Pulitzer Award for Iron Curtain Story

Westbrook Pegler

Indianapolis Star/May 15, 1956

NEW YORK William Randolph Hearst Jr. and his two sidekicks, Joe Kingsbury Smith and Frank Conniff, have won a Pulitzer award for drilling a hole in the Iron Curtain on their trip to Moscow last spring. The Rover boys took some ribbing because they didn’t know what it was all about, but neither did anyone else, including our State Department and that still goes today. All we all know is that my leader and his task force discovered something, the scope and meaning of which have been spreading, meandering and deepening ever since. Eisenhower was emboldened recently to insinuate that if the Kremlin should start anything we would belt the bums through the transom, and this new confidence on our side dotes from the experience of our wide-eyed Rover boys. The repudiation of Stalin and of the weird Moscow, trials, which paper-collar Joe Davies found tolerable, and the political rehabilitation of the Reds who died against the wall are further developments of the story which they undeniably discovered.

Occupation of Paris

A cub reporter happened to pass the Opera station of the Paris subway one morning in 1940 as a platoon of German soldiers hustled up the stairs. This kid had an exclusive piece on the actual occupation of Paris although he did not quite know this at the moment. The Germans had taken to the subway at an outlying station to save shoe leather and avoid pestiferous fighting with rear-guards and reckless civilians on the way in. So our boys, Will and Joe and Frank, have dealt themselves into a circle, more like a rabble, if you will permit me, of those who are referred to as “Pulitzer-prize-winner so-and-so” and this will set Will’s old man to chuckling because Pulitzer was his enemy, with no holds barred. It is not immodest of me to say that I got one of those baubles some years ago. But, as I remarked to my leader in my address to the throne congratulating him on his recognition, I wasn’t a Hearst hand then and probably would have been passed over in favor of the New York Times if I had been. Any Hearst man who gets it makes it the hard way and our Will made it the hardest way of all because of his name.

Some of The Winners

I was discussing this proposition with some veteran misanthrope the other day and the prevailing opinion was that the Pulitzer awards always were a publicity gag primarily for the Pulitzer papers and secondarily for papers which string along with European ideologies. The United Press has had great reporters including Lyle Wilson, commanding the Washington bureau, and, in the days way back, Karl Bicker, who knew move about Soviet Russia than the whole American corps together. But the U.P. has never smelled a Pulitzer award. The International News can run rings around the A. P. most of the time and the A. P. never has had a writer-reporter who could carry Hob Considine’s machine. But neither has the INS ever been bidden into the circle of the roses although the A. P. got three nods in eight years for “International reporting;” three in six years for “telegraphic reporting;” three in 18 years for “reporting” and one in “national reporting,” a score of 10 to 0 against outfits which always are at least at last accurate and truthful.

The preponderance of New York Times men in the roster of these celebrities is grotesque although Arthur Krock of the Times, who got two awards, is readily acknowledged one of the best of our time. Still, the Times has 2t awards, including three “special citations” and this year’s bauble to Arthur Daley, the sport page columnist, who “covers” nothing, for his “coverage” of sports. Furthermore, Charles Bartlett of the Chattanooga Times, an outpost of the New York Times, got one for a good but routine job on Harold Talbott, who resigned as secretary of the Air Force on a petty issue of conflict of interest. Under Truman or Roosevelt, Talbott would have stuck it out, Bartlett’s undertaking would have been unsuccessful and the story would have amounted to nothing. So actually, Eisenhower deserves an assist here and a cut of the check which goes with the prize. One year, a Washington man for the Times got an award on general principles for no specific feat of reporting, writing or biting his nails.

Pulitzers Last Survivor

The Post-Dispatch, Pulitzer’s last surviving paper, holding the fort for the Roosevelt myth and morality in St. Louis, has 13 awards, including one to an old defender of the faith which was tentatively voted to another and then withdrawn at Joe Pulitzer Jr.’s entreaty and conferred on his man because the guy was getting on in years. Pulitzer’s old World and Evening World, now extinct, got nine, but they conked out 25 years ago. The World-Telegram, which carries on the name and a good deal of Pulitzer’s politics, has had five. The Herald Tribune has had nine awards including one for a handout from a law office on behalf of a client accused of communism who was convicted and went to prison. Some, at least, of the Pulitzer board knew or had wind of the facts when the prize was granted to a favored political organ.

The Pulitzer awards have become political salutes and Bill, Joe and Frank of the Hearst outfit would be well advised to take their bottle caps to some assay office for analysis and report. Nevertheless, congratulations!

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