Who is Walter Duranty?

By | October 13, 2015

[October 13, 2015]  A long-running theme in theLeaderMaker.com has been that the world’s media have a strong bias that runs in opposition to the United States; especially its societal values.  Furthermore, the bias frequently supports and defends socialism (and its variants like Communism) … and that is why today we ask the question, who is Walter Duranty?

Journalist Walter Duranty was the Moscow Bureau Chief of The New York Times 1922-1936.  In his respected position he ran a series of reports that hid overwhelming evidence of a great famine in the Soviet Union and mass starvation in the Ukraine.  While his motivations have been hotly debated and his reporting faulty for being too uncritical of the USSR, he also reported Soviet propaganda as legitimate journalism.1  It is estimated that between 5 and 8.5 million died of starvation in the Soviet collective experiment.2 

“There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” – Walter Duranty, New York Times, March 31, 1933

From what we know, he was an admirer of Communism and Joseph Stalin.  In 1932, Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for his series of reports on the USSR where his cover-up of the famine helped misled U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In 1933 Roosevelt decision to grant official recognition to the Soviet Union was based on Duranty’s reporting.  No wonder he was criticized later after the truth was known for giving voice to Stalinist propaganda.

One would expect that a skilled leader, educated in professional values, would not make this kind of mistake and repeatedly do it.  Furthermore, the profession of journalism should teach about this kind of lying to the public.  The failure of The New York Times leadership to do anything about it deserves careful thought to the organizational bias present then and now.

There was a symbolic effort to have Duranty’s Pulitzer revoked for his lies but it went nowhere.  Both The New York Times and the Pulitzer Prize Board failed to stand against the propaganda and lies of Duranty.3,4  This is a good example of the continued failure of leadership at both organizations.  It would have been a testimony to their moral strength and character for them to posthumously revoke the Pulitzer.

Mark Herring has an apt description of Duranty – he describes him as a “useful idiot” of the Soviets.5

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Duranty
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_famine_of_1932%E2%80%9333
  3. Reminds me of modern day media bias. For example, CBS and 60 Minutes specifically come to mind when they allowed the airing of stories that distorted President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard Service.  See the Thornburgh-Boccardi Report for a full accounting which shows the disgrace perpetuated by CBS.  To further this idea of media bias, Dan Rather and Mary Mapes now have a movie where they are seen as heroes “fighting for truth and justice.”
  4. The Pulitzer Prize Board issued a statement on November 21, 2003 that they claim justified their stance to not revoke the prize issued to Duranty in 1931. In it they say “there was not clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception…”  The Statement on Walter Duranty is, in itself, an example of the failure to apply any commonsense standards to reporting.  The NYT, while admitting that the Board erred in their conclusions, in their statement they deferred to the Pulitzer Board.
  5. http://www.ukemonde.com/news/usefulidiot.html

 

 

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.