Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Chronicle editor responds to outing post

Readers Note: To understand the post below, you must be familiar with Duke's Chronicle Outs JinC which I posted very early this morning.

Please withhold judgments about the email exchange below between Ryan McCartney, last year's Chronicle editor and this year's editorial page editor, and myself until you've read both emails.

I'll comment further on the exchange later today. Right now I just want to get the emails out before you.

McCartney's email is presented here as a paste in so it's exactly as he wrote it.


In a message dated 04/27/08 04:28:13 Eastern Daylight Time, (email address deleted by JinC)


From the start, I want to make one thing very clear: I am writing you
this e-mail *off the record*. By that, I expect that it will not
appear on your Web site. You have not respected this common rule of
journalism in the past, so I feel it is necessary to clarify that

I rarely check your Web site. That said, I stumbled upon it today and
was *shocked* to read:

"It was from McCartney that this year's TC editor, David Graham,
learned my identity."

Of course, I knew that you would get around to writing on this topic.
You have a personal stake in it. But I also would have expected that
you check your facts and refrain from making unsubstantiated

David did NOT, in fact, learn your identity from me. These days, it's
pretty easy to find out someone's identity with Caller ID. I am
absolutely insulted that you would think that I would tell him. And I
am even more insulted that you did not bother to contact either David
or me to verify that fact.

By doing so, I am now questioning more than ever your honesty and
reasonableness as a bloggerhe grounds upon which you justified the
fact that you posted anonymously. When a writer cannot be trusted to
get the facts right, anonymity can be a dangerous thing.

I didn't want to throw myself into this issue, but I am personally
offended by what you did, John. That kind of shoddy reporting and
loose understanding of journalism is the very reason why I've
refrained from e-mailing you since last year.

I hopend trusthat you give more care to your other posts.


I responded to Ryan McCartney some minutes ago as follows:

Dear Ryan,

You say you "rarely check" my "Web site," but you "stumbled upon it today."

How coincidental that you "stumbled upon it" just a few hours after I put up a post with your name in it, the first time an archives search reveals I've mentioned you in a post in five months.

Your coincidental "stumble upon" led to your angry, error-filled email attacking my honesty, but offering nothing other than ad hominems to justify what you said.

And labeled it all "off the record."

Yet you know and have acknowledged there is not what you call a "common rule" of journalism whereby "off the record" is established unilaterally by someone just declaring "this is off the record."

Please reread this Mar. 6, 2007 post - Chronicle editor doesn't understand - in its entirety, noting especially this portion under Item 2:

(Here’s the second email McCartney sent after I told him I hadn’t agreed to an off the record exchange - John)

I say "off the record" so that the two of us can have a more frank discussion of the issue you raise. Technically, both parties have to agree to that, yes. In spirit, though, and in the interest of having frank conversations with others usually it's not an issue. (emphasis mine)
Technically yes, Ryan, as in: "I can tell you as a physician that, technically yes, you're pregnant."

Attempting to unilaterally involve a journalist/blogger in "off the record" is an old manipulative device - "My opponent has (insert some shameful act) and that's why he supports the bill. But that's off the record and if you have to use it, don't attribute it to me."

Ethical journalists/bloggers don't allow themselves to be manipulated into unilateral "off the record." They're careful with whom and under what circumstances they enter into "off the record."

And they don't attempt to manipulate others with "off the record," including the sending of error-filled emails which they later show to others "off the record," of course.

But that's all familiar ground between us Ryan, as your email I quoted in the Mar. 6, 2007 post makes clear.

Last August I sent Editor Graham this post - The Chronicle & "off the record" (Post 2) - which details the proper uses of "off the record" and source confidentially. I called Graham's and readers' attention in particular to what a colleague said in a memorial tribute to David Halberstam about their importance and how upset Halberstam would get with journalists who violated ethical canons and allowed themselves to enter into manipulative relationships with sources.

You might want to follow the link to the memorial tribute.

I have very clear recollections of Graham on more than one occasion telling me it was from you he learned my identity.

Specifically Graham referenced and we discussed a time when you disclosed my identity to a group at The Chronicle (TC). You were angry with me because I'd posted the Mar. 6 post which included an email you'd unilaterally labeled "off the record," something I'd repeatedly asked you not to do, and something you'd repeatedly said you wouldn't do, but kept doing.

