MediaWatch: February 1992

Vol. Six No. 2

Charlotte Observer Runs Cooke Award


The Charlotte Observer has gone where no news outlet has gone before: it's published a MediaWatch Janet Cooke Award that dissected a story the paper had carried. The December award went to The Philadelphia Inquirer for a nine-part series that supposedly proved the poor and middle class were big losers in the 1980s. Instead, as MediaWatch documented, the series was built on a sea of specious statistics. The Observer ran a condensed version of the series, prompting Thomas Ashcraft, U.S. Attorney for the Western Distict of North Carolina, to send the Cooke Award article to Observer Editor Rich Oppel.

In a letter to Ashcraft, Oppel wrote that "the series was heavily debated in the newsroom before it was published. At least one editor argued against publishing it. I decided it should run." Still, Oppel opted to run the Cooke Award critique in the Sunday "Viewpoints" section on January 19. Oppel's willingness to provide a forum for pointed criticism deserves congratulations. Hopefully, in the future some of Oppel's colleagues will show the same openness toward balancing one-sided news stories.