Should the New York Times give back its Apple Pulitzer?

With a $14.8 billion ruling in Apple’s favor, a European high court undermined the Times’ 2012 prize-winning series that painted the company as a tax cheat.

From my “The New York Times Gets Its Pulitzer for Picking on Apple” ($) posted by Fortune in 2013:

I hate to say I told you so, but I predicted back in January 2012 when the New York Times followed since disgraced monologist Mike Daisey’s lead and sent a team of reporters to write about the working conditions in Chinese iPad factories, that the paper was going for a Pulitzer.

It didn’t matter that every major U.S. electronics company assembles its products under the same working conditions—or worse. Or that Apple (AAPL) was actually doing something about them. (Tim Cook called the Times‘ implication that Apple didn’t care what happened to its subcontractors’ workers “patently false and offensive.”)

The fact is, the New York Times knows how to win Pulitzers—better than any other journalistic operation. It has now won a record 112. It employs editors who specialize in identifying Pulitzer-winning topics and assigning reporters who will bring them home.

And that’s what it set out to do—with Apple as its conspicuous subject—in seven major stories capped with a self-serving kicker that suggested that it was Times‘ reporting that led to substantive changes in the working conditions in China’s electronics factories:

Part 1: How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
Part 2: In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
Part 3: How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Global Taxes
Part 4: Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay
Part 7: The Patent, Mighty as a Sword
Part 8: As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living
Part 9: Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China

As I wrote after that last story, published just under the wire for the Pulitzer committee’s Dec. 25, 2012, deadline:

“Never mind that Apple’s competitors all outsource work, sidestep taxes, use patents as weapons and turn an even blinder eye to labor abuses in the Asian supply chain. The fact is, Apple—always a draw for readers—made a big, fat, easy target.”

And on Monday the New York Times‘ got its reward: A 2013 Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting for “its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers.”

My take: Back in 2012, I thought Tim Cook had some ‘splaining to do. Later I thought he might have been over-reacting when he called the European Commission’s 13 billion euro tax clawback “total political crap.” I may have been wrong on both counts.


  1. Jacob Feenstra said:
    As a Dutch saying goes, Tall trees catch a lot of wind. (People pick on the big ones.) Them now winning the case, wind it was.

    On the NY Times, eliquence doesn’t necessarily equate to truth.

    July 15, 2020
  2. David Emery said:
    As I’ve said before, for NYT the Pulitzer is just a very high prestige click. It’s not about actual journalism any more, it’s about grabbing attention and monetizing it.

    Let’s not forget that Bloomberg has never retracted the thoroughly discredited story about spyware on server chips, either.

    July 15, 2020
  3. Fred Stein said:
    One topic, labor abuse:

    Over 160 Jade miners died in Myanmar 2 weeks ago. NYT and everyone covered it… for ONE day. Further, this was one in a series of such tragedies in Myanmar. We still have slave labor in poor rural areas, and in the sex trade in the US.

    The real story is that Apple, especially under Tim Cook, gives workers, direct and indirect, a better deal in almost every country and class of work.

    July 15, 2020
  4. Robert LoCascio said:
    Yes, they should – but let’s not allow the truth and the law get in the way of a their trophy case.

    July 15, 2020
  5. Mordechai Beizer said:
    The NYTimes will ignore this turnabout. It doesn’t fit their narrative. In 1993 a muck-raking reporter for the Times was out to expose corruption at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield with a 3 day expose. My company, which had a large contract with Empire, was the day 2 story. It gave me a bird’s eye view of the way reporters can spin the facts to support their pre-determined narrative.

    Following this all our records were subpoena’d by the Senate’s Commission on Governmental Affairs which was investigating all the Blues. Nothing came of it and we were eventually told that the Commission was not interested in us. Not surprising because everything was above board.

    Did the Times reporter ever apologize to us for trashing our name? Hah!

    July 15, 2020
  6. Steven Noyes said:
    The New York Times is no longer relevant and the Pulitzer no longer means anything. It is no longer about excellence in journalism but about how much grievance you can imagine happening to some marginalized group by “The Man”. It’s sad but true (read the Pulitzer website). It is a meaningless award.

    July 15, 2020
  7. Jerry Doyle said:
    I find it amusing with the focus on Facebook that the press & the media fail to scrutinize their cancerous prejudice, a toxic stereotype or morbid fear with anything that doesn’t fit its set of bias or prejudices. Take the silence of the overall press to the scathing resignation letter by NYT opinion editor Bari Weiss who stated: “…a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”

    How can the press & media attack Facebook when they are preoccupied with inventing their own wheel on the way to the guillotine? DJT won in 2016 because a bias press refracted news entirely through the views of its peers instead of going outside its bubble listening to voices of the common folk, middle America, the general public, religious worshipers & those heard less. Just as the NYT did on its targeting Apple over working conditions of Chinese workers in Apple’s factories, the NYT & other news outlets fed partisan information & opinion to confirm its own bias of propaganda.

    I support Mark Zuckerberg when he says that he does not see Facebook as the arbiter of the truth. None of these news & social media platforms can be the arbiter of truth. They are too busy themselves prostituting the truth to feed their own partisan information & opinions.

    July 15, 2020
  8. John Konopka said:
    OMG. Tim Cook said “crap”. That’s like anyone else dropping an F bomb.

    July 15, 2020

Leave a Reply