I posted your "off the record" because enough was enough. You knew better.

In similar circumstances, I'd do it again.

I didn't doubt what Graham said about learning from you my identity because it fit with what I'd been told by a cluster of callers - usually very late at night and sometimes obscene and threatening - who began calling shortly after the Mar. 6 post went up.

They all cited you as having told them who I was, how dishonest I was and how badly I'd treated you.

A few civil people ID'ing themselves as TC staffers also called during that time. They wanted me to know they didn't approve of your outing me last year or of the other types of calls I and my wife were receiving.

Was I really wrong to believe what Graham told me? Did your disclosures of my identity those callers referred to not happen?

You say I am dishonest.

One of the things I like best about blogging is there's a written record of what you do. My archives - now containing over 3, 000 posts - are easily searched by anyone.

I'm content for fair-minded people to read those posts and judge my honesty.

You say I have a stake in bringing up the foregoing matters concerning us.

For more than a year I've never mentioned them on the blog or made any formal complaint to TC.

I've never mentioned them in any of the scores of comments I've made a TC's Web site or in any correspondence with TC.

And I never mentioned them in my post responding to TC's outing of me in the Apr. 1 article under a "Boobs Allison" byline and Graham's outing of me in his Apr. 23 column.

I was content to let it all pass until I received your angry, error-filled ad hominem referencing them.

Readers will note, Ryan, that you bring up and reference matters you accuse me of having a stake in bringing up, although I didn't in hundreds of posts, comments and emails in which I easily could have.

However, in this world of instant and permanent cyber-communication, I'd be a fool to let your email pass without response even though I'd like to.

I'll respond later today at my blog, and subsequently as events suggest.

Finally this: In the post you say you "stumbled upon ... today" I made the very important points to readers that they shouldn't assume Graham and others at TC involved in outing me are typical of all at TC; that there are very able and honest journalism practitioners at TC who do fine, sometimes even outstanding, work that serves us all; and that while Graham meant to strike at me, it's really those able and honest staffers at TC whom he hurt.

And I think now you have, too.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

McCartney's e-mail is turned on its head. He is blaming the victim (John-in-Carolina)for the Graham's journalistic sin of identifying a confidential source. He should be blaming Graham, not John-in-Carolina.

Anonymous said...

I score it game, set and match for John.

John's a great blogger.

I hope he keeps at it.

McCartney and Graham could learn a lot form him if they can ever shrink their egos down to roomsize.

Duke '98

Anonymous said...

The late, great Chronicle editor Matthew Sclafani once wrote, "Journalism is perhaps the only profession in which you receive more criticism for doing a better job. I get worried when people stop blasting The Chronicle, because if we make everyone happy, we aren't doing our jobs."

I know there are some readers who will be pleased to see me go, and will no doubt tell me so in the online comments on this article. I especially await the input of the cowardly ones who comment anonymously-John (redacted) who blogs as John in Carolina, and his ilk. Rest assured, I will enjoy reading all your comments even more than you will enjoy writing them."

Judging by the number of comments to David Graham's column I suppose he would consider it a "better job" and journalistic triumph.

Are you still enjoying the comments, David? Good luck in your career in "journalism."

Anonymous said...

I find this sad indeed. When I noticed, quite some time ago that JinC always had a critic (really more like a stalker) in the Chronicle comments section, I just assumed it was some nutty clan of 88/frame supporter. It never occured to me it might be one of the students (who as a group I had great respect for) who worked at the Chronicle.

Now I have to wonder if "Brodhead's secretary" might also be a Chronicle staffer.

I knew that not all Duke students had the character shown by the lacrosse players (men and women) and I knew there were some bad seeds at the Chronicle but I wanted to believe MOST Duke students were impressive (I'm still trying) and the same for the Chronicle staff (which I now have reason to seriously doubt).

How sad for Duke if the young people who suffered the injustice with grace and dignity are the exception, not the rule. And at the Chronicle Ms. Butler is the exception.

Anonymous said...

I expect McCartney and Graham to issue a statement telling everyone they're "the real victims."

Then Jesse Jackson will offer both grad school scholarships.

McCartney and Graham will accept.

K said...


