Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why’s the N&O Attacking Newsweek?

This is a 1, 2, 3 post in which you’ll find:

1 - Excerpts from N&O managing editor John Drescher’s angry post attacking Newsweek for, according to Drescher, reading the N&O’s Duke lacrosse coverage, re-writing it and “pass[ing] it off as original reporting” in Newsweek’s June 29, 2006 story, Doubts About Duke.

2) - An email dated June 13 from Newsweek’s Susannah Meadows who, along with Evan Thomas, was bylined on the story the N&O says Newsweek “pass[ed] … off as original reporting.”

3) My comments and questions concerning the N&O’s attack on Newsweek.

Let’s begin with excerpts from Drescher’s post:

In its Sept. 10 [, 2007] issue, Newsweek takes credit for being “the first major publication to pick apart the prosecution’s case, in an article on June 29, 2006.”

That’s a stretch. Newsweek apparently doesn’t consider The N&O a major publication because there was little in that late June package that had not already been in The N&O. […]
Drescher went on to say that by June 29, 2006 the “ N&O had published a half-dozen articles showing problems with the prosecution’s case,” citing publication dates from April 22 through June 24.

Drescher then hurled one of the most serious accusations one news organization can hurl at another:
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.
Now let’s look at a June 13 email Newsweek’s Susannah Meadows sent to then Durham DA Mike Nifong:
From: Susannah.Meadows[meadows]
To: Michael.b.nifong
Sent: Tuesday, 13 June 2006 2:46pm ET
Subject: Possible cover story

Dear Mike,

I've been going over these documents in the duke rape case. And I have to tell you that they raise questions about was known while you were making certain assertions. Please can we talk about this.
I'm not asking that you comment on anything that isn't public.

We're getting ready to do a big story about this, possibly on the cover, about how certain things were said in public when the facts were known to be different. We won't close the issue until saturday morning.

Please think about commenting. As it appears now, it doesn't look good. But I'm sure that's because we haven't heard your side. I can be reached at ___________ I'll be in durham tomorrow night trough friday.

all the best, susannah meadows
A hat tip to The Johnsville News in whose archives I found Meadows’ email.

Comments and Questions:

Folks, I don’t know which “major publication” deserves the prize for being first “to pick apart the prosecution case.”

I’ll leave the judging on that “race” to the N&O, Newsweek and anyone else who cares to join in.

I feel about that “race” the same way many of you do: major publications were unconscionably slow to start picking apart Nifong’s case. Almost all of them were Nifong enablers for weeks and, in some cases, many months.

Instead of disputing who was first at something they were very late in doing, major publications should examine and report why a few journalists, some bloggers, and many sensible citizens began picking Nifong’s case apart within days of the N&O presenting it on March 25, 2006 in a front-page story headlined without any qualifying quotes suggesting doubt:
Dancer gives details of ordeal
I’ve posted in more detail on both the “me first” major publication claim and individuals and blogs who were shredding Nifong’s case before the end of April. See Newsweek’s Thomas Shouldn’t Cluck (9/2/07) and Take a bow, La Shawn Barber (9/18/07).

Read the N&O stories Drescher links to and cites to support his slime of Meadows, Thomas and Newsweek. See whether you can find anything much in them that wasn’t part of the public record and available at many blogs and news organizations at the time the N&O published them.

Example: The April 22 N&O story Drescher cites, DA on the spot for comments , tells readers:
“Defense lawyers and legal experts say District Attorney Mike Nifong may have crossed ethical lines in public comments about rape allegations involving Duke University lacrosse players, potentially prejudicing jurors and setting off a media maelstrom.”
On April 22 that wasn’t exactly “an N&O exclusive report of breaking news,” was it?

A responsible news organization making the extremely serious charges the N&O is making about Newsweek’s June 29 story would cite to support its charges numerous specific examples of news items Newsweek could only have taken from the N&O. That Drescher and the N&O don’t cite even one such example tells us a great deal about him and the N&O. What a newspaper!

Also telling is Susannah Meadows’ email to Nifong. She didn’t copy that from the N&O. She was trying hard to get an interview with Nifong for the June 29 story Drescher charges Newsweek plagiarized from the N&O.

Meadows didn’t get the interview. Instead, she got back from Nifong what The Johnsville News called a ”rambling, long winded, email rant.” Nifong also issued a press release attacking the Newsweek story. You can read all the documents at this TJN post.

Meadows’ “digging” for that interview was what a good reporter does. I salute her for that.

But that wasn’t the only instance in which Meadows and Newsweek did some “digging.”

On June 12, 2006 I posted Newsweek abandons sinking Nifong. The post was based on a Meadows’ Periscope article that appeared in Newsweek’s June 19 print editon, but was written and available on the net days before; hence my posting of it on June 12.

The post contains a link to Meadows’ Periscope article, Lacrosse Scandal: The Duke Accuser – New Credibility Questions.

Read Meadows’ Periscope article and you’ll see it contains reporting of events which appear again in Meadows’ and Thomas’ June 29 article. You’ll see that Meadows is careful to say in the Periscope article that some of the news she reports is “according to a motion filled by defense attorneys last week.” You’ll read that some of the news provided in the story was obtained during a Newsweek interview with Kim Roberts. And you see that Newsweek says it tried to get Nifong on the record for that story just as Meadows tried to do for its June 29 story.

JinC Regulars know I’m not a Newsweek fan. But fair is fair.

There’s nothing I could find that lends any credibility to the N&O’s attack on Newsweek.

And there’s evidence Newsweek did significant independent work – the Roberts interview, repeated efforts to get Nifong on the record – for its June 29 story.

Message to Drescher and the N&O: You owe Newsweek and your blog readers an apology and explanation.

Message to Meadows, Thomas and Newsweek: I'm sorry you're being punished for your “good deed” June 29 story. You’re owed an apology, but as JinC readers often tell me when I call on the N&O to apologize for something it’s done that would embarrass decent journalists: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Question for readers: Why do you think the N&O decided to attack Newsday at this time and on that particular story?


Anonymous said...


the N&O is delusional

who is surprised?

Anonymous said...

The N/O cannot even explain their use of anonymous sources, why do you think they can explain this?

Anonymous said...

I agree, N&O has a lot of explanation to do.

kbp said...

Thanks John!

"Instead of disputing who was first at something they were very late in doing, major publications should examine and report why a few journalists, some bloggers, and many sensible citizens began picking Nifong’s case apart within days of the N&O presenting it on March 25, 2006 in a front-page story headlined without any qualifying quotes..."

Dead on!

It seems obvious that the N&O, along with most of the other media, is set on answering to no one, and few actually question them anyway. We've all seen they can't keep their answers straight between them, so I conclude they lack experience in that area.

Anonymous said...

The revisionist N&O is intent on "posering" as the newspaper of record in uncovering the roots of the hoax, when in fact they are the MOST culpable in propagating this thing in the first place.

Does this have anything to do with creating a defense in case of a libel lawsuit? Who knows, but I guess they are adherents of the old philosophy ; that the best defense is a good offense!