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April 13, 2005

April the Thirteenth

This day in history:

April 13, 1970

About four-fifths the way to the moon, Apollo 13 was crippled when a tank containing liquid oxygen burst.

The Apollo 13 Astronauts, their lives threatened by a serious oxygen leak, were forced to evacuate their command ship late last night and use their intended moon-landing craft as a "lifeboat" for a fast return to the earth.

In cool and cryptic words, they were instructed by mission control here to use the attached lunar module's rocket to power them back to an emergency splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at about noon on Friday.

There will be great risks and little margin for error or delay.

A teenager who watched the movie version of the events commented, “Of course they had problems, they had Forrest Gump driving.”

April 13, 1981

Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke received a Pulitzer Prize for a feature about an 8-year-old heroin addict titled “Jimmy's World”.

From Accuracy in Media:

The story itself created a brief sensation in Washington. It was published on the front page on September 28, 1980. It was buried 18 days later when The Post reported in its local news section that the city was ending its efforts to locate the child addict whose identity The Post had refused to disclose. That story reported on page C-3 that Mayor Barry and officials of the D.C. police department were convinced that the story was part myth and part reality." He said that he and police narcotics officers all agreed that the mother of the child and her drug-pusher lover would not have allowed a reporter to witness them injecting heroin into the child as had been claimed by Post reporter Janet Cooke.

The Post reacted saying that it stood by its story. Three months later it nominated the story for a Pulitzer Prize, in the local news reporting category....

Even though the story won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. [Judith] Crist, [who chaired the Pulitzer jury for feature writing] and her panel had nothing to do with its selection. They had not even seen the story, since it had been entered in the local news-reporting category. The story had lost in that category, but the Pulitzer board had decided, without the knowledge of the feature panel, to give "Jimmy's World" the prize for features....

When the editors at Cooke's previous job, The Toledo Blade, read her biographical notes, they noticed a number of discrepancies. To secure the job at the Washington Post, Cooke had claimed to have a degree from Vassar College, attended Sorbonne University and to have received an award at The Toledo Blade newspaper. It didn't take long to discover that Cooke's credentials were false. Pressured by the editors of the Washington Post, Cooke confessed to inventing the story.

In an editorial optimistically headed, "The End of the 'Jimmy' Story," The Post apologized to its readers, saying, and "This newspaper was itself the victim of a hoax--which we then passed along in a prominent page- one story, taking in the readers as we ourselves had been taken in."...

Cooke, obviously, returned the award, and then promptly left the country.

Posted by Danny Carlton at April 13, 2005 11:36 AM

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Great post! Thanks for the history lesson! Looking forward to tomorrow's blogburst on the ACLU!

Posted by: Jay at April 13, 2005 11:00 PM

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