Writing the article on Janet Cooke was a process that I had not anticipated to be as difficult as it initially was. In retrospect, I should have planned out contacting people better so that I could be prepared for a lack of sources The Washington Post. Despite this, the article in itself was a success in my mind.
The information I found regarding Janet Cooke was surprising because I had not expected such an in depth scandal that not only affected the Washington Post, but the entire nation. Additionally, I was surprised because research that I had conducted prior to beginning this capping project resonated in my mind throughout the process of writing the Janet Cooke story.
In “When News Reporters Deceive: The Production of Stereotypes,” study by Dominic Lasorsa and Jia Dai (2007), it is stated that “because deceptive reporters are not motivated to produce accurate stories they automatically tend to fall back on stereotypes” (Lasorsa and Dai, 2007). I found this to be true in reading the article, “Jimmy’s World,” by Janet Cooke. In her article she repeatedly makes stereotypical statements, yet they would go unnoticed because they are presented as quotes from her “sources.”
Cooke wrote “When you live in the ghetto, it’s all a matter of survival. If he wants to get away from it when he’s older, then that’s his thing. But right now, things are better for us than they’ve ever been. . . . Drugs and black folk been together for a very long time.” This is a quote describing how Jimmy’s mother felt about him being addicted to heroin. Relying on a stereotype of minorities and drug addiction is an example of what Lasorsa and Dai (2007) were explaining in their study.
This study also examined that deceptive, stereotypical news stories are more negative in tonality than others. This holds true for “Jimmy’s World” because the story was a negative portrayal of the ghettos of Washington, DC and the activities that go on within them. The entire nature of the story is negative, Jimmy, the young heroin addict, is a child that is the product of a rape and he does not attend school or have any ambitions that do not concern drugs. This overall tone, paired with the stereotypical depiction of the minority groups, agrees with the general assessment made by Lasorsa and Dai (2007).
Cooke’s motivation for doing this in her article may be attributed to a number of things. Lasorsa and Dai (2007) offer the possibility that seeking a story of prominence could drive a journalist to fabricate a story. They write “A reporter motivated to produce captivating stories rather than accurate ones might advance her stories by offering “impressive” sources who say just the “right” thing, thereby helping catapult her stories into prominence” (Lasorsa and Dai, 2007). In Cooke’s case, her sources said exactly what was needed to make the story one that pulled on the heartstrings of America and highlighted the problem of drug addictions in the ghettos.
Whether this decision to fabricate the story was due to pressure, psychological issues, cognitive laziness or the desire to move up in the ranks will remain unknown. All that can be offered are suggestions and interpretations that provide possibilities for why Cooke wrote the story she did 31 years ago.
Continuing with the series, I will now move away from the Janet Cooke scandal and onto the next scandalous journalist. The next story with be written on Jonathan Broder, former journalist of the Chicago Tribune.
To read the article I have written on Janet Cooke for The Circle, visit the website at the following link: http://www.maristcircle.com/features/the-fabricated-reality-of-jimmy-s-world-1.2636901#.TpSzXGuur9A