After careful consideration of thousands of nominees, boosted by the coverage of the Iraq war, the 2003 PU-Litzer prizes have recognised the "stinkiest media performances of the year".
Norman Solomon, a US-based national syndicated columnist on media and politics, established the prize with Jeff Cohen, founder of media watchdog FAIR, 12 years ago after they started writing a weekly syndicated column. The two follow thousands of print, radio and broadcast pieces a year.
The awards are based on US media because "it's a cornucopia of spin", said Solomon.
"Some of the main criteria for the prize is a sycophant to the powerful rather than a watchdog," which he said is "a common characteristic to all those who won".
"People who get these awards don't want them," he added.
The majority of the winners were recognised for their coverage of the Iraq war since there was an overwhelming quantity of contestants to choose from, said Solomon.
The Media Beat columnist described the reporting of the US-British launched war as "dismal", saying it was often "not independent but simply spun largely by the US government".
Liberating Iraq award
Solomon says coverage of the
Iraq war and invasion 'dismal'
Respected NBC anchor Tom Brokaw won the Liberating Iraq prize.
During an interview with a military analyst as US warplanes headed to Baghdad on the first day of the war, Brokaw said: "Admiral McGinn, one of the things that we don't want to do is to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq, because in a few days we're going to own that country."
These type of statements are "a reflection in the upper reaches in US television networks that reporting is often more akin to prostitution rather than independent journalism", said Solomon.
Propaganda not exception
Although Solomon and Cohen keep an eye on media organisations outside of the United States there are an "overwhelming amount of contestants in the US," he said.
One year they received an email from a winner protesting that he or she did not deserve it, he added with a chuckle.
Among mass media outlets in the US "the essence of propaganda is not the exception, it's the routine", he said.
The twelfth annual PU-Litzer prizes also recognised:
- Coddling Donald prize- CBS's Lesley Stahl, ABC's Peter Jennings and Others. When news of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's capture broke, Stahl and Jennings each interviewed US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Neither mentioned Rumsfeld's 1983 meeting with Hussein in Baghdad on behalf of the Reagan administration which opened diplomatic and military ties.
- Military Groupie prize-Katie Couric of NBC's Today Show. On 3 April, during the invasion, she said: "Well Commander Thompson, thanks for talking with us at this very early hour out there. And I just want you to know, I think Navy SEALs rock."
- Noblesse Oblige Occupation award-Thomas Friedman, New York Times. In a 30 November article, columnist Friedman wrote, "this war (in Iraq) is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan". He lauded the war as "one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad."<