"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
Readers Note: Yesterday I posted: "INNOCENT: Neff Misspeaks at Press Club"
While serving on a Duke lacrosse case panel at The National Press Club, Raleigh N&O investigative reporter Joseph (Joe) Neff claimed his paper has a strict policy against the use of anonymous sources. In fact, the N&O has no such policy.
Neff also told the audience, described as mostly young journalists, that the N&O didn’t use a single anonymous source or unnamed source in its Duke lacrosse coverage.
That’s not true. The N&O made frequent and sometimes critically important use of anonymous sources in its Duke lacrosse coverage. I cited some examples in the above referenced post.
I sent Neff an email with a link to the post. I invited him to correct the record and offered to post his correction.
If you’re new to the story or just want to review it, please read “INNOCENT: N&O’s Neff Misspeaks at Press Club.” Doing so will help you understand the post that follows which is an email exchange
I plan to post again on this matter. I’ll also share with you what I hear back from Neff.
Today I received the following email from Neff:
Dear John in Carolina,
Would you have the courtesy to identify yourself to this reporter so I know with whom I am corresponding?
I’m about to send Neff with the following email:
Thank you for your prompt reply.
I had time today to listen and transcribe your Press Club remarks.
I’ve checked and rechecked my transcription. While I may have a word or two wrong, I’m confident that what follows in italics is a very accurate rendering of what you said:
“One of the things that I think really helped our paper throughout this story is we have a really strict policy against the use of anonymous sources and we did not use a single anonymous source or unnamed source in our – uh – I think as of now we’ve written 541 articles by – with at least 19 different bylines on it and what that (Neff pauses)Joe, if you find what you think are errors in what I’ve told JinC readers you said, please call them to my attention so I can review them, and make whatever corrections are necessary.
It was really frustrating in the initial couple of weeks when it was so competitive and no other newspaper and no other radio or TV station felt compelled to – they were going with 'sources close to the prosecution' or 'we have learned' or 'Nightline has found out' and they would just put stuff out there.
Now some of it we knew because we were told off the record, but we won’t use it, but some of it was absolute nonsense –ah – ah – so it allowed us to get beat on some very small things, but in general by not using anonymous sources, we were really saved – ah – from putting some –ah- some bad stuff in the paper.” (Moderator moves to another matter)
As to my identification: check the two years worth of JinC archives you can easily access from my main page. They’ll tell you a lot about me.
Now, what about what you said at the Press Club about the N&O's use of anonymous sources?
We surely agree a reporter’s reliability is very important, and is especially important when the reporter is an investigative reporter.
So I ask you again to consider correcting the record.
As I promised yesterday, I’ll publish in full a statement you make correcting the record.
I hope you do.
There are other even more important parts of the N&O’s Duke lacrosse coverage that need examination. I want to move on to learning about them and reporting what I learn to JinC readers.
For example, why did certain N&O journalists decide on March 24, 2006 to withhold from the rest of media and its readers the critically important and exculpatory news that during the N&O’s interview with the “anonymous accuser” she claimed “the second dancer” had also been sexually assaulted, but hadn’t reported the assault for fear that doing so would cost her her job? Or that the "anonymous accuser" said “the second dancer” would “do anything for money?”
Can you tell us why the N&O withheld that exculpatory news for thirteen months; and only reported it on April 12, 2007, the day AFTER NC Attorney General Cooper had declared the framed students innocent?
Do people at the N&O ever discuss what might have happened if the N&O at some point - say in mid-April when Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were arrested in their dorms, hand-cuffed and taken to the county jail – had published what Crystal Mangum actually told you on March 24, 2006 instead of your deliberate and malicious fraud about the frightened young black mother, the three white Duke gang-rapists and all their drunken, racists lacrosse buddies who were covering up for them with a "wall of solidarity?"
Please correct your “no anonymous sources” claim and move on to answering the questions asked here.
The victims most brutalized in this case – the players and their families – deserve answers.
And so do N&O readers and many millions of Americans who care about truthful reporting and justice.
A final matter: can Newsobserver.com “post” the Press Club audio tape? I think visitors to the site would appreciate the N&O doing that.
Again, thank you for your response today. I look forward to hearing from you and posting your response.
John in Carolina