Thursday, May 22, 2008

N&O withheld Lax cooperation news; pushed “silence” lie

On the thread of What about the Raleigh N&O's Duke Lax framing? (5/18/08) an Anon commenter @ 10:31 says in part:

Re: "the N&O’s behind-the-scenes decision to deliberately withhold from readers news it had of the players’ cooperation with police; and instead tell them the lie that the players weren’t cooperating with police" --

can you refer me to the source material for these two points? I know a N&O reporter I'd like to ask about this. Thanks.
Here's my response to Anon @ 10:31 - - -

Dear Anon @ 10:31:

Let’s look first at what was available to the N&O by the time it published it’s Mar. 25, 2006 story which laid out the trashing and framing script.

A Mar. 21 Chronicle story - "Suspects in alleged rape unidentified" - reporting on the investigation of what we now know were Crystal Mangum's lies included this:
Gottlieb said any man that attended the party March 13 would be a viable suspect but refused to go into further detail.

The residents of the house have been cooperative with DPD in locating any suspects, he added. (emphasis here and following added)
In time for Mar. 24 news reports Duke News issued a statement attributed to John F. Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. The statement headed - Statement on Duke Men's Lacrosse Team - said:
Yesterday, 46 Duke University undergraduates who are members of the men’s lacrosse team responded to a legal order from Durham authorities and traveled downtown to be photographed and provide identifying information. The authorities made the request in connection with an investigation of an alleged incident on March 14 at 610 Buchanan St. in Durham. Duke University is monitoring the situation and cooperating with officials, as are the students.
On Mar. 24 the N&O reported all 46 white members of Duke Men's lacrosse team had submitted to court-ordered police DNA testing and face and torso photographing. The story mentioned Burness' had said the players were cooperating.

But the N&O didn't mention that the NTO, signed by the now disbarred Mike Nifong's mentor and close friend Judge Ron Stephens, could’ve been appealed by each one of the 46 students, including those who weren't even at the party; and that none appealed.

The decisions of every one of the 46 players' not to appeal the NTO and instead submit to police DNA and photo evidence gathering at a time when the players had reasonable cause to question Durham Police investigators' integrity was an extraordinary example of young citizens cooperating with police.

Saying nothing about player cooperation, the N&O reported in its Mar. 25, 2006 front page, above the fold story it said was about "a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence":
...Duke officials briefed university staff Friday on the allegations, and authorities vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity

"We're asking someone from the lacrosse team to step forward," Durham police Cpl. David Addison said. "We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime."

He emphasized the seriousness of the accusations -- first-degree rape, kidnapping, assault by strangulation and robbery. ...
The entire N&O story's here.

When a newspaper has available the sources and evidence cited here confirming the players' cooperation;

and the newspaper suppresses mention of what those sources have said and what the evidence of the players' cooperation demonstrates;

and the newspaper instead tells readers unnamed "authorities [have] vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity;"

and then it quotes a police officer saying, "We're asking someone from the lacrosse team to step forward [.] "We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime[;]"

the newspaper knows its promulgating a lie.

Even if you accept the N&O’s “we were under deadline; the story wasn’t perfect” fogging over of what it did, you’re then left to explain why in subsequent stories the next few days the N&O didn’t report on the players’ cooperation, something honest journalists caught under deadline would have done in the next edition.

But look at the N&O's Duke framing coverage for Mar. 26, 27 and 28. You won't find a single mention of the players’ cooperation with police.

Instead, the N&O continued to hype the false claim of the players’ “the wall of silence” refusal to cooperate.

In its Mar. 25 and those subsequent stories the N&O also trashed the players as drunks, racists and hooligans, libels Mike Nifong used along with the “wall of silence” lie when he first began speaking publicly about the case on Mar. 27

Here’s one example of the trashing and “wall of silence” lie promulgated by the N&O: Ruth Sheehan’s Mar. 27 “Team's silence is sickening” column is based entirely on the premise the players were refusing to cooperate with police.

Full disclosure: Months later Sheehan repudiated the column. She said she'd relied on information passed to her by another or other staffer(s) at the N&O who told her the information came from Mike Nifong. At the time of the column's publication, Sheehan didn’t tell readers Nifong was the source for her column. The N&O has said nothing to confirm or deny Nifong served as an N&O anonymous source at least by Mar. 26 when Sheehan says she received the information.

I hope this has been helpful.

Now a request: If you get to talk to an N&O reporter who answers your question, please ask the reporter four questions:

1) Why, during the time period we’re talking about, didn’t the N&O report on the players’ extraordinary cooperation and instead in story after story and in Sheehan’s news column hype “the wall of silence” lie to the point that it was endangering the players as Wanted and Vigilante posters circulated at Duke and nearby?

2) When and in what detail did the N&O first report on the Lax captains’ cooperation with police on Mar. 16?

3) When did the N&O first learn of the captains’ cooperation which included voluntarily submitting to DNA testing the night of Mar. 16/17, answering all questions asked them by police without an attorney present, signing statements, helping police ID who was at the party?

4) Why hasn’t the N&O answered questions 1, 2, and 3 before now?

Thank you for commenting.


Anonymous said...

John, I went back to find this article. At the time, I was steamed about this Joe S. and Burness interview. “One-third of Duke team had previous arrest records!”
Rape controversy tarnishes Duke Campus
VP of Public Affairs, John Burness answers questions on 'Scarborough'

(Second time this statement is made)
Joe S.: I do want to ask you something that we do know about, though. [We do know that one-third of the Duke team, this Duke team from your university, had previous arrests.]