Sunday, May 11, 2008

NY Times spins Duke Lax eligibility

Folks, this post isn’t about just a sports situation. It also demonstrates how journalists spin stories.

We'll look at the first part of a NY Times report, with a link to the rest of it. Then we’ll look at the spin.

Under reporter Pete Thamel’s byline, The Times’ story begins - - -

When Chris Kennedy sat down last spring to write an appeal to the N.C.A.A. for 33 members of the Duke lacrosse team to be granted an extra season, he had no expectations.

Duke canceled its 2006 season after eight games in the wake of rape and sexual assault accusations against three players. The charges were later dropped. Kennedy, an associate athletic director, wrote about the campus and news media firestorms, detailing the death threats, angry protests and safety concerns that forced the university to cancel the season.

His premise was simple: “An extraordinary request for an extraordinary situation.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the 15-page plea worked. Not surprisingly, the results have loomed large over the collegiate lacrosse world and have changed the tenor of the 2008 season.

“I don’t think the N.C.A.A. put one minute’s thought into how this would affect college men’s lacrosse,” Virginia Coach Dom Starsia said. “That’s my issue. John Danowski and the boys I have no problem with.”

The N.C.A.A. granted Coach John Danowski’s players an extra year, citing “hardship endured by the team from the false allegations.”

Top-ranked Duke (16-1), with five fifth-year seniors taking advantage of the waiver, is the overwhelming favorite in the N.C.A.A. tournament, which starts Saturday. ...

The rest of Thamel’s lengthy story is here.

Now let’s look at the spin.

“The charges were later dropped.”

That’s certainly spin. The players were declared INNOCENT!

The Times knows that.

But that’s not the spin I’m referring to.

And I don’t know whether The Times' saying “safety concerns” were a factor “that forced the university to cancel the season” is spin because I don’t know whether or not Chris Kennedy made that claim to the N.C.A.A.

If you know, please let me know and I’ll follow-up.

Here's the start of the spin I’m talking about:

“I don’t think the N.C.A.A. put one minute’s thought into how this would affect college men’s lacrosse,” Virginia Coach Dom Starsia said. “That’s my issue. John Danowski and the boys I have no problem with.”
The spin begins, as it so often does, with things The Times doesn’t tell you.

For example, that on Apr. 28 Dom Starsia’s Virginia team lost at home to “John Danowski and the boys I have no problem with” 11-9.

As a result, Duke’s seeded first in the 16-team N.C.A.A. lacrosse championship bracket; Staria's Virginia is seeded second and in the opposite bracket.

Here's something else The Times doesn’t mention: If Duke were out of the way, Starsia’s Virginia team would be the favorite to win the N.C.A.A. championship.

Steady mates. There’s still more NYT spin to come.

Every sports reporter who covers lacrosse knows Starsia’s the “go to guy” if you're looking for a knock on Duke lacrosse with a self-serving add-on like: “John Danowski and the boys I have no problem with”

But The Times doesn’t tell you that, the better to spin you.

Just take a look at this May 31, 2007 ESPN story reporting the “NCAA has granted Duke's request for an extra year of eligibility for its men's lacrosse players following rape allegations that led to the cancellation of much of last season.
Virginia coach Dom Starsia, whose Cavaliers won the national championship in 2006, was unhappy with the decision, though he said it was about more than seeing some of Duke's top players possibly stick around a while longer.

"Everybody in the lacrosse world was embarrassed by what happened," he said. "But it almost feels now as if nobody's really paying for this thing. I would've been the first to say that Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty probably deserved another year. But I'm not sure that everybody involved here should be painted with the same broad brush and it just seems that's what the NCAA chose to do.

"Most of these wounds seem to be self-inflicted at Duke. I'm not sure if the institution has kind of held itself accountable for everything that happened," he added.
We can all agree Duke’s administration and trustees have inflicted wounds on the University and not held themselves accountable.

But I doubt that’s what really had Coach Starsia upset.

As for spin and Starsia as a “go to guy” for reporters like Pete Thamel and news organizations like The Times, do I need to say any more?

