Wednesday, March 26, 2008

N&O editors’ false “police report” claims

Two years ago yesterday the Raleigh News & Observer produced a story that captured national and international attention. The story shilled the deliberately fraudulent Duke lacrosse frame-up script which two days later then Durham DA Mike Nifong used when he began speaking publicly about what was then called "the Duke lacrosse rape scandal."

The N&O’s March 25, 2006 fiction told readers a young black mother and college student had suffered a horrific ordeal, including beating and gang-rape, by three white members of the Duke lacrosse team as their hooligan, white racist teammates stood by, did nothing and subsequently stonewalled police investigators. The story’s headlines:

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
The N&O blared those headline across five columns on it front-page and with no “alleged” or “alleges” or quotation marks to suggest the fiction was anything other than a news report of confirmed events.

From the moment they read it, many readers sensed the story was a fraud. They inundated the N&O with phone call, letters and comments at the N&O's Editors' Blog questioning reporters Anne Blythe’s and Samiha Khanna’s story.

The most frequently asked questions concerned what corroboration and what limits the N&O used during an interview with the accuser to whom the N&O said it had granted anonymity because of its policy of granting anonymity “to victims of sex crimes.”

N&O editors assured readers that for corroboration and to set limits on what the accuser said which it would publish, the N&O relied on the contents of the police report(s)

Here’s then N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill commenting to readers at the Editors’ Blog on Apr. 3, 2006 [excerpt]:
We took care in editing the story not to introduce new accusations -- the basics were the same as in police reports, which had already been made public.
Also on Apr. 3, 2006 this from the column of N&O public editor Ted Vaden, who the N&O describes as "the readers advocate:”
But let's talk more about the anonymous interview. [The lead editor on the March 25 story Linda Williams] said editors and the reporter discussed the fairness issue at length before interviewing the woman and publishing the story. The governing decision, she said, was to print only information from the interview that conformed with the police reports. "We limited for publication the statements from the woman that were in line with what she said in the police report," Williams said. Other information from the interview has not been published. …

In this case, as Williams pointed out, the story used only information from the interview that corroborated the public record, so it didn't add new facts. The added matter was the emotional content -- the crying mother of two -- that gave a human dimension to the police reports. … (It's not true "the story used only information from the interview that corroborated the public record." I’ll get to that later in the post. JinC )
And here six months later is then deputy managing editor Linda Williams (since promoted to senior editor) commenting to readers at the Editors' Blog [excerpts]:
Our March 25 article that included an interview with the woman who accused Duke lacrosse players of rape has been the subject of questions and speculation on blog posts. […]

The decision made prior to the March interview to limit it to the information in the police report was the correct decision and I stand by it. Our purpose was to hear from the woman in her own words the accusation she made to the police. (sic)

We also wanted to know if she would say anything that contradict (sic) the police report. In the brief interview, she repeated the information we knew to be the gist of the police report that we had access to at that time.
But the assurances editors Sill, Vaden and Williams’ each repeatedly gave readers are false.

The N&O published a number of critically important statements by and concerning the accuser which were never part of any police report, as editors Sill, Vaden and Williams know.

Here’s the start of the N&O’s Mar. 25 story:
The woman who says she was raped last week by three members of the Duke University lacrosse team thought she would be dancing for five men at a bachelor party, she said Friday. But when she arrived that night, she found herself surrounded by more than 40.

Just moments after she and another exotic dancer started to perform, she said, men in the house started barking racial slurs. The two women, both black, stopped dancing.

"We started to cry," she said. "We were so scared."[…]
There was and is no Durham Police report suggesting “men in the house started barking racial slurs” at the woman.

Everyone other than the accuser who was in the house during the time in question, including Kim Roberts, the second dancer, insists there was no racial slurring within the house.

The N&O reported:
This was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group, she said.
No police report ever made that claim. As early as the morning of March 14 when crystal Mangum first made her wildly improbable and conflicting gang-rape and robbery claims, DUPD and DPD knew she had a long history as a strip dancer at men’s clubs.

So did the N&O which as far back as June 2002 had reported on a car-jacking Mangum had committed when she stole keys from a guy at a men’s club where she was lap dancing.

For reasons its never explained, the N&O failed to report that highly pertinent news for weeks and instead reported the lie Mangum was new to strip dancing and telling trusting readers they’d gotten that information from "a police report.”

In the March 25 story the N&O also reported:
She hesitated to tell police what happened, she said Friday. She realized she had to, for her young daughter and her father.

"My father came to see me in the hospital," she said. "I knew if I didn't report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it."
But her father never came to see her in the hospital and police reports from March 14 stated she made her first claims of rape at Durham Access before she even arrived at Duke Hospital.

I’ve just sent the following email to Ted Vaden.

Dear Ted:

This post documents the falsity of assurances you, Melanie Sill and Linda Williams gave readers that you only published on March 25, 2006 statements of Mangum’s which were already contained in the police report(s).

The post also references the N&O’s decision to withhold for weeks the news you had from 2002 which undercut the N&O’s report that “this was the first time she’d been hired to dance provocatively for a group.”

Given what I document in the post and so much more I and others have documented that false in the March 25 story, would you be willing to do four things as the readers advocate:

1) Write a column urging the N&O to retract the story.

2) Urge the N&O publisher and senior editors to make apologies to the players, their families and the Presslers.

3) Urge executive editor for news John Drescher and senior editor Linda Williams to publish a story explaining in detail how the N&O got so much wrong in the March 25 story and what has been done to assure that such a error-filled story won’t be published again.

4) Urge the N&O to apologize to readers and other journalists who were misled.

Thank you for your attention to this request. I’ll publish your response in full at JinC.




Anonymous said...

John -

This is a meta-narrative within a meta-narrative. Oh, what a tale we weave, when we first practice to deceive.

Jack in Silver Spring

bill anderson said...


You will be waiting a very long time -- like, forever -- to receive an answer from Ted Vaden. The editors at the N&O believe they are firmly justified in publishing a totally false story and setting off a massive hoax. To them, that is just "good journalism." To honest people, it is yet another example of the MSM lying to us and trying to convince us that we are the ones who have it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Great job, John.

The public needs to be reminded how dishonest Vaden and the rest are.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John

I love the way you just keep on, and on and... while they answer to nobody!

I hope you send Cc's to the all up the ladder at The McClatchy Company. Maybe you should buy one share so they will feel like they should respond to an investor, it's getting pretty cheap last time I looked.


Anonymous said...

This is another terrific fact-based analysis by John in Carolina. It deserves to appear elsewhere. Perhaps one of the journalism reviews would consider this. Perhaps the McClatchy board of directors would find this interesting. Bill Anderson has done excellent work, and this isn't intended as criticism, but it's importamt for John and others to keep the focus on the News & Observer's pivotal role in the now-legendary lacrosse case. Vaden is irrelevant. Other avenues are worth pursuing. What do some of the lawyers on this site think?

Anonymous said...

It must be remembered that race baiting is how the N & O makes their money. It is what pays their bills. They cater and pander to a specific group that supports this crap. The same group that still believes, or wants to believe that "something happened". The National Enquirer and other sleazy tabloids make their money telling lies. So does the N & O. To them, it is not about the truth, it is all about the money. At the beginning of this hoax, the truth would not have sold very many papers. "Sorry folks, no story here". The lie, however, sold many. Sadly, the next time something of this nature presents itself, the N & O will do exactly the same thing, pander to a specific class of victims and agenda driven fanatics. Again, it's all about the money. Steve in New Mexico

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but it's not all about the money. It's also about following the metanarrative, following the ideology, pandering to the politically correct crowd, biased reporting and inept editing.