The lie that the Duke lacrosse players were not cooperating with police helped poison public opinion against the players. It inflamed unstable and hateful people. It led to the “Wanted” and “Vigilante” posters which added to the danger the players were facing. And it gave then DA Mike Nifong “cover” as he sought to frame the players.
The lie, often expressed as “the players’ ‘wall of solidarity,’” was first promulgated by the Raleigh News & Observer on March 25, 2006 despite the paper’s knowing it was a lie (see this post).
Now, we read in the American Journalism Review’s critique of the media’s Duke lacrosse coverage what’s emerging as the N&O’s cover-up story for its decision not to report on the players’ cooperation in stories it published in the critical days after the N&O “broke” the Duke lacrosse story on March 24, 2006 :
Looking back, Neff wishes he and his colleagues had paid more attention to … a police blotter entry published in the Raleigh paper on March 22, 2006, on page B3. The brief said a woman had told police she was raped and robbed March 13 during a party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. It cited Sgt. Gottlieb as saying that residents of the rental house were cooperating.When reading what Neff says, it’s important to keep in mind the March 22 story made no reference to “Duke lacrosse.”
"[W]hen the story blew up and it became this huge mess, we never said, 'Wait a minute. The police sergeant said they were cooperating, and Nifong said they weren't cooperating,'" Neff says. "I wish we would have caught that."
As a result, it was a very rare reader who would’ve “connected the dots” between the N&O's March 22 story and the N&O’s subsequent “Duke lacrosse” stories and asked: “Why is the N&O now saying the players didn’t cooperate when it reported on March 22 Gottlieb said they had?”
What Neff is saying now in response to that question, which the N&O was forced to acknowledge after this blogger and other readers dug up the March 22 story in the N&O's archives, amounts to:
”Oh, that! Yes, the March 22 story. Gosh, we forgot about it.”What Neff says in the AJR critique is not believable.
There were many N&O reporters and editors working the Duke lacrosse story last March. They didn’t all forget what Gottlieb said.
Even if you were to suppose they had all forgotten it, on March 24 Duke University issued a statement in which it said the players were cooperating with police.
You can view the statement at Duke's news site where it's been availalbe to the N&O 24/7 since Duke issued it.
You can be sure that many N&O journalists read that statement at the time.
But can any of you say the N&O ever reported on it?
If the N&O had reported on Gottlieb’s and Duke University’s statements about the players' cooperation, the “wall of silence” lie would have been challenged by intelligent and fair-minded people.
And in that case, the “wall of silence” lie would have been exposed for the lie it was.
The N&O helped trash the entire lacrosse team and frame David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.
The N&O's never said it's sorry for that.