Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To The Chronicle: Letter 4

Readers’ Note: On Oct. 27, Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, published an editorial, “Bloggers get point, miss complexity.” The editorial and its comment thread are here.

The Chronicle editorial leveled extremely serious charges at bloggers.

I’ve responded to The Chronicle with a series of electronic letters which I’m posting at JinC. Each letter is headed "To The Chronicle" and enumerated. Here are links to letters one, two and three.

Letter four follows.


Editorial Board
The Chronicle
Duke University

Dear Editorial Board Members:

This is my fourth letter responding to your Oct. 27 editorial, “Bloggers get point, miss complexity.” (Here, for reference, are letters one, two and three. ) The qualifiers I laid out in those letters apply to this one as well.

You say blogs have “villainized … major media [and made assertions] with little true reporting” but offer no specifics.

So I’ll move on and say some things about what's actually happened at my blog.

If you search JinC achieves, you’ll see I often write about the importance of good reporting and frequently recommend print stories and news programs. I encourage readers to bookmark many journalists and news organizations.

Most of what I’ve written about “major media” has been quite positive.

That said, I’ve also been very critical of certain individuals and news organizations. Let's look at some of that and you decide whether I’ve really "villainized …with little true reporting” or simply reported things as they are and offered reasonable commentary.

Concerning the Duke lacrosse case, I’ve been sharply critical of much of the coverage of the Durham Herald Sun and the Raleigh News & Observer.

For example, these links take you to posts (here and here) concerning a H-S story claiming it was reporting “previously undisclosed [DNA] matches” to David Evans. I cited and linked to three month old news stories that had reported on the H-S's “previously undisclosed [DNA] matches” and made clear the DNA matches didn’t link Evans to the alleged events of the night of Mar. 13/14.

I asked H-S Editor Bob Ashley for an explanation of what appeared to be a "fake" story. Ashley said he wasn’t interested in a “debate.”

This post links to the H-S's Oct. 17 editorial commenting on the Oct. 15 60 Minutes episode generally regarded as having effectively exposed numberous travesties in the investigation and indictments of Duke lacrosse players. The H-S editorial recycled the false claim that Collin Finnerty had attacked a gay man. The H-S claim had been refuted five months previously. (scroll down on post)

On Mar. 24 the Raleigh N&O first “broke” the lacrosse story with an article that seven times referred to the accuser as either the “victim” or with the possessive “victim’s,” never once using the customary qualifies “alleged” or “reported.” In doing that, the N&O effectively cast the accuser as “the victim” and your classmates as her “victimizers.

Since Mar. 24 I’ve reported frequently on what the N&O did, revealing that it was not standard practice for the N&O to refer to the accuser in the preadjudication phase of a disputed rape case as “the victim.” I asked why, on Mar. 24 and again on Mar. 25 the N&O would make an exception to its standard practice, since doing that had the effect of framing the Duke players as a team composed of three gang-rapists and their teammates who were covering up for them.

What I did was what many bloggers do:digging, fact-checking and publically reporting the facts.

Yet for seven months the N&O mislead the public and denied it had done anything wrong in its use of “victim.”

Finally, on Oct. 20 before a “blog-smart” audience at Duke Law School which knew what the N&O had done, the paper’s managing editor, John Drescher acknowledged, as reported by the N&O, that the “ alleged rape has not been proven, and thus it isn't clear whether there is a victim.”

That’s not a full, frank acknowledgement of error but it’s a small first step. It's a pity the N&O took seven months to begin to acknowledge some of what it did to frame the players as “victimizers?”

For months I’ve asked N&O editors and reporters when the N&O first learned of the extensive cooperation the players provided police. Here’s the most recent and detailed response I’ve received. It’s on the thread of a post at the N&O’s Editors’ Blog. Melanie Sill is the N&O's executve editor for news:

Comment from: Melanie Sill [Member] • http://www.newsobserver.com
10/26/06 at 17:04

John, as to your specific question about "when we knew the players had cooperated," I believe our information about the level of cooperation of various players was gained over days and weeks after the initial story and in bits and pieces from police and from lawyers and other people speaking for the players or for Duke

Your editorial comments regarding blog treatment of "major media and true reporting" don't apply to my blog or the blogs of any responsible blogger, many of whom have provided outstanding Duke lacrosse reporting and commentary.

In a few days, I’ll respond regarding blog criticisms of the A&S faculty, individual faculty and President Brodhead.

In the meantime, I wish you all and your families a blessed Thanksgiving.




Anonymous said...

My response to the Chronicle:

I agree that many bloggers take things out of context and hide in ananimity. Your own Prof. Karla Holloway in a leter to John in Carolina complained of this.
She backed this up by publishing her views in the very public, high profile venue The Scholar and Feminist Online. I would encourage all of your readers to follow the link below and take the time to understand the complexities of Prof Holloway's position. I also think that this paper should share Prof Holloway's scholarship with your readership.


Ironic it was an unsigned editorial which complained about ananimty.

Anonymous said...

And sad that you portend to defend against truth with a "scholarship" belied by your inability to spell.

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