Thursday, November 13, 2003
More on Walter Duranty's Pulitzer: For some unexplainable reason, The New York Times waited over two weeks to publish this letter from historian Mark Von Hagen, whom the Times hired to look into Duranty's work.
To the Editor:
Regarding Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s suggestion to the Pulitzer Prize Board that revoking Walter Duranty's 1932 prize recalled the "Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories" ("Times Should Lose Pulitzer From 30's, Consultant Says," news article, Oct. 29):
Those targeted for "airbrushing" were already murdered, languishing in the gulag or forced into exile after having been falsely accused of espionage, treason, sabotage and other "crimes."
The N.K.V.D., the predecessor of the K.G.B., then ordered libraries to expunge all mention and to relegate them to the status of non-persons, a fate that persisted for most until the Gorbachev era.
Revoking Mr. Duranty's prize is another matter altogether. He was never prosecuted for any crimes. His articles remain available in the archives of The New York Times, and his books on the shelves of major libraries.
Airbrushing was intended to suppress the truth about what was happening under Stalin. The aim of revoking Walter Duranty's prize is the opposite: to bring greater awareness of the potential long-term damage that his reporting did for our understanding of the Soviet Union.
MARK VON HAGEN
New York, Oct. 29, 2003
The writer, a professor of history at Columbia University, was hired by The New York Times to make an independent assessment of Walter Duranty's reporting.
The Times has a history of sitting on letters it doesn't necessarily like. The Times also sat on a letter from Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark for nearly a month because it made favorite columnist Paul Krugman look bad.