"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
While searching archives today I found and read the transcript of MSNBC’s The Abrams Report for 3/28/06. It reminded me of some unanswered questions I have about the Raleigh News & Observer’s role in first, describing all the white members of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team as drunken, brutish racists, and then, second, helping enable the attempted frame-up of three members of the team.
To understand my questions let’s start with a portion of the transcript in which Dan Abrams asks a question of the N&O’s Samiha Khanna, one of two N&O reporters (the other was Anne Blythe) bylined on the N&O’s 3/24/06 story that first identified the Duke lacrosse players as suspects and seven times referred to the accuser as “the victim” or in the possessive form “victim’s,” without ever using “alleged” or some other qualifier.
Khanna and Blythe teamed for the N&O’s story the next day which, in front-page headlines, the N&O said was about “a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence.”
We pick up Abrams as he introduces Khanna
Samiha Khanna from the “News and Observer” down there who interviewed the alleged victim in this case.I don’t know whether Crystal Mangum really “sort of wondered” how Khanna found her. In truth she could have been “tipped” that an N&O reporter was coming to interview her much the way the N&O itself was “tipped to be there” when the Duke lacrosse players showed up at the police building to provide DNA samples.
ABRAMS: “All right, so what did she tell you?
KHANNA : “Well first, she sort of wondered how I had found her, and I assured her that her identity was not revealed in the newspaper and it was not going to be revealed, as we don’t publish the names of sexual assault victims.
But I sure do wonder how and why the N&O was able to get to Mangum so quickly and secure the cooperation of the young mother who Khanna later in the interview says “was still in shock.”
Khanna doesn’t say what she said when Mangum, allegedly asked how Khanna found her. And Abrams didn’t ask Khanna anything about the matter.
I’ve asked the N&O’s Public Editor, Ted Vaden, how Khanna found Mangum. He won’t say. N&O Investigative Reporter Joe Neff, for all his writing on the witch hunt and frame-up attempt, has never reported how Khanna found Mangum.
And when readers have asked Melanie Sill, the N&O’s exec editor for news she’s usually ignored them.
The only instance I can find when Sill “answered” the question is on the thread of an Editors’ Blog post, "March 25 interview." Commenting at 10/06/06 Sill said [excerpt]:
The first day story was about a DNA roundup involving an unprecedented number of people from a single group. The second day we were working to talk to all the principals. We got the woman identified as the victim and interviewed her. […]Durham City has a population of more than 210,000 people.
[It] wasn't an extensive or extensively planned interview -- it was boots on the street hustle to track down the key players.
In a city that size, you can do a lot of what Sill calls “street hustle” before you’d come to just the person you were looking for; and even then you wouldn’t know you’d come to “the right person” you were looking for unless you knew something about the person. Like the person’s name and address, for instance.
Sill’s “boots on the street hustle” is an attempt to lead gullible people to think she’s answered their question when, it fact, she’s avoided it. And she succeeds in doing that very often with tens of thousand of faithful N&O readers.
That leaves intelligent people to ask: Who told the N&O the accuser was Crystal Mangum and where to find her?
Sill could easily have answered that with something like: “An anonymous source phoned – we don’t know if it was a neighbor or someone else - and gave us the ID and address.”
That explanation would be plausible. The N&O actively seeks news tips, anonymous and otherwise. And everyday people on their own phone news tips to newspapers, often anonymously.
So why hasn’t the N&O used the plausible “anonymous tip” fob-off instead of the obviously fairy tale “boots on the street?”
“Perhaps, because the ‘anonymous tip fob-off’ is not true,” you say?
Folks, the N&O promulgated the deliberate falsehood that the players hadn’t cooperated with police while suppressing the news they had.
And as much as I deplore most of the NY Times’ Hoax reporting, it wasn’t the NY Times that withheld for thirteen months the exculpatory news the N&O learned in the Mangum/Khanna interview, was it?
“Not true” is not a Stop sign for Sill and the other people who control what “news” the N&O reports; it’s not even a caution light.
I believe the N&O hasn’t given us the “anonymous tip” or any other false explanation for how Khanna got to Mangum because:
1) the N&O was, in the lingo of journalists, “fed a tip;”The complicity involving the N&O and someone(s) on the “Nifong/DPD investigative team” may be much more extensive than what I’ve suggested here.
2) the tip came from someone very close to the case, such as someone in the DA’s office or on the DPD “investigation team;”
3) that someone undoubtedly assured Mangum she could speak “to the lady from the N&O” without any worry that the “N&O lady” would do anything to upset the case, especially the hopes Mangum had then for a “big settlement” from those rich, white Duke boys;
4) and that the N&O knows the someone who fed it the tip is likely at some time in the not too distant future to testify in a case, criminal or civil, in which the someone will explain how Khanna and the N&O really didn't need to do any "boots on the street hustle."
Would you doubt that, even if Melanie Sill, Ted Vaden, and Joe Neff swore on a stack of tomorrow’s N&O it wasn’t true?
I hope not.