters here, and it's not as if he sits at home and lets other people do his work for him," Fisher said.
Others who had covered the Middle East during Broder's tour with the Tribune said Broder did what many other foreign correspondents do -- rewrote the local media. In Broder's case, these reporters added, he didn't rewrite it enough.
Some correspondents said that the code was different for different media companies; others complained that editors in the home office sometimes talk about being sticklers for the rules while shutting their eyes when foreign correspondents bend them. Said one Broder colleague: "Everybody rewrites the Jerusalem Post. That's how foreign correspondents work."
A few of Broder's friends said they were perplexed why Broder plagiarized the column, speculating that the pressures of the story and his wish to hurry home for a family vacation had caused the lapse. One suggested that after the media made such a case about Sen. Joseph Biden's plagiarism in college, the Tribune's editors were forced to treat Broder's plagiarism just as seriously. Broder did not want to comment.
One friend, Thomas Friedman, former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief now on leave writing a book about the Middle East, said: "I've known Jon a long time. He is a fine reporter, and I'm deeply saddened by all of this."
And Marcus Eliason, Associated Press news editor in London, said, "I've known people to lift quotes, to pretend to be under fire when they weren't. That is serious, pirating of another person's work."
But with Broder, Eliason added, "this was a case of using another person's words to describe a situation he had been in himself.
"I've been through the pressure cooker of Israel. It is probably one of the hardest assignments there is, partly because the story is so big and there is so much news, and partly because the tug on one's emotions is constant," he said. "It's not a story you can afford to be close to for a long time."
Lest anybody believe advertising people only think about what sells, General Motors has made it clear they don't want to do business with people who write nasty or tough pieces about them.
After the Feb. 15 issue of Fortune carried several pieces on GM's problems, including a cover story titled "How I Would Turn Around GM" by one of GM's biggest critics, H. Ross Perot, GM pulled an eight-page ad section in protest.
GM Chairman Roger Smith told Washington Post reporter Warren Brown recently he was so upset about the articles that he told his public relations people, "From now on, if the guy from Fortune wants to interview me, you just tell him he's got about 2 1/2 years to wait" -- that is, until Smith retires. "That was the worst piece of yellow journalism I've ever seen," Smith said.
Fortune spokesman Gary Belis said the wall between the editorial and advertising departments at the magazine was "impregnable."
"It's known as church and state around here," Belis said, "and it's one of the institutions of the Time Inc. culture."
Some divisions of General Motors haven't pulled their advertising, according to George Pruette, GM's director of public affairs advertising.
"Chevrolet, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, if an ad is scheduled in there, it's in there," Pruette said.
Appointment at Ms.
Ms. Magazine, which has decided to report regularly from Washington, yesterday announced the end of a long search for the right woman for the job. The winner? Peggy Simpson, a veteran political and economic reporter who has always had a strong interest in women's issues.
Simpson, who has worked for the Associated Press, the Boston Herald and most recently Hearst newspapers, became one of the media's first specialists in women's issues at the Associated Press. She later became part of a class-action suit to get the AP to pay more to women and blacks and chairs a group collecting oral histories of women who broke barriers in journalism.
Ms., now owned by an Australian media firm, Fairfax Publications (US) Ltd., has also has hired Ann F. Lewis, former political director of the Democratic National Committee, to write a regular national affairs column.