The Raleigh News & Observer should have owned the John Edwards scandal story but its reporting was months late, weak and, in at least one notable instance, glaringly wrong. (It claimed on Aug. 8 no less the Enquirer’s Beverly Hilton tryst story was anonymously sourced. See here for details.)
In one of two row back columns “explaining” why the N&O was silent about the story for months, executive editor John Drescher said:
The report was sketchy, apparently from a single anonymous source. It did not name the woman and was disputed by Edwards and Hunter. We decided it didn't make the cut for the print paper.Wow!
So a public denial of an affair by the liberal/leftist John Edwards who the N&O said was the “hometown candidate” with a good chance of being the next President “didn’t make the cut for the print paper.”
OK, let’s write that down.
But we still have to ask: What does make “the cut” at the N&O?
Well, on March 28, 2006 fifteen members of Duke University’s Men’s lacrosse team made the N&O’s “cut.”
A front page story – "15 players had prior charges" – by reporter Ben Niolet began:
In the past three years, about a third of the members of the Duke lacrosse team, under investigation in a reported gang rape, have been charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior, court records show.Accompanying the story were the students names, ages, the charges and their dispositions.
Of the team's 47 members, 15 faced charges including underage alcohol possession, having open containers of alcohol, loud noise and public urination. …
Among the 15 students named were two who’d been found not guilty by a judge. Still, they made “the cut” along with the other 13.
By the standards of fair and honest journalism, the students should not have been named and their prior charges published. The N&O was engaging in smear journalism.
Drescher, Niolet and others at the N&O knew the students had been listed as “suspects” in what attorneys not connected with the case has already called an unusually vague and broad NTO request; and which we now know was also fraudulent.
Drescher, Niolet and the others knew the only suspect description cited in the NTO that mattered was “white.” Membership on the lacrosse team didn’t make you a suspect; the black member of the team was exempted from the NTO.
Other than “white,” there were no physical descriptions or evidence cited in the NTO request that linked to any of the 15 students.
For all 15 students, the N&O had only the same, one-word, “sketchy” description: “white.”
But they made "the cut."
When the N&O referred to the 15 students as “a third of the members of the Duke lacrosse team, under investigation in a reported gang rape,” the N&O knew the gang-rape charge came “from a single anonymous source.”
What’s more, the N&O had interviewed that anonymous source; and it knew she’d lied during the interview. (She told the N&O she was new to dancing before groups of men. But the N&O had reported in June 2002 she was lap dancing at a “gentlemen’s club.” However, for reasons it’s never disclosed, the N&O withheld that information from the public for weeks.)
John Edwards’ public denial of an affair “didn’t make the [N&O’s] cut,” but the 15 students did. In fact they made the front page.
The N&O describes itself as “fair and accurate.” It says its Duke lacrosse coverage was “outstanding.”