The Ukrainian Weekly
The Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, New Jersey, USA
No. 45, Vol. LXX, Page 6
November 10, 2002
We've written before in this space about the ignominious reporting of
Walter Duranty, Moscow correspondent of The New York Times during
the period of the Great Famine of 1932-1933, and the ignoble response
decades later by the newspaper's publishers and editors to revelations
that their correspondent's reporting was, in effect, part of the Soviet
cover-up of this genocide. (We refer readers especially to "The Famine
and the Times," November 25, 2001.)
What brings us do to again? A recently released book titled,
"Written into History." Just released in paperback, the book contains
Pulitzer Prize reporting of the 20th century from The New York Times.
Certainly we had to take a look at how the volume deals with Duranty,
who won the Pulitzer in 1932 for his "dispassionate interpretive
reporting" from the USSR, filing news reports that denied the Famine,
while privately telling British intelligence that he believed over 10
million had died.
First we turned to the listing of the Pulitzer winners of The New York
Times. Sure enough, Duranty was still there, but with the parenthetical
notation: "Other writers in The Times and elsewhere have discredited
this coverage." It is the same notation that appears after an asterisk
under the photograph of Duranty that is among the photos of Pulitzer
winners which line the corridor at The Times.
Next we looked at the chapter called "Around the Globe," which
notes that the first individual foreign correspondent from The Times to
win the Pulitzer was Duranty and that his prize "has come under a cloud."
Duranty's reporting, the book explains, "ignored the reality of Stalin's
mass murder"; it goes on to cite a memorandum written in 1932 by
George F. Kennan, then a U.S. foreign service officer in Riga, Latvia,
which says that in the USSR "15 to 20 million people have been killed
in military operations, exiled to prison camps, forced (to) emigrate or
deprived of all civic rights for political reasons...." Amazingly, there is
not a word about the Famine-Genocide.
In the introduction to the book, Anthony Lewis, himself a two-time
winner of the Pulitzer, writes the following: "In the process run by
human beings, there are always going to be decisions that in hindsight
look likes mistakes. The worst in Pulitzer history was the award of a
prize in 1981 to Janet Cooke of the Washington Post for stories on
how a small boy in the inner city of Washington, D.C. was caught up
in the drug trade. Not long after the prize announcement the story
unraveled; Ms. Cooke admitted that she had invented the small boy.
She disappeared from the Post and journalism, and the prize was
returned. The Times, too, has a blot on its Pulitzer record. In 1932
its Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, won for international
reporting. But his word increasingly came to be seen as slanted
toward the Soviet regime."
Mr. Lewis presents an excellent parallel. But, Ms. Cooke's
prize was returned. Why not Duranty's? In 1986 Times Publisher
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger had said in response to pressure to give
up the Pulitzer: ".....it is not a prize The Times can take back."
But the Times can do the honorable thing and relinquish Duranty's
ill-gotten award. The deaths of millions deserves more than an asterisk
in The New York Times pantheon of Pulitzer winners.
NOTE: The editorial above (November 10, 2002) mentions the
following editorial. The editorial above is a follow-up to the editorial
below which appeared in The Ukrainian Weekly on November 25,
THE FAMINE AND THE TIMES
The Ukrainian Weekly
Parsippany, New Jersey
The Ukrainian National Association
November 25, 2001, No. 47, Vol. LXIX
This month Ukrainians around the world are observing the solemn anniversary
of the Great Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933. We needn't remind our readers,
we are sure, that the Famine was a deliberate campaign that killed up to 10
million people or that it was indeed genocide.
But perhaps we do need to remind our readers that one of the world's
leading newspapers, The New York Times, has yet to acknowledge its
mistake in how it covered - or more precisely covered up - the famine.
At the time famine was raging in the Ukrainian countryside, The Times'
Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, who won the Pulitzer Prize
for his "dispassionate interpretive reporting" from the USSR, filed news
reports that denied the famine's existence, while privately telling British
intelligence that he believed over 10 million people had died.
There have been numerous attempts to get The Times to set the record
In 1986 a Times shareholder and radio talk show host, Les Kinsolving,
asked Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger if the newspaper would
return the Pulitzer Prize awarded in the 1930s to Duranty, in the light of
his documented cover-up. Mr. Sulzberger replied that, "what we report
has to stand, for better or worse, as our best contemporary effort." While
noting that "perhaps he [Duranty] was too trusting of Soviet sources," the
publisher said, "That contemporary Pulitzer jurors thought him worthy of a
prize for the things he did write from Moscow is a judgment I am neither
equipped nor entitled to second-guess at this date. In any event, it is not
a prize The Times can take back."
In 1987 it was learned that, "in agreement with The New York Times and
the Soviet authorities," the dispatches of Duranty always "reflect(ed) the
official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own." That information,
uncovered in a declassified State Department document - a memorandum
written by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Berlin based on a conversation with
Duranty, was reported by Dr. James Mace at a conference on "Recognition
and Denial of Genocide and Mass Killing in the 20th Century" held by the
Institute for the Study of Genocide. After being sent a photocopy of the
memorandum plus Dr. Mace's paper, Times Executive Editor Max Frankel
relayed a response to this newspaper: Dr. Mace's revelation "doesn't seem
to qualify as news. It's really history, and belongs in history books."
The Times revisited the issue of the famine in June 1990 via an item in "The
Editorial Notebook" titled "Trenchcoats, Then and Now: The Correspondent
Who Liked Stalin." Duranty was "fascinated, almost mesmerized by the harsh
system he described," wrote Karl E. Meyer. "The result was some of the
worst reporting to appear in this newspaper." The item also noted that the
Times correspondent's "lapses" were detailed in the newly released book
"Stalin's Apologist" by S.J. Taylor, who documented "his indifference to the
catastrophic famine ... when millions perished in Ukraine on the heels of
"The Editorial Notebook" item may have been a step in the right direction,
but the Times has yet to tell the whole truth. It had an opportunity to set
the record straight in the recently released supplement dedicated to its
150th anniversary. Executive Editor Howell Raines explained in a note to
readers that though the paper's slogan is "All the News That's Fit to
Print," it is "patently flawed. ... important news slips by because our
coverage reflects blind spots that we recognize only in retrospect ... (see
Max Frankel's article on page 10 about our blinkered coverage of the
Holocaust). ...we have not covered every major event with perfect
prescience." Mr. Raines continued: "We know we make mistakes, and
we hate them, but we do not fear them to the point of timidity, as long as
they are made in the course of intellectually honest work and are promptly
What then, we ask, is preventing The New York Times from acknowledging
its most grievous mistake from the 1930s and from being intellectually
honest enough to return the Pulitzer that Walter Duranty should never have
The Ukrainian Weekly, Roma Hadzewycz, Editor-in-chief, an English-
language newspaper published by the Ukrainian National Association.
P. O. Box 280, Parsippany, NJ 07054
Tel: 973 292 9800; Fax 973 644 9510
The Ukrainian Weekly Archive: http://www.ukrweekly.com
Check out the large archive of material about the Great Famine of
1932-1933 located on this site.