You've clearly been treated badly by some of the people at the Chronicle. That said, I don't think you should have published this. So McCartney doesn't understand the rules of "off the record." Regretable, considering that he is a journalist, but I think that a reasonable thing to do would have been to grant him a little slack. He didn't pull out "off the record" to smear someone else, he did because he wanted to speak to you directly.

sceptical said...

All columns at the Chronicle are required to be reviewed by an editor.


Could it have been Ryan McCartney?

(Just speculating).

Anonymous said...

Why does John waste his time with Graham, McCartney and The Chronicle?

I appeciate his work as much as anybody, but he needs to go back to reporting on the N&O's lies and DPD's.

Graham and the others at Duke will suck forever on the big green bottle the alumni keep filling up each year.

Brodhead's salary and benefits are 700K plus.

Dukies say that's just great.

Tar Heel born and bred.

Anonymous said...


I'll take your word for it that there are some honest ethical people that work at The Chronicle. However, from what I've seen from Ryan McCartney and David Graham, the paper appears to be a cesspool.

God help anyone that works there.


Anonymous said...

John, please let us dispense with the notion that you are somehow hard to identify. I learned your identity without any help from the people referenced in this story last year. Had you wished to remain anonymous, you really ought not to have purchased a domain name for yourself.

I may have mentioned it to Chronicle staffers. I imagine others might have done the same.

kbp said...

Thanks John

If they both learn to whine and always blame others for their errors just a pinch more than they presently do, they just might make it in the MSM world.

Prolly on a low base salary with a great profit sharing plan!

Seriously? said...

I realize your full name appeared in The Chronicle, but I still wonder who you think you are? When asked specifically not to post a personal e-mail, you did. The only thing Ryan McCartney did wrong was trust you enough to believe that when he asked you not to post his message on your blog, you wouldn't. Printing his e-mail was hypocritical on your part: you can't imply that David Graham outed you in an act of shameless self-promotion and then publish an e-mail seemingly under the same guise. You loved the fact that you were mentioned in David Graham's column. You were just waiting for this to happen so you could jump all over it and bring attention back to yourself. As we travel further away from the Spring of 2006, this blog plunges further into obscurity, particularly nationally. No, I'm not saying the situation surrounding Duke Lacrosse is over—far from it. But for someone who claims to be so dedicated to the truth, to holding the media accountable, to rising above whatever it is you deem as mainstream vice, I find it pathetic you would stoop to putting down college students to try to make yourself bigger. I'm only sorry David Graham gave you this opportunity to spew your Chronicle vitriol. Volume 102 of The Chronicle, led by McCartney, was recognized universally for its fairness and thoroughness in its handling of lacrosse case. Just check out this article published in the American Journalism Review:
Or is the AJR beholden to the Group of 88, too? I realize you have a bone to pick with Graham, and perhaps rightly so, but to drag Ryan's name in the mud is pretty petty and unfair.

Anonymous said...


"I may have mentioned it to Chronicle staffers."

The editor seems to have had a case of SMI ( sudden memory improvement). First he denies that he said anything, then, after being caught in the lie, he counters with a "Gee, it is so easy to find out" excuse.

Thank god for Google to help track these low lifes for the rest of their careers.


kbp said...

So what is the point of Anon 1:02's comment?

Does it make publishing a name less intentional?

Murder is okay if the victim is already injured?

Anonymous said...

Ken in Dallas:

I wrote the comment about John's identity not being terribly difficult to ascertain.

I am not Ryan McCartney.

I have no earthly idea why you would think that I am—-I certainly had no intention of implying that in my post.

I am not purporting to have knowledge of how Graham or McCartney learned John's identity. I am merely stating, for the record, that I know who John is, and I know this without the help of privileged, confidential or otherwise private information.

I am further stating that, due to the fact that I care very little for John's anonymity, I may have mentioned it to Chronicle staffers, people associated with the Chronicle, or others who may have ultimately told someone at the Chronicle.

Again, I have no idea how these editors learned John's identity. But to assert that one must have learned from the other, or that the only way one would learn John's identity is through his dissemination of the information is laughable and naive.


Anonymous said...

1:02 might have a point...if it weren't for the fact that is *not* registered to a John but instead to a James... Sounds like some people are trying to cover their muddy tracks and not doing a particularly good job at it.