Friday, February 01, 2008

N&O editor's response re: Nifong as anonymous source

As JinC Regulars know, for many months I’ve posted concerning Raleigh N&O news columnist Ruth Sheehan’s claims Mike Nifong was an anonymous source for her Mar. 27, 2006 column ( “Team’s silence Is sickening” )attacking Duke students who were members of the school's 2006 Men’s lacrosse team.

I’ve also asked whether Nifong was an anonymous source for the N&O’s now discredited Mar. 25, 2006 story headlined: Dancer gives details of ordeal
A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence

Here are some recent posts which deal with one or both matters.

Nifong an N&O anonymous source (Post 1) (7/29/07)

Nifong an N&O anonymous source (Post 2) (8/1/07)

Nifong discovery: An N&O worry? (12/17/07)

What’s really hurting the Raleigh N&O (1/23/08)

I’ve asked Sheehan via emails and links to posts to say more about her claims but have heard nothing back.

Via emails, comments at their blogs and links to posts, I’ve asked former N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill, current N&O executive editor for news John Drescher and the paper’s public editor Ted Vaden for full and frank public explanations of any use the N&O made of Nifong as an anonymous source beginning in March 2006 and thereafter.

Until today none of the three had even made a pro forma acknowledgement of my contacts and requests.

Today, in response to What’s really hurting the Raleigh N&O, I received the following email from public editor Ted Vaden. (The email was sent as a single paragraph. I’m posting it in sentence-by-sentence form for readers’ ease.)


I don't see here that Ruth said Nifong was an anonymous source for The N&O.

The paper did not quote any anonymous sources in the course of its
coverage of the lacrosse case, with the exception of the early interview with the accuser.

And, of course, she was not anonymous, but unnamed in the article.

In those early days, Nifong was anything but anonymous, which was part of his eventual downfall.

Ted V.
Vaden’s response is disappointing to say the least.

I’ll work this weekend on a response to Vaden and will share it with you.

I haven’t fully outlined a response, but I know it will include at least:

1) Sheehan’s lengthy, quoted statements in It’s Not About the Truth describing how she phoned in to the N&O on Mar. 26 to discuss a column she already had “in the can” to run on Mar. 27; was provided by someone(s) at the N&O with information from Nifong; and therefore scrapped the column she’d plan to run and, using the information passed to her from Nifong, set to work on her “Team’s Silence Is Sickening” column.

2) Make the point again to Vaden that Nifong didn’t begin speaking publicly about the case until sometime on Mar. 27 after Sheehan's column had appeared

3) Note that “anonymous” and “unnamed” are synonyms.

4) Provide examples of Associated Press documents discussing the use of sources in which the AP uses “anonymous” and “unnamed” interchangeably.

5) Note that Vaden hasn’t really spoken to Sheehan’s claims and my questions which I know many of you have asked as well.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...


Vaden must be feeling the heat to even respond in such an incomprehensible way.

Send a copy to the board with a short note suggesting that perhaps the paper is employing staff who don't understand basic English.


kbp said...

Thanks John

Newspaper employees are in a great supply today. I doubt many feel overly secure in their jobs.

Knowing that parts of their works are already a part of the complaints pending, they're probably very hesitant to discuss much, and are also NOT looking forward to what testimony (possibly their own) will bring out.

How many think their attorneys have already established the limit of information they can provide while not under oath?

Anonymous said...

How about contacting McClatchy board members?

It's a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the names and e-mail addresses of the McClatchy board members? Perhaps board members don't know the full story of the shameless late March 2006 coverage by the N&O that paved the way for Nifong and his frame of the innocent lacrosse players.

Anonymous said...

He says the paper did not quote any anonymous sources, but doesn't that leave open the possibility that the paper did "use" information from anonymous sources?

Anonymous said...

N&O leaders should remember that the coverup often causes more damage than the original offense.