George Polk

The NY Times wins a prize, but not for its Apple reporting

February 18, 2013: 3:31 PM ET

The paper's controversial "iEconomy" series went home empty handed Monday

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 3.10.15 PMFORTUNE -- With a record 108 Pulitzers under its belt, no American newspaper is better at winning journalism awards than the New York Times. And by the publication of the second in what was to be a nine-part series on the "iEconomy"-- seven of which were focused on Apple (AAPL) -- we were pretty sure the editors were hoping to ride Steve Jobs' company all the way to number 109.

But iEconomy had a glaring problem that should have been apparent to anyone who follows the industry. As we wrote when the series came to a close:

The plan was simple: Single out Apple (AAPL) as what biologists might call a "conspicuous megafauna" -- the high-profile stand-in for thousands U.S. firms that have been shipping American jobs overseas. Then, with only a couple detours into automobiles and robots, a team of Times reporters set out to dissect Tim Cook's company one layer at a time:

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

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.

The series may yet win a Pulitzer in April. But on Monday the 2012 journalism award season began with the announcement of the winners of this year's George Polk Awards. Although the Times did indeed take home a prize for Foreign Reporting, it was for "The Princelings" -- David Barboza's three-part series on the great wealth amassed by China's leaders and their families -- not for the iEconomy series.

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