Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Durham’s In Trouble (post 1)

(The first in a series looking at why Durham’s in trouble.)

Why’s Durham in trouble?

For one reason, Durham’s two daily newspapers – the Durham Herald Sun and the Raleigh News & Observer – generally do a lousy job covering important news stories.

Example: On August 25 the H-S reported three young men falsely indicted on gang rape and other felonies with the connivance of certain Durham Police officers and their supervisors while Durham’s highest ranking officials looked on and did nothing, had retained attorneys to represent them in possible suits against the city

Before you could say, “that sounds like Durham,” we were told the men were requesting as settlement $30 million and actions by the city to assure the injustices they were subjected to won’t be inflicted on other innocent people.

Both papers reported the city has only $5 million in liability insurance. People did the math and began asking: “Does that mean my taxes will go up?”

H-S Editor Bob Ashley and N&O Editor Steve Ford last March quickly embraced Crystal Mangum’s lies and cheered the now disbarred Mike Nifong on even through the November election

That gives you some idea of why Durham’s in trouble.

But there’s more.

The H-S and N&O editorial pages have been quick to denounce the $30 million request as too much. It’s way out of line: Ashley and Ford are sure of that.

Of course, it’s a certainty they don’t have all or, very likely, even most of the relevant facts that would sustain the victims’ suit.

The two editors can’t even be sure the second- and third-hand sources who passed information to their reporters which the reporters passed to them got whatever information they had right in the first place.

Given that, most sensible people would wait before rendering an editorial judgment. But facts and common sense don’t have much to do with H-S and N&O editorials.

That’s why Nifong and his co-conspirators got as far as they did. H-S and N&O editorials not only cheered them on, they encouraged enablers at Duke and elsewhere, including those in their own newsrooms.

Suppose instead of both papers supporting Nifong in numerous editorials, the H-S and N&O had written editorials with headlines asking the community: Rape Accusations Against Duke Lacrosse Players – Law or Lynch Law?

And suppose H-S and N&O editorials had included statements like the following:

In this case, prosecutor Michael Nifong has proceeded in the wrong way.

Having an accuser or a witness pick out the accused from a lineup is standard procedure. That procedure not only serves to identify someone to be charged with a crime, it also tests the credibility of the accuser or witness -- or it should, if the lineup is not stacked.

A lineup should include not only people suspected of a crime but also other people, so that it tests whether the accuser or witness can tell the difference, and is therefore credible.

But the stripper who claimed to have been raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team was presented with a lineup consisting exclusively of photographs of members of the lacrosse team.

In other words, whoever she picked out had to be a lacrosse player and would be targeted, with no test whatever of her credibility, because there was no chance for her to pick out somebody who had no connection with the team or the university.

Apparently District Attorney Nifong was no more wiling to test the accuser's credibility than was the TV talk show hostess who went ballistic, though credibility is often crucial in rape cases.

Mr. Nifong went public with his having DNA evidence collected.

Then, after the DNA failed to match that of the accused, the students were arrested anyway and their bail was set at $400,000 -- in a community where a youth accused of murder had bail set at $50,000.

When a prosecutor acts like he has made up his mind and doesn't want to be confused by the facts, that is when the spirit of the lynch mob has entered the legal system. [...]
The headline about lynch law and the indented comments you’re just read are from a Thomas Sowell column published on April 24, 2006.

If Ashley and Ford had been writing the kinds of things Sowell wrote instead of "snuggling in bed" with Nifong and rogue cops, I don't think we’d be looking at such possibly large suits against my hometown.

What Ashley and Ford did to Durham during the Duke Hoax is typical of them.

They're two of the reasons Durham’s in trouble.

Message to Thomas Sowell: Take a bow.

Message to Bob Ashley and Steve Ford: Please stand up and take some boos.

Then sit down and do something decent. Write editorials apologizing for getting the Hoax so wrong and doing so much to enable it


Anonymous said...

Bob Ashley and Steve Ford are too entrenched in yellow journalism and hiding behind racism to be honest with readers.

Anonymous said...

It's even more obvious than 2:03 implies. Ashley and Ford are *too stupid* to be honest with readers.

Anonymous said...

As you wrote John - Both papers were in the center of one of the biggest story of the year and lost circulation. Only in Durham.

bill anderson said...

I have had a number of email exchanges with Boob Ashley and Melanie Sill, and I will say unequivocally that both are thoroughly dishonest people. The Boobster insists that the Hurled-Scum coverage was "fair" and that the only people complaining are "outsiders" like me.

Sill insisted that Crystal's claim of Kim's being raped (that the N&O failed to put in their infamous "Dancer Recalls..." story) was irrelevant.

When you deal with dishonest people like this, it is not hard to see how Nifong was able to railroad those young men like he did. He simply was adhering to Community Standards.