Janet Cooke Term Paper

  • Length: 3 pages
  • Sources: 1+
  • Subject: Communication - Journalism
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #28613278
  • Related Topics: Lie, Media, Resume

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Media and honesty in the media [...] Janet Cooke, the prize-winning journalist who made up a story about an inner-city young boy who was a heroin addict. Cooke's story shows the pressure many journalists face and why readers should not always believe everything they read in newspapers and magazines.

Janet Cooke was born in 1958, and little is known about her true background or education. She claimed to have graduated from Vassar College and attended the Sorbonne in Paris, but these were both fabrications, her only degree came from the University of Toledo in Ohio. In 1980, she joined the staff of The Washington Post as a reporter for the "Weeklies" section. In September of 1980, the Post published one of her stories, "Jimmy's World." It would prove to be a monumental mistake. Cooke resigned from the Post in 1981, and married a lawyer. They lived briefly in Paris, but the marriage failed, and Cooke moved back to the U.S. She worked as a clerk in a department store for many years. In 1996, a script about her life was sold to Hollywood for $1.6 million, and she made an attempt to begin writing again. Currently, the film about her life is not in production (Editors).

Janet Cooke's story, "Jimmy's World," was the story of an eight-year-old heroin addict. The story was touching and well written, and reached the hearts of many people. The Post nominated the story for a Pulitzer Prize, and it won in 1981. However, by the time it won the prestigious award, there were many questions about Cooke and the article that were beginning to plague the writer. People at the Post discovered that many of the facts on her resume, such as attending Vassar, were fabricated. After her story won the Pulitzer, Cooke confessed that there was no "Jimmy," he was a composite character that she had made up. She resigned from the Post in disgrace, and they returned the Pulitzer Prize. Since then, she has been unable to work in journalism, and she is often used as an example of what not to do in journalism. In fact, one publication, Media Watch, gives a monthly "Janet Cooke Award" for "to distinguish the most outrageously distorted news story of the month" (Iggers 12). Before she sold her story to Hollywood, she was basically destitute.

Cooke's writing was excellent, and the story she told so well was emotional and touched many people. Because of this, her story gained national attention, and her editors trusted her, so they ran the story, even if there were some unanswered questions about the article. People wanted to know more about Jimmy, and that was her undoing. She lied, but clearly she was a good liar, and she had practice, because she had been lying about her background for a while. She won the Pulitzer because her article was emotional and compelling. Just because she was unethical did not mean she was a bad writer. Obviously, she had a vivid imagination, and she made up credible details. It is not surprising that she could with the Pulitzer Prize; it is surprising that she felt such pressure to lie when writing her stories.

There was…

Sources Used in Documents:


Dutka, Elaine. "Fall of Janet Cooke Whets Hollywood's Appetite." NewStandard.com. 5 June 1996. 11 Dec. 2004.


Editors. "Janet Cooke." Wikipedia.org. 2 Dec. 2004. 11 Dec. 2004.

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Cooke

Cite This Term Paper:

"Janet Cooke" (2004, December 11) Retrieved September 24, 2020, from

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"Janet Cooke", 11 December 2004, Accessed.24 September. 2020,