Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why’d McClatchy’s N&O change its ID policy for Crystal Mangum?

The McClatchy newspaper chain has a policy of generously rewarding CEO Gary Pruitt and other top executives.

McClatchy’s stock’s plunged more than 90% in just a few years but Pruitt continues to receive his $1+ million base pay and various bonuses, including an $800,000 “performance bonus” last year.

While McClatchy’s hasn't changed its policy of generously rewarding Pruitt and other top executives even as its stock price crashes and it cuts its work force, McClatchy in one notable instance suddenly changed its policy regarding identifying alleged victims of sex crimes. And its never explained why.

For years McClatchy’s Raleigh News & Observer had followed the policy almost all news organizations follow: don’t ID a woman who reports she's a victim of a sex crime(s).

Instead, refer to her as “the alleged victim” or “the reported victim” until there’s been a legal determination a crime occurred; or until the person(s) accused admits to the woman’s charges.

But without any announcement or explanation to readers, the N&O in March 2006 suddenly changed its policy in response to a woman’s wildly improbable and unsubstantiated allegations she was a victim of sex crimes, allegations subsequently proven to be false.

In response to Duke hoaxer Crystal Mangum’s bogus allegations, the N&O dispensed with the use of terms such as “alleged” and “reported.” It told readers a young black mother was “a victim” who’d been gang-raped as well as beaten, strangled and robbed by three white members of the Duke Men’s lacrosse team while their teammates stood by and did nothing to stop the crimes.

In a March 25, 2006 front page headline The N&O said the crimes occurred during a night which ended in “sexual violence.”

In the story following the lurid, unqualified headline, the N&O told readers:

It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.
The N&O came under terrific criticism from fair-minded readers angry at the N&O’s racially inflammatory and unsubstantiated casting of some Duke students on the lacrosse team as vicious criminals and the other students on the team as abettors of their criminal teammates.

Perhaps in response to reader criticism or the transparent absurdity of what Mangum was charging or, more likely, some combination of the two, the N&O soon returned to using qualifiers such as “alleged” when referring to a woman charging a sex crime.

Just today senior editor Dan Barkin tells readers at the Editors’ Blog about a woman “who claims that she was raped.” Barkin informs readers:
And The News & Observer has a policy of not identifying people who allege sex crimes.
Well, OK. Glad to see the "allege" in there.

But that doesn’t explain why the N&O changed its policy in response to Crystal Mangum’s lies and dispensed with the use of terms such as “alleged.”

The N&O has never told readers why it did that.

Why not?

And shouldn't it do so now?

Hat tip: Anon commenter


Anonymous said...

Why the change? Because they wanted to sell papers by race baiting. Shameful.

Anonymous said...

It's called "having an agenda." And it's one of the myriad reasons why MSM is dying.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Will the N&O ever be held accountable?

Anonymous said...

Dont worry 9:37 N/O IS being held accountable- witness their former customer base walking away. Otherwise know as voting with your wallet.