Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's really hurting the Raleigh N&O

I've just sent the following email to the N&O's public editor, Ted Vaden;

Dear Ted:

In your most recent column you said:

"small errors can have larger consequences. Not to mention misinforming or confusing the public. And -- drip, drip, drip -- eroding the newspaper's credibility with readers over time."
Small errors don't do much harm to the N&O's credibility. The public understands we all make errors.

I don't think even large errors, if fully acknowledged, explained and corrected, would do much harm to the credibility the N&O currently has.

What's really hurting the N&O's credibility, in my opinion, is its failure to acknowledge, explain and correct its large errors.

Because of the Internet and blogs, more and more readers are becoming aware of the N&O's failure to admit and correct large errors. Their awareness translates into reduced credibility for the N&O.

I hope you agree.

In any case, I want to ask you about a claim by Ruth Sheehen which, so far as I know, the N&O has never disputed.

Sheehen says Mike Nifong was the anonymous source for her May 27, 2006 "Team's Silence Is Sickening" column.

You very likely know what I'm talking about but in case you don't, and for the benefit of JinC readers, I'm providing the following information and asking you to respond on behalf of the N&O:

Author Don Yaeger (with Mike Pressler) in the book It's Not About the Truth (Threshold Editions, 2007) quotes Sheehan:
"I think on Saturday [March 25] we had the interview with the alleged victim. It was on Sunday I called into the office. I already had a column in the can because I run on Mondays.

But I called in about this story and they told me that there was another story with Nifong talking about how there was this wall of silence.

That's when I decided on that Sunday to write my first column about the case. [...]

I have to write a column about what people are talking about. And everybody was talking about it. It was so outrageous, the stuff that was in the paper. Her story, Nifong's recounting of it. Oh, my God. It was just like . . . you couldn't even believe it." (ellipses in Yaeger) (pg. 154)
A little further on Yaeger writes:
As she wrote, Sheehan made clear that in her mind the stories bubbling up from Nifong's office and the Durham Police Department were true. She was not alone. (pg. 155)
Yaeger then tells readers Sheehan added:
"Back during that period, no one was telling us that the players had been cooperative," she said in a January 2007 interview. "I know now that was not true. If I had known that then, I would have never written what I did. I would have thought what is Nifong talking about? That's not a wall of silence then. How is that a wall of silence?"(pg. 155)
The N&O’s March 25 "anonymous interview" story refers to “authorities [who’ve] vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity.”

In the N&O's recent report of Yaeger’s book, staff writer Jim Nesbitt didn't even mention Sheehan’s account.

I posted on Nesbitt’s story here. I raised questions about why the N&O’s story said nothing about Yaeger's reporting on Sheehan’s column or any other part of the N&O’s framing of the lacrosse players last March.

I emailed Nesbitt and asked why that was the case. I offered to publish his response in full.

I received no reply to my email or to phone messages I left for Nesbitt and other N&O staffers.

Ted, there are at least three reasons why I have no doubt Yaeger quoted Sheehan accurately:

1) - Yaeger, a veteran reporter, must certainly have taped what Sheehan said, retained those tapes and been very careful to quote accurately from them;

2) - It’s now common practice for publishing houses to require that interviews of the sensitivity the one(s) Yaeger conducted with Sheehan are taped so it/they can be reviewed by the publishers’ attorneys for liability issues.

I believe Yaeger and Simon & Schuster would’ve been very careful to quote Sheehan accurately in any case; but they were no doubt particularly careful because, at the time the book was being prepared, Nifong was the subject of State Bar ethics charges, three lacrosse players were still under indictment, and Pressler’s suit against Duke was active.

3) - Sheehan has not disputed anything Yaeger attributes to her nor has the N&O so far as I know.

I think it would be in the best interests of the N&O and its readers for you to explain in your column Nifong's role as an anonymous N&O source in Spring 2006.

I look forward to your response which I'll post in full at my blog.

Sincerely,

John in Carolina

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

quick (small) thing - it's Yaeger

JWM said...

Dear Anon,

Thank you for pointing out my error.

I've now got them all changed from "Yeager" to "Yaeger."

Best,

John

Anonymous said...

Still awaiting T Vaden's response...

To most, his LACK of response speaks of deceit.

Anonymous said...

Vaden is there to help sell the N&O.

That's why he's never talked about the N&O's "reporter" Mike Nifong.

And he won't do that unless Drescher tells him it's OK.

Nice work, John.

Anonymous said...

Is there a source on this statement? I'm just curious. I've often wondered about the dialog I read in books.

It’s now common practice for publishing houses to require that interviews of the sensitivity the one(s) Yaeger conducted with Sheehan are taped so it/they can be reviewed by the publishers’ attorneys for liability issues.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it time to address questions to the publisher of the N&O? Doesn't the top editor report to the publisher? Isn't the publisher responsible for what is published in the newspaper? Was the publisher consulted prior to publication of the infamous late March 2006 stories by Khanna and Blythe?

Danvers said...

Nice one John! I came across a blog the other day calles Times Watch. It was set up specifically for readers to get the "real story" behind the drivel the NYTimes is printing (or selectively not printing).

Perhaps it is time for someone to set up a similar N&O Watch Blog?

Anonymous said...

Sweetmick says: Slowly but surely, people will begin to see the significance of the N&O's,and especially Sheehan's, reporting in March 2006. Sheehan relied on Nifong
and Nifong was emboldened by the press support he got. Lots of people formed and hardened their opinions on this case from those first N&O reports, especially the "something happened" crowd.I hope JinC doesn't tire of his investigative efforts. Disappointingly, KC, in his Glossary post Tuesday, continues in his attempts to rehabilitate the N&O and Sheehan by not even mentioning them. He does give hell to Duff Wilson and others, though.Over the past year, KC has gone out of his way on several occasions to approvingly mention Sheehan. Sheehan is KC's biggest blind spot, but I don't know why.

