- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2003

NEW YORK — The 1932 Pulitzer prize awarded to a New York Times reporter accused of deliberately ignoring the forced famine in Ukraine will not be revoked, the board for the journalism awards said yesterday.

“The board determined that there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception, the relevant standard in this case,” said a statement from the Pulitzer Prize Board, which met yesterday.

The decision was immediately criticized by Ukrainian groups, who had complained Walter Duranty’s reports intentionally made no mention of the 1932-1933 forced famine in Ukraine that killed as many as 7 million people. Josef Stalin’s regime created the famine to force Ukrainian peasants into surrendering their land.

“The Pulitzer Prize committee must review their standards of journalistic integrity,” said Michael Sawkiw, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. He added that his group will continue to press for revocation.

A Pulitzer subcommittee began a review of Mr. Duranty’s work in April. In October, a historian assigned by the New York Times to review the winning work said the award should be revoked because there is a “serious lack of balance in his writing.”

“For the sake of the New York Times’ honor, they should take the prize away,” Mark von Hagen, a Columbia University history professor said.

The board’s statement pointed out the award was given for 13 articles written and published during 1931 — before the famine. It was the second time since 1990 that the Pulitzer Board has decided against revoking the award.

The review of Mr. Duranty’s work did find that his 1931 work, “measured by today’s standards, falls seriously short,” the statement said. The board’s finding echoed those of scholars and the Times itself, he added.

But the board ultimately decided revocation “would be a momentous step” that it opted not to take.

In the 86-year history of the awards, no Pulitzer has ever been revoked. The prize was once returned, however, when Janet Cooke, a reporter for The Washington Post, surrendered her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had fabricated stories.

Mr. Duranty covered the Soviet Union for the Times from 1922 to 1941, earning acclaim for an exclusive 1929 interview with Stalin.

He was eventually criticized for reporting the communist line rather than the facts. According to the 1990 book “Stalin’s Apologist,” Mr. Duranty knew of the famine, but ignored the atrocities to preserve his access to Stalin.

The Times has also distanced itself from Mr. Duranty’s work. The reporter’s 1932 Pulitzer is displayed with this caveat: “Other writers in the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage.”

In a statement yesterday, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who privately had made a recommendation to the board after receiving Mr. von Hagen’s review, said he respected and commended the Pulitzer Board’s decision.

“All of us at The Times are fully aware of the many defects in Walter Duranty’s journalism, as we have and will continue to acknowledge,” he said. “We regret his lapses and we join the Pulitzer Board in extending sympathy to those who suffered in the famine.”

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