Thursday, September 20, 2007

N&O Lashes Out at Newsweek

Most MSM news organizations play footsie with one another.

You know – one says: “Bill Clinton rocks.”

The other says: “the former President has enormous star quality.”

Neither tells you Clinton was disbarred by the U. S. Supreme Court.

They want you to clutch their “news-baskets” and stay on the left-hand side of life’s road lest the sly, dangerous Fox News catch you.

Sure, within and between MSM news organizations there are lots of petty jealousies, snit-fights and mean gossiping. But most of that is usually kept from the public.

But things are a little different right now.

We have Dan (“unimpeachable source”) Rather’s suit against CBS, Viacom and some executives of both organizations. And we have the Raleigh News & Observer lashing out at Newsweek.

I’m going to skip the Rather matter for now and comment on the N&O’s “smack-slap” at Newsweek delivered by N&O managing editor John Drescher in his post, Newsweek stretches on Duke lacrosse.

I’ve just left the following comment on the thread of Drescher’s post. It’s the same as you’ll read here except there's no indent or hyperlink options for commenters on the thread so I left a link to this post there, along with my comment.

Dear Editor Drescher:

Because you don't have a hyperlink option I'm including this URL which contains hyperlinks for the comment which follows.

You say:

Newsweek can beat its chest all it wants to and claim it “was the first major publication to pick apart the prosecution’s case.”
A more accurate description would be it was the first national publication to read The N&O’s coverage, re-write it and pass it off as original reporting.
As I said in a JinC Sept. 2 post, Newsweeks' Thomas Shouldn't Cluck , that I didn’t want to get into trying to decide which was the “first major publication to pick apart the prosecution case.”

What I know for sure is that both Newsweek and the N&O were very late in doing that.

You were both well behind journalists such as La Shawn Barber, Thomas Sowell and Stuart Taylor, and blogs and bloggers such as KC Johnson, Lead and Gold, RealClearPolitics, and The Johnsville News, to name just a few of many.

I just looked at a JinC post from April 9, 2006, which included a comment I sent executive editor for news Melanie Sill asking why four weeks after the alleged crimes on the night of March 13/14, there were no suspect descriptions beyond “white male” and why the N&O had not asked Nifong about that and whether the accuser had been able to make a positive ID of any of her alleged attackers.

But, Editor Drescher, you’re right the N&O did have many “firsts” concerning important aspects of what was then called “the Duke lacrosse rape scandal.”

In your March 24 report which “broke” the “Duke lacrosse story,” you repeatedly referred to Crystal Mangum as “the victim” and thereby cast the Duke students as her victimizers.

That’s an undisputed N&O first and most of MSM rushed along to follow your framing of the players as the victimizers.

On March 25 the N&O was the first newspaper to report Mangum was new to stripping, even though you knew from your own reporting in 2002 of crimes she’d committed that she was strip dancing at least by then. You didn’t report that or her criminal background.

You were the first major news organization to have that information and fail to report it for weeks.

On March 25 you also had the critically important news Mangum told you that the second dancer had also been raped at the party, but hadn’t reported it to police for fear of losing her job, as well as the statement she made to you that she thought the second dancer would “do anything for money.”

You failed to report that news, so extraordinarily exculpatory for the players. And what is worse by many magnitudes of mendaciousness, you covered it up for thirteen months as you watched the players and their families endure an horrific ordeal while you sold newspapers every day of those thirteen months.

No other major publication, not even justly reviled NY Times and Durham Herald Sun did anything as harmful to innocent individuals and our community as the N&O’s withholding of the exculpatory information.

One more “first and only” for the N&O and then I’m done.

On April 2, 2006 the N&O published a photo of the “Vigilante” poster large enough so that anyone, including unstable and dangerous people, could enlarge it and have face photos of the 43 white Duke students pictured on it.

The N&O published the photo after Duke had expressed concerns that doing so would add to the already considerable danger the players were facing. Did Newsweek or any Noth Carolina daily do that?

