SEATTLE: The Pulitzer Prize was handed out Monday, ending an acrimonious fight for journalism's top honors that rivaled the Oscar race's cutthroat image.At center stage was a controversial Seattle Times entry and a Wall Street Journal critique of that piece, which some claim was timed to influence judges.
Last March, The Seattle Times published an investigation into clinical trials at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "Uniformed Consent
charged that the hospital failed to inform patients of risks associated with experimental treatments in the '80s, which resulted in higher death rates than if the patients had chosen conventional treatments.
While "the Hutch,
as the center is known, refuted the claims, it reviewed its disclosure practices for clinical trials, and hired crisis firm Gogerty Stark Marriott.
The Seattle Times was thought a serious contender for the prize. until two weeks ago, when - a year after the series appeared - The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by assistant managing editor Laura Landro entitled "Good Medicine, Bad Journalism.
Landro, who had received successful treatment at the Hutch, called the Times article "fundamentally false,
and said it ignored "the complete story in the interest of the most dramatic one.
Landro also wrote a letter to the Columbia Journalism Review, and a never-published op-ed to The Seattle Times.
The Seattle Times countered that Landro was biased, and bent on scuttling the paper's Pulitzer chances. Rumors of a smear campaign began when The New York Times picked up the debate, pointing out the unusual timing of the WSJ op-ed.
Steve Goldstein, VP of corporate communications at Dow Jones (the WSJ's parent company), said there was nothing sinister in the op-ed's timing.
"Laura Landro found the Seattle Times piece faulty, and wrote an op-ed piece with her view,
he said. "People must look at the stories objectively.
They need to look at the flaws Laura has pointed out, and make their own decision whether the story deserves the acclaim it gets."