Sunday, April 29, 2007

N&O’s Hoax Rowback Editorial

Did you know there’s a dictionary called The Double-Tongued Dictionary? It focuses include the slang and jargon of various professions.

Journalists’ jargon includes “rowback” which the Double-Tongued Dictionary defines thus:

rowback n. a reversal (of opinion, policy, or stated fact), esp. when intended to be surreptitious.
The Raleigh News & Observer was the first newspaper to frame the Duke lacrosse players in the public’s mind as a group made up of three white gang-rapists and their white teammates who were covering up for them.

The N&O also withheld for thirteen months excupatory news that would have stopped the frame-up. The N&O only released the critical information it had withheld after the NC Attorney General had declared David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann innocent.

The N&O has so far refused to explain why it withheld such critially important information as the false accuser's claim during an interview on March 24, 2006 that the second dancer was also raped at the party but didn’t report it for fear of losing her job.

Last Friday the N&O gave readers a big-time rowback editorial. Here’s its conclusion
With state Attorney General Roy Cooper deciding that all remaining charges against the three athletes should be dropped (Nifong himself had dismissed charges of rape after first obtaining indictments), the spotlight has been on Nifong's mishandling of the case.

But the police department bears some of the blame. Chief Steve Chalmers now should offer an accounting of his department's professional lapses; explain what, if any, discipline has been meted out; and detail what safeguards have been put in place to keep such lapses from occurring again. If Chalmers balks, his bosses, City Manager Patrick Baker and the City Council, should insist.
Bob Wilson, who was editorial page editor of the Durham Herald Sun years back when the H-S was a respected newspaper sent me this email:
I assume you've seen the N&O's lead edit today. This is an astonishing piece, a form of rowback.

First, though, why has the N&O's edit page waited a year to demand that DPD Chief Steve Chalmers account for his department's wretched performance? Chalmers has enjoyed a free ride from the N&O, the H-S and other papers.

Second, the N&O now says Nifong was "determined to prosecute what seemed a shaky case from the start."

Good God, the N&O was the prime mover in the hoax for several weeks.

If [editorial page editor] Steve Ford and his people thought the case seemed “shaky from the start,” they should have said so, firmly and clearly.

I honestly wonder, does Ford think people have flash memories, easy to fill and quick to erase?

If not for you and the other bloggers, Ford and other editorial page editors would get away with their revisionist history.
Thanks, Bob, for your comments on the N&O's rowback edit and for your nice words about the Hoax bloggers.

Folks, I sent Ford the following email:

Dear Editor Ford:

Asking Chief Chalmers for an accounting of what happened is a lot like asking Rip Van Winkle for an accounting of what happened during those 20 years he slept.

What’s needed is an investigation by a special prosecutor at the state level with subpoena powers. We need to know about possible criminal violations of state laws.

We also need a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations of the lacrosse players, other Duke students, and people such as Moezeldin Elmostafa.
The N&O ought to demand those investigations.

Then you need to provide readers some explanations they are owed.

Why in you March 28, 2006 (“Lacrosse time-out.” (pay req’d) editorial did you tell us Mangum was “the victim?”

Why did you tell readers in that same editorial Mangum’s false witness was “an act of courage?”

If you thought the case “shaky from the start,” why were you silent when the first round of DNA evidence came back negative on all 46 Duke students?

You were also silent when Reade Seligmann was subjected on May 18 at the Durham County courthouse to physical threats, including death threats. Why?

You were also silent when hate-filled people rallied under a “CASTRATE” banner and circulated the “Vigilante” poster? Why?

On June 13, 2006 Duke Law Professor James Coleman called for Nifong to recuse himself from the case. You never called on Nifong to do that. Why not?

In November you castigated Durham voters who were seeking to turn Nifong out of office. You supported his plan to put Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann on trial. Why?

Will the N&O ever explain to the players, their families, and the community why it withheld for thirteen months the critically important and exculpatory statements the false accuser made to you on March 24, 2006?


John in Carolina

Liestoppers posted on the editorial here. They raise some important points I didn’t mention.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, John and Bob, for keeping the heat on the N&O. Ford's editorials assume his readers are idiots who haven't followed this case and his newspaper's role in the early weeks of the cold-blooded frame.

kbp said...

Thanks John

"The N&O has so far refused to explain why it withheld such critially important information as the false accuser's claim during an interview on March 24, 2006..."

I read many explanations telling us why, but I'm still waiting for the truth.