Sunday, April 27, 2008

Duke’s Chronicle Outs JinC

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.

“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.”
A number of TC readers have already responded to soon to be Chronicle Reporter Graham’s column on the comment thread here.

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.


Anonymous said...

So now we know where David Graham stands on the subject of ethics in journalism.

And should he ever decide to pursue a career in such, we need to make sure that his sources are ALERTED that he will sell them out in a moment if it curries favor with the PC crowd.

Such cowardice!

Makes me wonder is he and Kirsten Butler even went to the same school.

But just as Kirsten had her standards before she got there, I suspect David had his too.

Such a pity.

JinC will be fine. David is the looser.

Anonymous said...

I hope that any time this fool applies for a job, this column becomes the reason for a rejection. This was nothing more than an immature, childish response by a thin-skinned fool who has no real appreciation for what a reporter is supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Like JinC (and unlike young Mr. Graham), I'm a grown up and I assume anything I do online could under some circumstances at some point in time be followed back to me. I am therefore responsible for whatever I do whether anyone knows my name or not.

Likewise, if someone has intentionally damaged the LS site and there is a law against what they have done, I hope they won't whine if they are exposed.

Exposure may be unwelcomed and inconvenient but at least JinC has nothing to be ashamed of, only good work to be credited with.

Anonymous said...

The counter offensive has begun. Duke strikes back.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that we can always find the fact that this former david graham TC editor outed a requested confidential source on GOOGLE.

sceptical said...

As I noted in a comment in the Chronicle about Graham's article, Graham's actions in "outing" the identity of John is highly unprofessional. But it is not surprising from a young man who by all accounts is a weasel; at least he is no longer Editor of the Chronicle.

On another topic, the Media and Blog thread by abb usually posted on LieStoppers Forum is available at:

I hope LS Forum will be back up soon.

Anonymous said...

Graham is obviously in training to become a New York Slimes hack. They richly deserve each other. As for ethics, Graham wouldn't make a wart on JinC's backside.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

I don't know how anyone at TC, the Duke student body, and/or other readers of TC can take this newspaper seriously again. Many months ago there was an article written by Chelsea Allison, now obviously referring to herself as "Boobs" (wishful thinking on her part, I'm sure) about having attended a sex toy party/sale much like one would attend a Tupperware party. This party was held on campus at The Women's Center. I have not kept up with her journalistic endeavors since then because I did not consider Allison a serious journalist after the appearance of that article. Now she is the editor and puppet of the Brodhead/Steel regime so I would expect that whatever she writes will certainly "be bad enough" to suit the emperor. We may never see the likes of Stephen Miller again at TC until the hoaxters are vanquished.

laxmom said...

As a mother of a Duke lacrosse player, David Graham is just another individual without ethics in Durham and Duke. It is what the "blogs" have been fighting against for over two years now. All we wanted from the start, was for indiviudals at Duke and Durham to do the right thing. Apparently, Mr. Graham subscribes to the the same ethical standards as Duke and Durham, NONE. Also, like Duke and Durham, he has hurt his profession, journalism. The first year of the Duke Hoax, The Chronicle was at the the forefront on investigative journalism. With Mr. Graham as editor, we have seen a detoriation in objectivity. What we have also seen in the last year is that people of integrity will win so long as they stay the course. Mr. Graham, with his childish outing, has shown the world who he is and he will have to live with it. His colleagues, Steven Miller and Kristin Butler and the rest of The Chronicle staff, must be so embarrassed by his behavior. Like so many others at Duke and Durham, David Graham is a coward. At least he understands that the Duke Hoax is not going away until all the unethical cowards are exposed. He can take comfort that he is just one of many of them.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Google, the magic tool that will tell any interested party exactly what sort of person Mr Graham is, was, and always will be.

Anonymous said...

John: Don't let the bastards get you down.

Anonymous said...


I imagine that David Graham feels he has won some sort of victory. It will be short lived.

He will feel the stilted uncomfortable conversations start almost immediately. Those jourmalists who see the stain (regardless of their politics)will give him the silent treatment. Others will "have other things to do" after short conversations. He has entered into a hell of his own making. The pain will increase with each passing day.

At some point, he will beg forgiveness with a public apology.

I don't envy him.


kbp said...

Thanks John

This resembles something like the little boy that snitches on his friends because he lost the game, then later he realizes they may never let him play again.

The end result:
He has play with himself. ;)

drew said...

John, I will not belittle in any way your own reasons for wishing to remain anonymous. They’re your reasons, and you’re welcome to them. Having said that, it would be presumptuous of me (or anyone else who rely on the anonymity of blog-comment posting) to expect that you continue your “work” unabated. I am glad to see that you appear to have “brushed off” your “outing”, and that you will continue the good fight; I would also, however, respect you if you shied away, preferring to keep your “public” self and your family out of this mess.

Likewise, I will not comment on who fired the first shot in this little skirmish regarding “on-record”, “off-record” and “anonymous”. It doesn’t matter one bit – the Chronicle learned of your identity under an agreement to keep that information in confidence, and failed to live up to that bargain. If, in the fullness of time, we learn that you had agreed to keep Mr. Graham’s writings off the record, I would feel that you had failed to live up to that bargain. But I suspect that the truth is largely as it appears right now – Mr. Graham saw an opportunity to take a parting shot at someone who he deemed to be a more-than-occasional pest, and he did so. In the grand scheme of things, this is not something that will change the course of history. But it is something that could change the course of JinC’s history, and Mr. Graham should be subject to the appropriate level of scorn and derision.

Others here and on the Chronicle’s comments thread have noted the power of Google regarding Mr. Graham’s actions. His action may well live with him for some time, and (in fact) cause him greater harm than he might have intended for you. Rest assured, however, that is wasn’t you who created the “problem” of his credibility in the long run; it was he. We’re all responsible for our own actions in the long run, and (unfortunately) Mr. Graham may well learn that lesson the hard way, and very soon.

Stay on the high road, and please take comfort from the exhortations of your commenters that we welcome your persistence, and your discretion and wisdom. Mr. Graham’s outing of JinC is just a small bump on the road, not the pothole he would apparently prefer.

Anonymous said...

This little chap sounds like a “Bitter” journalist to me. He is clueless about good journalism, just like the others of his “ilk.”

He is studying at Duke to work in a dying business. That bit of information explains a lot.

As far as “…by all accounts [he] is a weasel ,” that comparison is being unkind to weasels. My dad has a saying for people like this, “They have to look up to see a snake crawling on the ground.”

I also suspect he is a “Changeling” unhappy that you discuss his prophets’ sermons!

sceptical said...

David Graham did not act alone in unprofessionally "outing" John-in-Carolina's identity.

All columns at the Chronicle are reveiwed by at least one editor prior to publication.


Anonymous said...

David Graham looks like a child in The Chronicle picture. Don't make us call NC CPS John. He is only a student in college, not a professional liar, yet.