Saturday, December 22, 2007

Upcoming Series on Duke Hoax/Frame

In The N&O's Duke Hoax Role I explained why it’s important to take a fresh look at the Raleigh News & Observer’s coverage of what in Spring 2006 was commonly called “the Duke lacrosse rape scandal.”

I told readers I’m planning a post series (about 20) to run in Jan. and Feb concerning the coverage and promised to provide some outline information concerning the series in a separate post.

This is that post.

The series is a work in progress. I’m learning as I go along. What I’m learning will not only show up in the texts of posts; some of it has already forced me to modify the planned structure of the series.

For example, I always intended to work into various posts text material N&O readers and editors posted at the N&O’s Editors’ Blog and Readers Corner blogs.

But after reading through the scores of N&O editors’ posts and their responses to readers, and then what are easily over 1200 reader comments, some quite lengthy, I’ve decided to include in the series two stand-alone posts focused solely on the N&O’s blogs’ part of the paper’s Duke Hoax coverage.

Another structural change has to do with N&O reporter Joe Neff, called by some a “hero of the Hoax.”

Researching for the series confirms what many, myself included, have said: Neff produced some fine stories based on examination of court documents and statements made by principals in the case.

But research also raises some important questions: Why, for instance, in the first Duke lacrosse story I found in which Neff’s listed as a reporter, does the story report near its end on the criminal background of the accuser but omit the crucial fact that at the time of the crimes in 2002, the accuser was lap-dancing at a men’s club? Why did the N&O’s public editor consider recommending removing Neff from covering the case? Why, on May 22, 2007, did Neff tell a National Press Club panel audience the N&O never used anonymous sources during its Duke lacrosse coverage?

Because of those and other questions concerning Neff, I’m reworking the series structure to include at least one stand-alone post examining his reporting and seeking to answer questions concerning it.

I plan stand-alone posts for two other N&O journalists: vice president and executive editor for news Melanie Sill, who’s since left the McClatchy News Company owned N&O to assume an identical position at McClatchy’s flagship paper, the Sacramento Bee and public editor Ted Vaden.

The first series post will set out my objectives, briefly review the N&O’s history with regard to politics, race, and political correctness, and provide some information about the N&O’s place among North Carolina news organizations.

Subsequent posts will include one summarizing N&O coverage from Mar. 24 to Mar. 28, 2006, the period from the time the public first heard “Duke lacrosse case” to the first N&O reports of Mike Nifong’s public news conferences, including the one in which calls the Duke students “hooligans.”

That post will be followed by one which will do two things: 1) document what the N&O knew but didn’t tell the public during the critical Mar. 24 to Mar. 28 period when the players were being publicly framed as the “Wanted” and “Vigilante” posters were produced (news suppression); and 2) cite failures by the N&O to gather statements and report on matters a responsible newspaper could reasonably be expected to report.

For example: That when defense attorneys come on a case it’s routine for them to tell their clients to be silent. I must so far have spoken to at least 10 attorneys who’ve told me the N&O could easily have found attorneys not on the case who would have been willing to be quoted as saying such advice to clients is routine as is attorneys’ silence until they’re familiar with the case and know more about their clients role, if any, in it.

The following post will do two things: 1) examine when and with what explanations the N&O has subsequently admitted some of what it knew at the time but didn’t report; and 2) cite important matters the N&O should long ago have disclosed to readers but has so far refused to do.

For instance, telling readers just how it was led to Crystal Mangum on Mar. 24 and how her agreement to be interviewed was obtained.

Did someone in the DA’s office or DPD help lead the N&O to Mangum and perhaps tell her that the N&O was a newspaper she could trust?

There’ll be much more in the series before it ends with a look at how three sources – the American Journalism Review, Stuart Taylor/KC Johnson’s Until Proven Innocent and the N&O itself – have assessed the N&O’s Duke lacrosse coverage and some comments of my own.

I hope you decide to read the series and find it worthwhile.

I plan to begin on Jan. 10.


Anonymous said...


Much better! You are now using the correct term to identify the case, at least partly. The next step is for you to completely banish the term "hoax" from any future blogs.

It isn't a hoax. It never was a hoax. It is and was and always will be a cold-blooded FRAME of three completely innocent ment. It was a criminal act perpetrated by Durham law enforcement and others.

This is too important a point to throw away.

Anonymous said...

Oh, hell. I meant to sign my name to the above post. Sorry about that.

Walter Abbott

traveler said...

To Walter:
Thank you for pointing out the hoax/frame wording correction. I admit I was using them interchangeably, and you are exactly right, they have two quite different meanings. Could we add ‘conspire’ for Duke’s actions?

I checked with an online dictionary, and the definitions follow:

Hoax = to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous

Frame = a: to devise falsely (as a criminal charge) b: to contrive the evidence against (an innocent person) so that a verdict of guilty is assured
Conspire = a: to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement

Anonymous said...


Abbott and Traveler are trying to dictate.

Ignore them.

We know what you mean and we don't need them to tell us "words have meaning."

We learned that when we were 4 or 5.

Duke '84

Anonymous said...

For Crystal it was a hoax

For Nifong it was a hoax that turned into a frame when it became evident that the hoax was much bigger than the case.

For the police it was business as usual.

For them all, it became a conspiracy.

Many however, acted on sheer ignorance; jumping in the boat without considering the truth.

For others, it was an opportunity to advance personal agendas, regardless of the truth.

Anonymous said...


Use the terms you think best.

We're gratful for your outstanding blogging on the Hoax, frame, conspiracy or whatever its called.

Abbott and Traveler can go set up banana republices and dictate there.

A JinC Regular