The fake article that destroyed Janet Cooke’s journalism career “Jimmy’s World” appeared in the Washington Post on September 29, 1980 and told a heartbreaking story. It explained the life of ‘Jimmy,’ a young boy who was apparently a drug (heroin) addict. He was shown as a victim of the heroin trade that was taking over the lower class neighborhoods of Washington. Jimmy was said to become a heroin addict after being introduced to the drug by his mother’s boyfriend also wanted to be a heroin dealer when he grew up. The sad story immediately created controversy.
Many people wanted to know where the boy lived to provide him with help. However, Cooke refused to give out his location, claiming that she needed to protect her sources and that her life would be in danger from drug dealers. Without wasting any time the city government launched an intensive search to find him. As interest in the case grew, rumors began to start saying that he didn’t exist and that Janet Cooke had simply made him up. The Washington Post stood by her and denied all the rumors against her. However, all her lies eventually came to an end when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “Jimmy’s World”.
The editors of the Post, found out Cooke had been lying and demanded that she proves her story and shows them where Jimmy was. Cooke who was unable to do so finally confessed. She admitted that she had never met Jimmy and that much of her story was fiction. Cooke resigned and the Post who was humiliated by the incident returned the Pulitzer Prize. She blamed her decisions on the high-pressure environment she was in. She said she did try to look for him and many people did say he existed but she was never able to find him.
In order to satisfy the editors who were pressuring her she decided to make it all up not thinking of the consequences. In a way, the story of Jimmy did show a truth about conditions that existed in some neighborhoods. Nontheless, Cooke was disgraced as a journalist and dropped out of the public eye for years. She briefly re-emerged in 1996 to tell her story to the magazine GQ. She is now used in journalism classes as a case study. Her failure in the journalism world ended her career in the field for good. -30-