Anonymous said...

Sweetmick says: Slowly but surely, people will begin to see the significance of the N&O's,and especially Sheehan's, reporting in March 2006. Sheehan relied on Nifong
and Nifong was emboldened by the press support he got. Lots of people formed and hardened their opinions on this case from those first N&O reports, especially the "something happened" crowd.I hope JinC doesn't tire of his investigative efforts. Disappointingly, KC, in his Glossary post Tuesday, continues in his attempts to rehabilitate the N&O and Sheehan by not even mentioning them. He does give hell to Duff Wilson and others, though.Over the past year, KC has gone out of his way on several occasions to approvingly mention Sheehan. Sheehan is KC's biggest blind spot, but I don't know why.

Anonymous said...

Drip. Drip. Drip.

www.newsobserver.com/front/story/901237.html

Anonymous said...

I think the poor staff nurse Levicy is KC's biggest blind spot but Ruthie is not far behind. Goes to show that no ne is perfect.

Debrah said...

Ted Vaden is extremely Liberal as well. He even goes to the same church as nutty Ellie Kinnaird.

I have spoken with him several times during the lacrosse case.

A year ago, I wrote a scathing column lambasting Brodhead and the 88 which the editorial staff would not publish.

The N&O's entire editorial staff needs to be replaced with some new blood. They were worse than the H-S in the beginning when they allowed lacrosse-bashing each and every day.

They allowed bigoted and caustic columns from Allan Gurganus, Tim Tyson, and so many from Duke's Gang of 88.....but when someone wanted to counter with a column in defense of the lacrosse players, they would make excuses and not publish it.

If you mention the race element involved regarding the Lacrosse Hoax and how the N&O handled it, Vaden will run away like a scared rat.

He's basically window dressing.

The real guy to talk with is publisher Orage Quarles--(oquarles@nando.com).

He's a very nice man, and I am certain he's also very liberal.

When I've had a real problem with the N&O editorial staff, I call him.

Debrah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debrah said...

TO 2:41 PM--

I tried to address your comments, but perhaps they were just too honest.

Don't know what happened to them.

JWM said...

Dear Debrah,

I deleted your comment because of your remarks about Ruth Sheehan's husband and what you said the effect of living with him must have on her.

John

Debrah said...

TO John--

I knew that; however, I believe that Ruth is a big girl who likes to hit below the belt when she thinks it might make her columns less banal.

It's your blog and I'm really not concerned about it.

I just disagree that anyone should be concerned about what effect any remark might have on her.

Did she care what effect she and "Deep Throat Nifong" had on the young men at Duke whom she so feverishly wrote about?

No.

Sheehan has her job at the N&O because her husband comes from an old "yellow dog" Democrat family in NC.

JWM said...

Dear Debrah,

I agree Sheehan hits below the belt.

Her June '06 column in which she said "how was I to know" in excusing herself at the expense of Nifong and her readers was, IMO, a kind of "hitting below the belts" of Nifong and her readers.

Sheehan knew prosecutors lied. She'd written about the Gell case.

She even had lunch with him and based a column on it.

She's married to an attorney. Who knows better that NC prosecutors have lied than NC attorneys?

Didn't Harry tell Ruthie?

Nifong is responsible for what he said to the N&O; Sheehan's responsible for what she wrote.

Something else on her "how was I to know" excuse of herself: Who doesn't know that citizens have a right to remain silent?

Sheehan knew.

She can't blame Nifong.

And she shouldn't have misled and threby "hit" her readers "below the belt" in order to excuse herself.

On another matter - - -

Nifong as "Deep Throat" works in one way and not in another - "Deep Throat" was trying to help WaPo get the truth out there.

Something else - - -

I have a trace memory that you may be the person who some few years back wrote guest columns for the H-S.

Was that you?

They were fine columns of a guality we don't often see now in the H-S.

Best,

John

Debrah said...

TO John--

I think that if Sheehan had been truly regretful of the way she helped whip up the frenzy in the Spring of '06, she would have put forth much more than a grudging half-apology....

.....which she almost had to do and hold onto any credibility.

She is, after all, a mother. She tries to write all about that side of life---smarmy as her writing may be.

How could she not express regret that she helped fuel public sentiment against the innocent sons of other mothers?

People like Sheehan feel obliged to fake compassion. It's the only way readers can swallow her usual useless fare.

And yes, I used to write columns when Bob Wilson was the editorial page editor.

Thanks!

Now that Ron Landfried is there, the place is more like the Chapel Hill Herald where he used to work--very bad writing with a never-ending Leftist slant.

It was almost impossible to get anything of substance on their editorial page if it criticized Duke and Durham.

Landfried is a real liberal wimp. I almost feel sorry for him because he's a huge coward.

He hides the way Ted Vaden does and never seems to be able to confront reality.

I'm sure he's a good gofer boy for Ashley.

It's unfortunate that the previous H-S people like Bob Wilson weren't there during the Lacrosse Hoax. The coverage would have been much different.

All sides would have had a platform and diatribes from Duke's Gang of 88 which both the H-S and the N&O allowed with great frequency would have been challenged with something other than mere letters-to-the-editor.

Oh, well.

It is very clear that Paxton has made a decision to turn the H-S into a tool for inner city Durham and NCCU, and as a result, the quality has plummeted.