Sep 29, 2006

A Pulitzer for silently revising one's errors? [LINK]

Seven reporters and editors at the New Orleans Times-Picayune have been awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for public service. The prize was awarded for a September 26, 2005 story debunking widely echoed reports of murder and rape in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, mostly centering around the New Orleans Superdome where many of city's city poorest residents had sought shelter.

However, one of the Pulitzer recipients, Brian Thevenot, was the author of a lurid September 6 Times-Picayune story that had a large role in establishing such misinformation as common wisdom in the first place. At the time, Thevenot falsely reported 30 to 40 corpses had been stacked in a freezer at the Superdome, that among them was a 7-year-old who had her throat cut and a 5-year-old girl who had earlier been gang-raped.

The Times-Picayune's later story established that while there was widepread looting amidst the city's contaminated floodwaters, such reports of violence were false. Yet in that story, the Times-Picayune failed to note the newspaper's own role in spreading the misinformation, and to this day has failed to offer a retraction.

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