While researching for future posts I read at the Raleigh N&O’s Editors’ Blog a post by now senior editor Linda Williams titled "March 25 interview"
Williams posted on Oct. 5, 2006. She attempted to explain decisions the N&O made concerning its now discredited, deliberately fraudulent March 25, 2006 story headlined:
Dancer gives details of ordealAs you’ll see if you go to the post thread, readers immediately challenged Williams. They pointed out facts she’d misstated and inconsistencies between what she claimed were N&O journalistic practices and what the paper actually did.
A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence
Williams did not respond.
Instead, the then executive editor for news Melanie Sill began commenting.
While criticizing readers for their anonymity and praising the N&O for its Duke lacrosse coverage, Sill failed to provide data refuting the many reasoned, fact-based commenters who’d challenged Williams.
As an example of what I’m talking about and because it’s very relevant to today, I want to publish here a comment I made on the thread and then below the star line add some further comments.
Comment from: John [Visitor] • http://www.johnincarolina.com
10/16/06 at 16:01
I've 10 questions for you:
At 10/06/06 at 15:40 above you say:
“We got the woman identified as the victim and interviewed her. As Linda notes, it wasn't an extensive or extensively planned interview -- it was boots on the street hustle to track down the key players.”
1) In the Durham community with 250,000 people, “boots on the street” didn’t lead you to the accuser.
Someone who knew who she was and where she was led you to her either directly or with address information. Most likely the person(s) was someone who could reach the accuser quickly and “arrange” for the interview. Who was that person(s)?
2) What was that person’s motive for leading your reporter to the accuser?
3) Was that person a member of either the Durham Police Department (I include as a member of the DPD Cpl. David Addison who, while assigned full-time to CrimeStoppers, is a sworn DPD officer) or the Durham District Attorney’s office, including DA Nifong?
4) Was the interview audio taped, which is common practice with an interview of such critical importance, especially as what was said could be relevant to a then ongoing police investigation and possible subsequent indictments and trials?
5) If the interview was audio taped, what can you tell us about the custody and condition of the tape; and whether there is anything about the technical nature of the tape that would prevent you from releasing it to the public with only the accuser and her family’s IDs removed?
6) If the interview was not audio taped, why not?
7) You say you didn’t publish those parts of the interview that concerned remarks made by the accuser about the second dancer, Kim Roberts, because the remarks were unsubstantiated.
But as many readers on this thread have demonstrated, you published a great number of unsubstantiated statements you say the accuser made about the lacrosse players.
Whose interests are you serving by refusing to inform the public of the parts of the interview you suppressed on Mar. 25?
8) On what day did the N&O first learn of the extensive, voluntary cooperation the three Duke lacrosse captains provided police on Mar. 16, including signed statements, going to DUMC for “rape kit” testing, helping police ID and locate others who were at the party, etc?
9) On what day and in what detail did the N&O report to readers the cooperation the captains provided the police and the fact that the court order for 46 lacrosse players to submit to DNA testing and “mug photos” could have been appealed, but that not a single one of the 46 exercised his right of appeal (not even the ones who weren’t in Durham the night of the party)?
10) What’s your definition of news suppression?
Yes, Melanie, some of the questions are repeats I first asked months ago. It's time you answered them.
Editor Sill never responded.
Eighteen months after I posted that comment and more than two years after I and many others began asking those question, they remain unanswered by anyone speaking for the N&O on the record.
With regard to Question 7 - “Whose interests are you serving by refusing to inform the public of the parts of the interview you suppressed on Mar. 25?” – I want to say the following:
On April 12, 2007, the day after AG Roy Cooper declared the three wrongly indicted young men innocent, the N&O ran a story, Contradictions tore case apart, reporting, among other things, statements it said the accuser made in her Mar. 24, 2006 interview with N&O reporter Samiha Khanna. The Apr. 12 story under Khanna’s byline and with Joe Neff listed as a contributor included this:
…She did not give details but maintained that she had been raped. Mangum said that although she did not witness it, she thought the second dancer was sexually assaulted but didn't come forward because she would lose her job as an escort.The N&O withheld that critically important news, exculpatory for the players, from its Mar. 25, 2006 framing story about an “ordeal” which ended in “sexual violence.”
"I got the feeling she would do just about anything for money," Mangum said of the second dancer, Kim Roberts. …
In it’s April 12, 2007 finally reporting that news, the N&O offered no reason for why it had withheld it for thirteen months. In fact, the Khanna/Neff story makes no mention that Mangum's statements were withheld from its Mar. 25 story and that N&O readers were reading about them for the first time. (That's slick, yes; disgusting, too)
Why did the N&O withhold for thirteen months such important news? Whose interests did that serve?
Why did the N&O only disclose what Mangum had said the day after the players had been declared innocent? Whose interests did that serve?
Why hasn’t the N&O answered any of the questions I asked Melanie Sill on the March 25 interview post thread? Whose interests does it serve for the N&O to keep silent on those questions.
And, finally, why do some people keep saying the N&O’s Duke Hoax coverage has been wonderful except for a few days in March 2006?