Dec
20
1995

Announcing the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 1995

It is time for us to announce the winners of the P.U.-litzer Prize for 1995.

Competition was intense for the fourth annual P.U.-litzers, which recognize some of the stinkiest media performances of the past year.

And now, the envelopes please.

UN-AMERICAN JOURNALISM PRIZE — Publisher Ted Owen, San Diego Business Journal

According to his staff, publisher Ted Owen banned photos of individuals of certain ethnic backgrounds (including Vietnamese, Iraqis and Iranians) from prominent spots in his weekly business journal on the grounds that such visible coverage was "un-American." Asked about the ban by a local daily, Owen commented: "It is not a public debate how I run the newspaper." But after protests from area businesses, Owen renounced any photo-apartheid policy.

PENTAGON PUNDIT AWARD — Mark Shields, Steve Roberts, et al.

This year, leading pundits Mark Shields, Steve Roberts, Gloria Borger, Haynes Johnson and Hedrick Smith received paychecks directly from Lockheed Martin — the country's top military contractor — to appear on a radio talk show in Washington. Lockheed Martin sees value in funding influential pundits across the media's narrow political spectrum. Meanwhile, media "debates" about budget-balancing concentrate on cuts aimed at seniors and the poor, but not the Pentagon.

RELATIVELY TORTURED PROSE PRIZE — Reporter Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

Writing of brutally repressive regimes on Dec. 4, Kristof observed: "While a relatively small number of South Koreans were tortured to death under Mr. Chun and Mr. Roh, the great majority of people gained during their rule."

"THEM, NOT ME" PRIZE — Editor-in-Chief Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Mort Zuckerman's magazine featured an Oct. 2 cover story titled "Tax Exempt!: You pay Uncle Sam. How come thousands of American corporations do not?" The article focused on non-profit corporations that don't pay taxes; it didn't mention that Zuckerman, the multimillionaire realtor who owns U.S. News & World Report, failed to pay any federal income taxes between 1981 and 1986.

FREQUENT FLYERS AWARD — Time magazine

Time, the nation's biggest newsweekly, spent $3 million to fly heads of corporations around the world for nine days this fall. Time's top managers and editors escorted several dozen executives from blue-chip firms (such as General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell and Philip Morris) to India, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Russia and Cuba for private briefings with foreign heads of state. Will Time's reporters be eager to scrutinize the firms their bosses have wined and dined across the globe?

ALL HAIL WALL STREET AWARD — Christian Science Monitor

Many news outlets rejoiced when the Dow Jones average topped 5,000, but a front-page Christian Science Monitor article on the day before Thanksgiving won first prize for sheer propaganda. Headlined "Wall St. Enriches Main St.," the article asserted that Wall Street's bull market has "helped millions of people, whether they have a stake in the market or just read about it." The celebratory article didn't mention the links between booming stock prices and corporate profits on one hand and the downturn of income for American workers on the other. As the Economic Policy Institute concluded in a recent study, "Business profits have been fueled by stagnant or falling wages."

(DIS)HONEST TO GOD AWARD — Rush Limbaugh

In a June 12 radio oration, Rush Limbaugh accused the "liberal media" of refusing to mention that Capt. Scott O'Grady, the U.S. pilot shot down and rescued in Bosnia, had credited God. "I haven't found one printed reference to him thanking God." Limbaugh's "facts" were wrong (as usual); major dailies had prominently quoted O'Grady's references to God. "Pilot, Back at Base, Thanks God and His Rescue Crews," said a June 10 New York Times headline over a story that quoted O'Grady in paragraph two: "The first thing I want to do is thank God."

CORRECTION OF THE YEAR — The New Yorker

In an editor's note, the New Yorker magazine explained that conservative leader William Bennett had criticized presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan's politics as "a real us-and-them kind of thing" — not, as the magazine had previously reported, "a real S&M kind of thing."

"THE USUAL SUSPECTS" AWARD — Too many winners to name

Within hours of the murderous explosion at the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, dozens of journalists declared that Muslim extremists were the probable culprits. "It has every single earmark of the Islamic car-bombers of the Middle East," wrote syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer. Columnist Mike Royko recommended picking out "a country that is a likely suspect" and bombing its "oil fields, refineries, bridges, highways, industrial complexes." Others who rushed to judgment included Jim Stewart of CBS News, ABC's John McWethy, New York Post editorial writers, New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal and media-touted terrorism "experts" Jeff Kamen and Steve Emerson.

"WAR IS PEACE" PRIZE — Business Week and Paul Craig Roberts

Commenting on Chile's 17-year military dictatorship that ended in 1990, Business Week writer Paul Craig Roberts lauded the regime for "restoring stability" and creating "a vast capital market." As for the Chilean government's murder of thousands of political dissidents during those years, Roberts credited the dictatorship for "suppressing...terror."

LIBERAL IDIOCY AWARD — Pundit Christopher Matthews

Discussing the federal minimum wage on "The McLaughlin Group," liberal syndicated columnist Christopher Matthews told television viewers: "The big fight in this country is between the people who don't work on welfare and the people who do work."

LAMEST EXCUSE AWARD — Newspaper Association of America

Last summer, when a survey found that only 19 percent of the sources cited on newspaper front pages were women, Newspaper Association of America spokesperson Paul Luthringer tried to explain it this way: "The fact that women are quoted less than men has nothing to do with the state of journalism, but has more to do with who — male or female — is the first to return a reporter's phone call."

Unfortunately, space does not allow mention of the many runners-up for this year's P.U.-litzers. In the world of journalism, their professional rigor and lofty achievements had profound effects.