As Regulars here know I publish pseudonymously as have many others including Mark Twain and some of our founders.
Honesty and reasonableness are what I strive to bring you; and if I do that, what harm is there in allowing me some privacy?
And who can't understand my wanting to stay as much as possible out of the line of fire of people who trashed the students on Duke's Men's and Women's lacrosse teams, their coaches, their families and others who spoke up for them?
From time to time I’ve disclosed to someone my identity when I thought doing so could serve a useful purpose.
One of those times was in the fall of 2006 when I disclosed it to Ryan McCartney, then editor of Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle (TC), and currently its editorial page editor.
I’d called McCartney to complain about: 1) TC’s failure to editorially condemn those who’d threatened Reade Seligmann, circulated “Vigilante” posters on campus, etc.; and 2) to ask TC to explain why it hadn’t asked the Brodhead administration and the trustees to explain why they’d remained silent in those circumstances.
McCartney said TC was working hard to understand the Duke lacrosse case. He asked that I give TC time to “get it right.”
That call led to a series of calls and emails between us, during which McCartney asked if I’d disclose my identity.
I know there’s a risk any time you disclose to someone something you don’t want disclosed to others.
But McCartney was very strong in affirming his respect and TC’s respect for a source’s confidentiality. Given that and our being in contact frequently, it seemed only fair I disclose.
The invitation was McCartney’s; the responsibility for disclosing was and remains mine alone.
It was from McCartney that this year’s TC editor, David Graham, learned my identity.
Graham has taken offense at some of my posts. (Regulars know in some posts I’ve been critical of things TC has done or failed to do, while in other posts I’ve praised TC reporters', columnists' and editors' work.)
A few months back Graham called quite upset over a post and brought up the matter of why I should be able to post “anonymously” as he put it. He said he didn’t see why he shouldn’t go ahead and reveal my identity.
I reminded him that he’d learned of my identity after I’d given it to McCartney on the basis of a pledge of confidentiality. He seemed to accept that.
I also offered to send him three posts I’d previously sent him in Aug. 2007 which directly concerned him and the ethical treatment of sources promised anonymity by TC. ( See To The Chronicle’s New Editor (8/5/07), The Chronicle & “off the record” (8/9/07), and The Chronicle & “off the record” (Post 2) 8/12/07)
I asked Graham to email his response once he’d reread the posts. He said he would.
I didn’t hear from Graham for some weeks, so I sent a follow-up email to which he responded with an invitation I call him.
I emailed back saying I preferred he respond to the posts via email. Graham emailed saying he wouldn’t do that. (I’ll publish the email exchanges tomorrow.)
Subsequently, I was outed by TC.
The first time was on Apr. 1 in a front-page story giving my name and what TC led readers to believe were my higher education credentials.
The Apr. 1 TC story was under a “Boobs Allison” byline.
Because Apr. 1 college newspaper stories are often the result of staffs thinking they're smart and funny when they’re just witless and silly, I decided to ignore what TC did.
However, I did wonder then as I do now whether Chelsea Allison, this year’s University Editor and next year’s Editor, had something to do with “Boobs Allison” outing me; or whether someone(s) on TC's staff decided to “fool” Allison by using her surname in the byline.
The second time TC outed me was in Graham’s final column as Editor on Apr. 23 which you can read in full here. Graham, a Junior, will be a TC reporter next year.
Among other things, Graham told readers how much he was looking forward to getting back to working for TC as a news reporter:
"I will relinquish the editor's desk and return to the newsroom. All over this campus, there are issues to report, sources to interview and stories to file. I can’t wait."That was after Graham had disclosed he knew:
“[T]here 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.A number of TC readers have already responded to soon to be Chronicle Reporter Graham’s column on the comment thread here.
“I especially await the input of the cowardly ones who comment anonymously-John Matthews, Trinity '69 and Grad '76 and '84, who blogs as John in Carolina, and his ilk.”
It's a very thoughtful thread. I thank everyone on it who has said positive things about my work. That meant a lot. I also appreciate those on the thread who pointed out to Graham who he was really hurting.
There’s a lot more I’ll be saying about TC, source confidentiality, those Graham calls my "ilk,” and Duke under BOT Chair Bob Steel and President Dick Brodhead.
For now a few brief but very important wrap-up comments:
First, none of us should judge all TC staffers by the standards of Graham and others like him.
There are many very able, hard-working and ethical young journalism practitioners at TC who provide the Duke/Durham community with fine, even at times outstanding, news coverage.
They do so often under very difficult circumstances demanding a high degree of moral courage.
In the past few years I’ve posted often citing and praising their work.
I’ll post in the next day or two with summaries and links to some of those posts.
Second, “weep not for me.” I’ve been outed before.
While I don’t like it and it upsets my family, in a world where children get cancer and our troops and their families make great sacrifices for our freedoms – even unto death - a few outings by TC are no big deal.
Third, the outings though are a big deal for all of us who look to TC for carefully sourced journalism on important topics we can’t get elsewhere at Duke or in Durham.
We can count on the “news” that President Brodhead “did an outstanding job again this year” and that “everyone’s excited by the BOT’s support for Dick” from those nice people paid to provide just that news.
But where can we turn to for an explanation of why Brodhead didn’t meet with the parents or why he withheld from us the information he had on March 25 about the lacrosse players’ extraordinary cooperation with police?
And speaking of police, where do we go for the news that there’s a double standard as regards DPD’s treatment of Duke students or that morale and other staffing problems at DUPD make the campus and its surrounding areas less safe than they should be?
TC at its best has reported in news stories and news columns on those stories with more detail, clarity, force and out-front opining than either the Durham Herald Sun or the Raleigh News & Observer.
For those kinds of stories TC staffers must rely on sources who often demand and expect confidentiality.
Folks, I don't have to spell the rest of it out for you, do I?
It’s so sad that while Graham meant to strike at me, those he hurt most were the honest, able journalists at TC striving to dig for news and all of us who benefit when they do.
I wonder if Graham knows that.
Graham’s entire column is here; the comment thread is here.
I hope you read both. I’ll be interested to read what you post on the thread and/or here.
Caution note: Liestoppers Forum was hacked today.
As most of you know, LS Forum has been in the forefront of the fight for truth and justice for those of whom President Brodhead said “whatever they did was bad enough.
And it’s been in the forefront of the fight for everyone else who doesn’t want to live in a police state where the people sworn to uphold the law and given guns, badges, arrest and prosecution powers frame innocent people.
I’m working to do my part to lend a hand to LS and the Forum.
So I may be a little late with the next post concerning Graham and TC outings.
But stay tuned. There’ll be more.
Now it's your turn.