Hat tip: Skeptical


Anonymous said...

The New York Times has sunk so low that it barely resembles the quality newspaper once edited by Abe Rosenthal.

Duke06 said...

On an unrelated but interesting note...
(1) Our beloved Professor Karla Holloway made a very public appearance in Sunday's rain-drenched graduation ceremony as she presented one of the honorary degree recipients.

(2) The primary speaker, writer Barbara Kingsolver, proceded to torture the shivering audience with a lengthy leftist rant in which she railed colorfully against America and capitalism. There was cheering when she finished...because she finished.

bill anderson said...

Canceling the lacrosse season in 2006 was not a "self-inflicted" injury on behalf of Duke. It was a vicious action taken against innocent people by a university that has decided it would use this incident to remake itself as a leftist institution.

The lacrosse players were pawns in this movement to continue the shift to Duke as a hard-left university. The first real salvos in this were the hiring of Stanley Fish and other hard-left professors to the English department 20 years ago. Duke's leadership made it clear that any hint of a "classical" education would be dismissed as "white, Eurocentric, heterosexist, and whateverist" and had no place in the modern academy.

We see the nonsense that replaced it. Yet, this is what the leaders of higher education in this country consider to be "cutting edge." In reality, students are browbeaten harangued, and used as pawns upon which to rain propaganda, all in the name of "education."

When Brodhead canceled the lacrosse season, it was an ideological move done to make a statement: Duke would make its decisions based upon hard-left ideology and nothing else. If the lacrosse players were in the way, well that was too bad.

Anonymous said...

...and related to radicalization of the university, is the pernicious and persistent belief among the less intelligent or more leftist-oriented people outside the university that "something happened" and the lying slut Mangum was the "victim." It's all of a part that allows the rape myth to live on despite anything that has been said or done to show the utter baselessness of the initial charge. Until all these malicious and dismally ignorant people can understand and accept that there was no crime, no rape, no assault, no nothing in that lacrosse house except the birth of the myth itself, we will be constantly confronted with assertions that "something happened."
Tarheel Hawkeye

JWM said...

To Anon 12:19,

I agree and it was nice to be reminded of Abe Rosenthal.

To Duke06,

Karla Holloway, Barbara Kingsolver and rain.

Sometimes life can get pretty tough.

To Bill,

It can be hard to identify and prove motive(s). That's why I usually don't say much about motivation.

Also, in the case of Duke and the Hoax/frame/cover-up, I think there've been multiple and shifting motives.

No doubt in Spring '06 some people saw a chance to use the lies, hysteria and investigative travesties to advance their Left ideology.

At the same time others acted "to feed the beast" and get through the situation with themselves in good shape.

Still later and now there are many whose primary motive it to "make this go away."

I thank all three of you for commenting.


Anonymous said...

I've read/reread the statements, news releases etc. issued by Brodhead and other Duke officials in the Spring of 2006 which included the reasons for cancelling the lacrosse season. Concern for the safety of the players was never mentioned.

In fact, Duke's inaction and silence showed a complete lack of concern for the players' safety and well being when

-- campus protestors carried castrate banners and branded the players rapists. Members of Duke's faculty publicly thanked these protestors.

-- vigilante posters with the players' pictures were distributed around campus

-- players and the coach received threatening e-mails

-- the Black Panthers demonstrated against the players at campus entrances and made death threats to Reade inside and outside the Durham courtroom

-- players were harassed and persecuted in classrooms by certain Duke professors.

The first time that I read anything from Duke that mentioned safety as a reason for cancelling the season was in the revisionist history narrative included on Duke's revised website dedicated to the lacrosse incident. This website was established in May, 2007 after the AG declared the players innocent.


DukieInKansas said...

I would give the Virginia coach's more credence if he hadn't benefitted from the extra year of eligibility given to the Duke players - Peter Lamade is playing his "5th" year at Virginia. They also signed one of the Duke recruits that was released from is letter of intent to play lacrosse at DUke beginning in 2007.