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Bloomberg TV's ads make false claim to Pulitzer nomination for anchor Liu

David Friedman / msnbc.com

An ad on trains in the New York City area promotes Bloomberg Television anchor Betty Liu as a Pulitzer Prize nominee, which she is not. Her publisher made the same claim on the cover of her book.

NEW YORK — Bloomberg Television has a new ad campaign in the New York City area, touting the journalistic credentials of its morning anchor, Betty Liu.

"PULITZER PRIZE-NOMINATED," the ads shout at commuters on trains in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. "HAS ALL THE HEAVY HITTERS ON SPEED DIAL. AND THAT'S JUST THE ANCHOR."

The only problem is that Liu has never been Pulitzer-nominated. The Pulitzer Prizes don't list her among the nominees for any year.

When asked by msnbc.com about the discrepancy, Bloomberg TV said the ads are wrong and will be corrected.

It turns out that Liu is another example of a Pulitzer entrant — not a finalist or nominee —  who routinely lists the word "Pulitzer" in her bio anyway. Like conservative author Jonah Goldberg, whose false claim on the cover of his book was described in this space last month, Liu was just one of thousands of entrants whose work was left on the floor at the end of the judging.

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When Liu was a reporter for The Financial Times in Atlanta in 2000, Bloomberg said, the newspaper submitted her work to the Pulitzer committee. To call that submission a Pulitzer "nomination" is like saying that Adam Sandler is an Oscar nominee if Columbia Pictures enters "That's My Boy" in the Academy Awards. Many readers would realize that the Oscars don't work that way — the studios don't pick the nominees. It's just a way of slipping "Academy Awards" into a bio. The Pulitzers also don't work that way, but fewer people know that. 

Journalist declines to answer questions
Liu, known for her interviews of Warren Buffett, Jack Welch and other CEOs, did not respond to requests for an interview about her biography. She hosts the show "In the Loop with Betty Liu" on Bloomberg TV, which is owned by Bloomberg L.P., whose majority owner is the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.

A Bloomberg L.P. spokeswoman, Jocelyn Austin, declined to discuss the ads on the record, but later sent a statement:

"You are right. Thanks for catching it. An innocent mistake was made by our marketing folks who did not fully understand that while Betty was entered for a Pulitzer Prize by the Financial Times in 2000 for her series of articles on immigrant labor in the South, this does not make her 'Pulitzer Prize-nominated.' As soon as you pointed it out we realized it was wrong and are correcting those ads."

Same claim made before
This is not the first time the P word has appeared in Liu's biography.

Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg Television anchor Betty Liu. The claim of a Pulitzer nomination was previously made on the cover of her book, and in promotional material for a Bloomberg event with experts in municipal finance.

Her publisher, Pearson Prentice Hall, made the same claim on the jacket of her book, "Age Smart: Discovering the Fountain of Youth at Midlife and Beyond." The book claims, "Ms. Liu was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 by the editors of The Financial Times."

Last year, a Bloomberg bio of Liu cited her "Pulitzer nomination." In promoting an event on state and municipal finance, where members of the public could pay to meet with industry leaders and Bloomberg journalists, the claim was: "Betty Liu is also a recipient of The Dow Jones Newswires Award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination."

The Bloomberg spokeswoman, Austin, declined to say whether Liu saw the ad copy before it went up on trains throughout the metro area.

Entrants, not nominees
Here's background on how the Pulitzer process works, from our previous report on Jonah Goldberg:

It's not uncommon for Pulitzer entrants to make a false claim to be nominees. Here's how it works: Though there are only three nominees, known as nominated finalists, in each Pulitzer category each year, there are more than 2,000 entrants. One could say that all of them were "nominated" by someone. If all Pulitzer entrants could be called nominees, any publisher could give all its authors that honorific by submitting an entry form and a check for $50.

The Pulitzer rules make clear that the only people to be known as nominees are those finalists chosen by the Pulitzer juries. From those nominated finalists, the Pulitzer board chooses the winners. Everyone else is just an entrant. As the Pulitzer board's online list of frequently asked questions explains politely, "Work that has been submitted for Prize consideration but not chosen as either a nominated finalist or a winner is termed an entry or submission. ... We discourage someone saying he or she was 'nominated' for a Pulitzer simply because an entry was sent to us."

In addition to misleading the public, such false claims rob honor from the actual nominees. This year's non-winning nominees include journalists and authors revealing failure to enforce safety standards at aging nuclear power plants, exploring the heartache of dealing with a sick spouse, and capturing in photographs the chaos and exuberance of the Arab Spring.

Being a "two-time Pulitzer Prize entrant" won't sell many books. Claims to Pulitzer nominations have showed up in the bios of well-known sportswriters Bill Plaschke and Buster Olney, NPR host Michele Norris and others not listed on the Pulitzer site, including a good number of university professors.