Friday, June 01, 2007

INNOCENT: Neff Misspeaks (Post 4)

"... 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: Background to this post can be found in: "INNOCENT:N&O's Neff Misspeaks at Press Club," "INNOCENT: Neff Misspeaks (Post 2)," and "INNOCENT:Neff Misspeaks (Post 3)."

To understand the email below to Raleigh N&O investigative reporter Joseph (Joe) Neff, it's essential you be familiar with the contents of the three posts linked above.


Dear Joe,

Regarding Anons calling attention to bloggers' and journalists' errors, I want to tell you why I believe it’s OK for Anons to point out our errors. I hope doing that will persuade you to correct what you said to your fellow journalists and others at the Press Club.

In the last two days I’ve corrected a spelling error in a post title and another error in the body of a diferent post.

You’ll find an acknowledgement of my spelling error on the thread of this post, along with my thanks to the Anon who called it to my attention.

The error in the body of the post was more serious. You can read about that here where you’ll see at the start of the post I placed an ERROR ALERT acknowledging my error, telling readers what I did to correct it, and thanking the Anon who called it to my attention.

One of the most serious errors I’ve made in two years of blogging involved Duke President Richard H. Brodhead and Tom Bevan of

You, Joe, likely know about Bevan's RCP but for readers who may not, RCP is probably the most visited and best public affairs and political news and analysis site on the web.

Last October, in a post concerning President Brodhead and his response to the Duke Hoax, I included part of a Bevan post on the same subject. But Bevan’s post contained a significant error which I carelessly missed.

Within the hour two Anons called the error to my attention. I immediately began a correction process by placing the following Readers Note at the head of the post:

In the post below Tom Bevan says Duke's President Richard H. Brodhead expelled members of the Duke lacrosse team "from the University without giving them so much as a chance to defend themselves and prove their innocence is reprehensible and unforgivable."

That statement is wrong. No Duke lacrosse student was expelled as a result of the party.

I should have caught Bevan's error before including it in my post.

Bevan's an outstanding blogger who I'm confident would have corrected the error had I called it to his attention. I plan to do that as soon as I finish this note.

I plan to also email President Brodhead and apologize to him for publishing the false statement.

I'll also be letting readers know what happened in a separate post which will include a thank you to those readers who called the mistake to my attention.

Look for a post later this evening or tomorrow (Blogger is going "on and off" right now) with a title such as "My mistake - I apologize"

I apologize to any of you who were misled by my error.

Excepting the unintentionally false statement, I stand by everything else in Tom's post and mine.

The next day I posted “My mistake – I apologize.” I wanted that stand alone post to call attention to my error.

In it I let readers know I’d sent President Brodhead an apology and asked him if he felt there was anything else I could do to set the record straight. I told readers I'd also been able to reach Tom Bevan. He then issued his own correction in which he called his error “significant.” The post includes a link to Bevan’s correction.

Joe, when I contacted Bevan and told him of his error, I only identified myself as John in Carolina. Bevan and I have never met. He doesn’t know me. But he corrected his error.

I’ve never asked Bevan why he did that but my guess is he did it for three reasons:

1) He wants to put the truth out there.

2) He values his integrity.

3) He wants RCP readers to know if he makes a mistake, he’ll correct it ASAP.

My take on things is Bevan and I are both lucky to have readers who point out our errors.

My only problem with such readers being Anons is becasue of that, I can't be sure they get my thanks for helping correct my errors and making JinC a better place.

I hope you understand my position. I'll keep what the Quakers call "the good hope" that you'll come to agree with it.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

John: Nice riposte. Perhaps you can teach Neff about integrity through your example. Hope springs eternal.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Neff is so uncomfortable with the fact that you are what he calls 'anonymously posting' as JinC (go figure that), perhaps he would answer your questions if K.C. Johnson posed them for you on his blog. No excuses then, Mr. Neff. I would think a true journalist would be interested in answering the questions anyway. Instead, you'll probably see a 'poor me, I'm being attacked by anonymous bloggers' article in the paper tomorrow. A shame, really.

TruthHurts001 said...

So Neff's policy has now morphed from
"We don't quote anonymous sources" to
"We don't answer anonymous questions"???

What a weasel.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr. Neff is worried that without a Cattoti-esque gender/race balanced set of critiques the N&O would lose it's way.

I'm starting to miss Ebonics.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about responding so late to this post but I have to disagree. Your argument is simply: I have accepted correction from anon sources , why won't you? This may be admirable but it gives no "reason "
why anon sources are a good thing.
Therefore, your argument is merely an anecdote.

Furthermore, it seems to me that your anecdote fails to recognize an important point. When you and Mr. Bevan accepted correction your character was not at issue. Unless I misunderstand you and KC, the N&O,the g88 and potbangers are guilty of the more serious charge of neglecting the presumption of innocence. In fact, the charge is that many of these people neglected the presumption of innocence despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This accusation is an attack on the character of the N&O, G88 and potbangers. (For the record, I agree with the accusation). Therefore, the accused deserve to know who their accusers are and are under no more obligation to answer shouts from the crowd than the lax players were to answer the new black panthers.
Besides, why not sign your name if your questions are valid?

Brant Jones

JWM said...

To Anon @ 7:51 am,

Loved your use of “riposte,” which describes exactly what I was trying to do.

To Anon @ 7:58 am,

Yes, it is a shame. Also, very revealing of Neff and the N&O.

To TruthHurts001,

The N&O also solicits news tips from anonymous sources.

Dear AC,

Whatever happened to Ebonics? I thought it was going to be so helpful to young African-Americans.

Dear Brant Jones,

We can agree you’re OK with Joe Neff’s position.

Would you also be OK if a physician treating you for an
illness had made a significant and manifest error in your treatment plan but refused to even acknowledge he/she had made it, to say nothing of correcting the error, because your physician didn’t know the identity of the person pointing out the error?

Truth is as important to the survival of democracy as air, water and food are to a person’s survival.

Thank you all for commenting.