"... 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: I’ve previously posted: "INNOCENT: Neff Misspeaks at Press Club" and "INNOCENT: Neff Misspeaks (Post 2)”
If you’re not familiar with both posts, please read them. Knowing what’s in those posts is essential to an informed understanding of what follows.
You know I’ve twice invited Raleigh News & Observer investigative reporter Joseph (Joe) Neff to correct claims he made concerning the N&O’s coverage of the Duke lacrosse case when he participated on a panel at The National Press Club.
From an audio of the event I’ve transcribed, posted and shared with Neff his claims as follows:
“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)Neff has so far failed to acknowledge he made the claims you’ve just read or to correct the record.
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)
Below is Neff’s most recent email to me, followed by my reply to him.
Dear John in Carolina,
May I repeat my request that you identify yourself so I know with whom I have the pleasure of corresponding? I'm happy to elaborate on my comments in public. I'm quite at a loss that someone who has posted dozens of times to our newspaper website and writes so frequently about my newspaper does so from behind a curtain of anonymity. I much prefer the transparent approach of Prof. KC Johnson.
Which brings me to another point: I saw that your original post on this issue was Monday evening at 9:27. You first emailed me about it 4.5 hours later, at 1:54 am Tuesday, if timestamps are to be trusted. May I suggest you follow Prof. Johnson's practice (and this newspaper's) of attempting to contact people before you write about them?
Thank you for your prompt response.
I want to give it a thoughtful response which will speak to your concerns. Yesterday and today been a very busy days, so I must delay my response until tomorrow.
In the meantime, to keep readers current I’ve posted your most recent response, this email, links to the previous posts and the transcription I shared with you.
Have you been able to learn whether Newsobserver.com will “post” the audio of the panel session?
I’ve listened again to it and it’s certainly very newsworthy. I think people interested in the case and/or contemporary American journalism would find it very interesting.
On my end, I’ll continue to try to find a web site which will “post” it.
John in Carolina