Monday, March 31, 2008

Raleigh N&O Arrogance (Post 1)

Readers Note: This is the first of a five-post series providing examples of the Raleigh News & Observer’s arrogance during its Duke lacrosse coverage. The examples also reveal some of the disingenuousness that was an essential and pervasive part of the N&O’s grossly biased, racially inflammatory and often false Duke Hoax reporting during Spring 2006.


On Apr. 9, 2006 N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill’s print column began:

The N&O has pushed hard on the police investigation involving Duke's lacrosse team.

So have other area newspapers and TV stations, which makes sense.
So have just about every major newspaper and television network, which makes less sense. …
Sill went on to urge the national media to back off covering the story and leave the Triangle area. She said national coverage had been “seamy.”

Sill continued:
We broke the story March 24 that 46 lacrosse players had provided material for DNA testing following a woman's report to police that she was raped at a team party.

The story has national importance, given Duke's stature and the impact of the scandal.

But why, beyond sensationalism, would headlines on the case's lurid details play on TV screens and newspapers for days all over the country?

With crowds of journalists and paparazzi gathering, … authorities quickly shut down interviews or turn to press briefings. You can't achieve any depth of reporting at a press briefing.

We've seen this here already. District Attorney Mike Nifong, the only person who can explain his office's decisions on the case, cut off interviews early last week, blaming an overload of requests.

That's not just a problem for reporters. It's keeping information away from people who live in this community. …
On Apr. 9, 2006 N&O readers agreed with Sill’s assertion the N&O had “pushed hard” on the story.

They knew the N&O had run story after story sympathetic to the women the N&O repeatedly referred to without any qualification as “the victim.” They’d seen the N&O publish the “Vigilante” poster. They’d read the editorial praising the “woman’s courage in coming forward” and demending Duke University shut down the team.

But what almost all N&O didn't know on Apr. 9 was that Sill’s column was part of an elaborate and monstrous hoax involving the trashing and endangering of Duke’s Men’s lacrosse team and the attempted frame-up of three of its members for rape and other felonies.

Readers didn't know the N&O was enabling the hoax by keeping critically important information away from them.

For example, most readers had some memory of the N&O’s Mar. 25 story it said was about an “ordeal” the “victim” suffered during “a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence.”

It was that story which embedded in the public’s mind the deliberately fraudulent hoax script of the frightened black mother brutalized by the white lacrosse aggressors. In the Mar. 25 story, the N&O told readers:
… The accuser spoke Friday, struggling not to cry as she recounted the events of the early hours of March 14 at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., next to Duke's East Campus.

It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.

The accuser had worked for an escort company for two months, doing one-on-one dates about three times a week.

"It wasn't the greatest job," she said, her voice trailing off. But with two children, and a full class load at N.C. Central University, it paid well and fit her schedule.

This was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group, she said. …
The N&O knew Crystal Mangum’s claim that March 14 “was the first time she had been hired to dance provocatively for a group” was a lie.

The N&O had reported as far back as June 24, 2002 concerning Mangum’s car theft after she’d stolen the car’s keys from a man she was lap dancing for at a strip club.

John Carroll, the Durham County Deputy Sherriff who gave chase to Mangum andwho she subsequently tried to run down, still works as a Durham Deputy.

The N&O not only published Mangum’s lie on Mar. 25, it continued for weeks to suppress any news which would contradict the young black mother “new to dancing” lie.

That lie generated tremendous sympathy for Mangum and helped sustain the frame-up attempt.

On Apr. 9, when she praised the N&O and complained the attempts of other news organizations to cover the case were “keeping information away from people who live in this community,” Sill knew the N&O was suppressing news and sustaining a lie.

That's arrogant; disingenuous, too.

Here are Sill's column and the N&O's Mar. 25, 2006 and June 24, 2002 stories.


Anonymous said...

More great work by John in Carolina. When will the N&O apologize for its prominent role in Nifong's lacrosse frame?

mac said...

It looks like there may be a few defendants missing in the current lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John

"But why, beyond sensationalism, would headlines on the case's lurid details play on TV screens and newspapers for days all over the country? With crowds of journalists and paparazzi gathering, … authorities quickly shut down interviews or turn to press briefings. You can't achieve any depth of reporting at a press briefing."

It's been awhile since I saw that last. Rather ironic she classifies what the national media was doing as "sensationalism". That's the pot calling the kettle black.

I guess her whining about the situation that "paparazzi" created was related to the fact Mikey had stopped returning her calls. Her source for "depth of reporting" evidently decided her news crew had enough to help him get what he wanted, as all the other enablers followed along in the parade, marching in a perfectly straight line and chanting in tune with each other.

It was a grand blend of agendas working to put together a master piece few will ever forget!


Anonymous said...

John -

Now why do you think they might be losing readership and their stock price is rapidly declining?

Maybe, it's because they're truth-challenged.

Jack in Silver Spring

Anonymous said...

Jack in Silver Spring,

Don't be certain they are losing "readership". In my rush with math tasks on the topic addressing the last 5 years I found it looked like they actually gained a few pay-print readers, but am still uncertain how they count the online readers (per page viewed or connection from an IP).

BUT!., with any counting they want to use, their "take-home-pay" went South...

...while many of us are still waiting for the TRUTH!!!!!


Anonymous said...

KBP, Jack in Silver Spring:

I live in Dallas, home of the Dallas Morning News. The News drank the Koolaid a long time ago and, like the N&O team, denied they had any circulation problems.

The truth was unearthed in 2004 when an audit confirmed what everyone knew, the circulation numbers were bogus. The audit was initiated as a result of complaints by advertisers that felt they were being overcharged.

The best way to see how the paper is doing is simply to count the average amount of classified ad space from year to year.

As they say, "its all right there in black and white."


Anonymous said...

Ken (in Dallas),

I'm fairly certain that any inaccuracy reported in the N&O's circulation numbers would not surprise any of us.

At this time we'll just have to go with their numbers, as we have no others to use.

I know McClatchy's Profit/Loss numbers overall are bad, so I have assumed the N&O's are not that great.

I do recall John pointing out the reduction in ad space at the N&O and realize that circulation of print purchased (170,000+/-) is not the big revenue source for newspapers, advertising is.

John or someone with more knowledge on that P/L topic would have to help me out. I do not recall seeing any data telling us whether the N&O itself is losing money.


bill anderson said...

One would think there would be a sense of shame in the N&O newsroom, but apparently not. They still are "proud of ALL their coverage."

Now, the N&O should be proud of what Joe Neff did, but the rest of them are worthless. And why is Samiha Khanna still employed there? Did she not perpetrate a fraud worthy of Janet Cooke?

Anonymous said...

John -

From what I can tell from officially reported circulation numbers (not from the N&O) KBP at 11:22 seems to be right and I seem to be wrong. On the other, Ken in Dallas may be onto something and somebody is fudging the numbers. (Ken - Thanks for pointing that out.) I would point out, though, the fact that the paper downsized in the middle of 2007 (and not by a little) is indicative of readership problems. In that regard, I should point out that the entire McClatchy chain lost a boat-load of money in 2007, so whatever the chain is doing, it does not seem to be doing the right thing.

Of course, Bill Anderson as almost always is right on the money. There is no sense of shame at the N&O (Joe Neff excluded).

Jack in Silver Spring