Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Explanation To The N & O

Readers Note: I just left the following comment at the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors’ Blog post, “The environment – a call for ideas”

Dan Barkin is one of the N&O three deputy managing editors.

This is my first time commenting to him.


Dear Editor Barkin,

I’m an N&O subscriber and blog as John in Carolina.

For an upcoming article in Sunday’s Q section, you’re asking readers to share “strategies for protecting the environment.” You also say: “[It] would be helpful if you would include your ‘real’ name (as opposed to carymama23).”

I’d like to offer, Editor Barkin, things our family does to save energy. But are you going to reject anything I offer simply because I use a pseudonym?

I hope not.

Pseudonym’s have a long and respected history. One of America’s greatest journalists and publishers, Benjamin Franklin, often used pseudonyms.

And I don’t doubt you know about Publius, and the reasons why Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay used that pseudonym when they wrote The Federalist Papers.

I want to share with you and readers here at the Editors’ Blog one of the most important reasons why I use a pseudonym.

Back in 2004 when I first thought about blogging, I sought advice from many people. I told them one of my blog goals would be to call attention to the N&O’s liberal/leftist bias.

I also wanted to point out N&O factual errors, slanted writing and important news the N&O ignored, news that contradicted its political agenda evident in its news columns and on its editorial page.

I hoped by doing that I’d encourage the editors to make your news columns less biased and more fact-based.

Almost everyone said: “Don’t bother trying.” They included journalists friends I talked to, every one of whom went on to say the N&O would react not by trying to improve, but by ignoring or misrepresenting what I said.

They also warned me that if the blog started to have any impact, the N&O would come after me any way it could.

Those journalists helped persuade me to us a pseudonym. And as JinC has had an impact, they’ve been proven right.

But instead of giving a litany of what some at the N&O have done to me and others who criticize it, I want to offer a much more important example of how unfairly and cruelly the N&O often treats people: its treatment of the students at Duke who played on the school’s 2006 Men’s lacrosse team.

After Duke had expressed concerns about the lacrosse players’ safety, the N&O want ahead and published anonymously on April 2, 2006, a Sunday, your highest circulation day, the “Vigilante” poster photo containing face photos of 43 white lacrosse players, all identified by name.

Although exec editor Melanie Sill has said it was only a “small” photo, it was actually two columns wide, 7.25 inches long, and placed on the most prominent part of the page: top right-center (the 4th and 5th columns of a 6 column page).

I’m told that because of the size of your “Vigilante” poster photo, those seeking to identify and target the students could easily enlarge your photo with a very good resolution that would allow for easy recognition of the players.

On the same day you published the “Vigilante” poster, you ran a story reporting that Duke VP for Student Affairs Larry Moneta had taken the extraordinary but, in my opinion, reasonable step of cautioning Duke students about their safety after attacks on Duke students and a rumor of a possible drive-by shooting.

After Duke had expressed particular concerns for the safety of the lacrosse players and right at the time Moneta was warning all students about threats to their safety, the N&O published its “Vigilante” poster photo.

The N&O knew or should have known it was adding to the endangerment of all Duke students; and particularly to the danger the students pictured on your anonymous “Vigilante” poster photo already faced, forty-three young people, many still in their teens.

Now, if the N&O would do something like that to young people who’d done you no harm, what might you do to people who are speaking up and exposing your bias, factual errors and news manipulation?

I hope you can understand now why many people use pseudonyms when criticizing the N&O while others, such as those who hold or seek public office, just remain silent.

I look forward to your response.

I hope you’ll say that pseudonymously submitted suggestions for energy conservation are as welcome as energy conservation suggestions from those at the N&O who made the decision to publish the anonymous “Vigilante” poster photo and who are themselves anonymous to N&O readers and the rest of the public.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

Melanie Sill is not her legal name, at least not the one she used on the deed to her house. It's her maiden name. Ruth Sheehan also uses her married name on legal documents, and her maiden name on her columns.

They keep their public persona separate from their personal one. JinC, I support your right to do so also.

HumboldtBlue said...


It's the content of the post that counts not the personality (and that's why we continually return to read your stuff), which is why the web has become such a powerful medium and will only continue to grow in influence.

Off topic, but somewhat related, I found this clearinghouse a few months ago and have made it a "must-read."


It's similar to my favorite blog, realclearpolitics.com (sorry for the off-topic JinC, just wanted to share.)

Anonymous said...

NY TIMES headline Thursday morning.

Charges against the LAX 3 dropped.

Women and minorities suffer

Apr 10, 2007 9:13:00 PM

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the N&O would be willing to publish their webserver records showing exactly which employees use which blogs under what 'fake names' in order to gather story information.

Ooops, of course *that* is different.


kbp said...

Thanks John

Sometimes I'm left with the impression they feel you just won't tell them what you really think if you have to provide your name, and they don't really want to know information anyway.

Anonymous said...

Please keep the heat on the N&O for its egregious March 2006 stories, which helped create the climate for Nifong to operate in. The legendary Khanna-Blythe tandem, Sill, Williams, the editorial page editor, the publisher. The McClatchy-owned newspaper has much to answer for. Joe Neff's excellent reporting deserves praise.

Gayle Miller said...

Journalistic integrity is no longer existent in many venues. And, like Franklin, et al., bloggers have every right to conceal their identities if that is their choice. Not too long ago some nutbar was threatening the CHILD of one blogger with whom he disagreed - that in itself is ample reason to protect oneself.

That being said - mainstream people like Melanie Sill and Ruth Sheehan should ABSOLUTELY NOT be concealing their identities.

Anonymous said...

I will impatiently await Mr. Barkin's response. I suspect the silence will be deafening. Stephen C. Rio Rancho, New Mexico

AMac said...

Here is N&O reporter Samiha Khanna's account of her March 2006 interview with the false accuser, "Accuser's own words helped seal fate of the case." Via LieStoppers.