Advertisement

Janet Cooke

From Academic Kids

Janet Cooke (born 1958) was an American journalist who became infamous when she won a Pulitzer Prize for a fabricated story that she wrote for The Washington Post.

In 1980, she joined the "Weeklies" section staff of the Washington Post under editor Vivian Aplin-Brownlee. To secure this post, she claimed to have a degree from Vassar College, an alleged stint at Sorbonne University and to have been the recipient of an award at The Toledo Blade newspaper.

In an article entitled 'Jimmy's World' (http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/markport/lit/litjour/spg2002/cooke.htm), which appeared in the Post on September 29 1980, Cooke wrote a gripping profile of the life of an 8-year-old heroin addict. The story engendered much sympathy among readers, including Marion Barry, then mayor of Washington DC. He and other city officials organized an all-out police search for the boy which was unsuccessful and led to claims that the story was fraudulent.

In spite of this, the Post defended the verity of the story and Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward nominated the story for the Pulitzer Prize. Cooke was named winner of the prize on April 13 1981.

When the editors of the Toledo Blade, where Cooke had previously worked, read her biographical notes, they noticed a number of discrepancies. Further investigation revealed that Cooke's credentials were false. Pressured by the editors of The Washington Post, Cooke confessed her guilt.

Two days after the prize had been awarded, Washington Post publisher Donald Graham held a press conference and admitted that the story was fraudulent. The editorial in the next day's paper offered a public apology. Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward said at the time, "I believed it, we published it. Official questions had been raised, but we stood by the story and her. Internal questions had been raised, but none about her other work. The reports were about the story not sounding right, being based on anonymous sources, and primarily about purported lies [about] her personal life -- [told by men reporters], two she had dated and one who felt in close competition with her. I think that the decision to nominate the story for a Pulitzer is of minimal consequence. I also think that it won is of little consequence. It is a brilliant story -- fake and fraud that it is. It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes." [1] (http://academics.smcvt.edu/dmindich/Jimmy's%20World.htm)

Cooke resigned, the prize was returned and the reputation of the venerable Washington Post was sullied for years. Cooke moved to France for a number of years before returning in 1996. She was the subject of an interview by Mike Sager, appearing in GQ magazine in June of 1996. Sager's article was republished in an anthology Scary Monsters and Super Freaks, 2003. The movie rights for her story were reported to have been purchased for $1.6 million dollars by Columbia Tri-Star Pictures to be divided up between Cooke and Sager. The film was never produced.

The playwright, Tracey Scott Wilson wrote a play in 2001, entitled "The Story" which is purportedly based on the topic of journalistic hoax inspired by the Janet Cooke story and that of another journalistic interloper, Stephen Glass formerly of the New Republic magazine.

Navigation

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)

Information

  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Toolbox
Personal tools