I think you can credit the N&O with a "first and only" on that. Even the justly reviled NY Times and Durham Herald Sun didn't publish such a photo.

Editor Drescher, instead of getting into an ego-driven snit-fight with Newsweek, the N&O would better serve truth, the community and its own long-term interests if you do the following:

1) Publish a detailed story which holds nothing back in explaining why you withheld for 13 months the exculpatory news Mangum gave you on March 24 and what it was like for N&O staffers to watch the players indicted, threatened, and savaged by most major publications while you were sitting on news that could have changed all that.

2) Retract your March 25 story which you told readers was about an “ordeal” that ended in “sexual violence.” You and the informed public know it was based almost entirely on lies.

3) Publish on your front-page a detailed account of how the fraudulent March 25 story was created, including an explanation of why you left out of it the news you had of the players’ cooperation with police, an explanation of how you came to get the interview with Mangum, and acknowledgment of whatever involvement Nifong and others working the attempted frame-up had to do, as anonymous sources, with the story.

4) Issue a full, unconditional apology to the players, their families, Coach Mike Pressler and his family, who were the people most harmed by your story.

5) Apologize to your readers and the rest of the media whom you deliberately misled.

6) Apologize for publishing the "Vigilante" poster and assure everyone that the people responsible for publishing it no longer work for the N&O or any other McClatchy publication.

Thank you for reading this comment.

I look forward to your response which I’ll copy and post at JinC.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...


Re: N&O editors

"They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls"
...Edgar Allen Poe


joan foster said...

Bravo, John! Beautifully articulated! You've been an inspiration to so many of us.

Anonymous said...

They never answer you John. Wonder why? hahahahaha. Betcha they fear civil suits for slander and holding evidence which should have been made public or at least sent to the cops in Durham. The N&O never had any credibility so i guess they cant lose any.

Anonymous said...

The N & O should be ashamed of whining about not getting credit for finally getting something right.

As your well documented list of their complicity in the hoax shows, they have a great deal more to be ashamed of.

Unfortunately, shame does not seem to be a concept they understand.

Since they can't be shamed, here's hoping there will be lawsuits to come.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I have tried to post the following comment on the N&O Blog without success. I would be grateful if someone would post it there for me.

" Dear Melanie,
I am a south African who has followed the Duke Lacrosse since its inception. I have a question for you:

Why are you seemingly incapable of responding in a reasonable manner to the post above by JinC? It is a well researched, well written and asks questions most reasonable readers would like answers to.

From what I have read of your responses to others who offer a critique (all I have seen seem too well mannered and cogent to be considered a criticism),of articles written by yourself or other N&O staffers you seem only capable of responding that they "border on harassment"!

Why is this? Surely someone as well educated as yourself must be a little more articulate that that. Your readers deserve better!

PD Smart
South Africa

Anonymous said...

Like John Wilkes Booth claiming that he spared Lincoln from any pain from his arthritis.

I'm going to quote this post, with attribution, over at Volokh. This is great stuff, John!

Anonymous said...

This excellent post on the N&O and Newsweek roles in the lacrosse frame/hoax deserves broad distribution. It should be posted on the Durham in Wonderland, Liestoppers and Johnsville News sites, as well as at the Volokh site. Please e-mail it to Instapundit; a link from the law professor would draws thousands of new readers. Ask the Chronicle to run it as a column. Send it to the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Wilmington newspapers. Send it to Newsweek, Time and U.S. News. Ask Fox News and CNN to post it on their sites. Does the N&O think its readers are stupid?

Anonymous said...

We should expect to enjoy the scene of the media types trying to eat each other when the food supply goes bad. As for me, I badly (In several senses of the word!) want Ken from Dallas to be right about lawyers with red S's on their chests being in Durham to kickstart that sort of process with the local figures.

Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.

-- No, not that Glenn

Anonymous said...

Brilliant John. I really like 9:49's ideas. This post needs wide circulation. Johnny, you da man!