Sunday, August 10, 2008

Raleigh N & O's Edwards pretense (Part 1)

In his Aug. 3 column Raleigh News & Observer public editor Ted Vaden told readers:

The Edwards story -- or, maybe, nonstory -- is a good illustration of the dilemma the "mainstream media" increasingly face operating in a no-holds-barred, 24-7, instant-news environment. Newspapers and other media that once were news gatekeepers -- applying traditional standards of fact-finding and verification -- are finding themselves guarding the gate to a news corral that has been stampeded by bloggers, cable "news," talk radio and, in this case, tabloids. (emphasis added)
Vaden is pretending when he offers readers “traditional standards of fact-finding and verification” as excuses for the N&O’s failure to tell readers anything about the Edwards affair scandal until July 31 and not very much after that until Edwards himself told his “story” on ABC to Bob Woodruff.

The N&O didn’t apply any standard of fact-finding or verification when it reported on Mar. 25, 2006 on its front page above the fold the accusations of the Duke lacrosse accuser, who the N&O said was granted anonymity because that was N&O policy for “victims of sex crimes.”

Crystal Mangum a “victim” of “sex crimes?”

“Sure, she is. I read it in the N&O. They fact-checked and verified it. What do you think they publish at 215 S. McDowell? A tabloid? You’re not starting to read blogs again, are you? You know how Mr. Vaden is always warning us about that.”

The N&O’s Mar. 25 story which it told readers without any qualification to suggest doubt was about Mangum's “ordeal” which ended “finally in sexual violence” included Mangum’s claim she was new to dancing before men.

In fact, as was then widely known, she’s been stripping at “gentlemen’s clubs” and serving as a “private escort” for years.

The N&O knew that. It had reported as far back as June 2002 Mangum’s theft of a car from a man she’d lapped danced for at a “gentlemen’s club.”

Also in the Mar. 25 story, the N&O reported Mangum’s account of entering, with the second dancer, the house where the lacrosse party was held and being immediately surrounded by men “barking” racial slurs. “We were so scared. We started to cry.”

But no one who was in the house that night has ever verified the N&O’s “barking” racial slurs report, which was so critical in stirring racial animosity in our community and poisoning the public’s mind against the Duke students.

The N&O has never retracted and apologized for publishing either false claim. Instead, it continues to hide its failure to fact-check and verify with the “police report” excuse.

This from Vaden’s Apr. 2, 2006 column:
But let's talk more about the anonymous interview. [Editor Linda] Williams said editors and the reporter discussed the fairness issue at length before interviewing the woman and publishing the story. The governing decision, she said, was to print only information from the interview that conformed with the police reports. (emphasis added)
The N&O has never referred readers to any police report containing information that Mangum was new to dancing before men or that the men inside the house barked racial slurs.

None of the attorneys who obtained discovery material and no one at the state attorney general’s office where the entire Duke frame-up attempt case file was reviewed has ever reported finding any such police reports.

Most people familiar with the case and the N&O's Mar. 25 story, including journalists, tell me the N&O must have made up “the police reports” claim to hide the falsity of its “new to dancing” and "barking racial slurs” reports.

Otherwise, they say, the N&O would have produced copies of the reports or directed readers where to find them.

Police reports are, afterall, public records.

Folks, I want to continue with this post, but I’m going to break off now to spend some time with my family.

I’ll continue this post this evening.

Thank you for your patience.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean the N&O is pulling a John Edwards?
Is it possible the editors of the paper didn't do any research on Mangum and were unaware of the 2002 incident? Why do research and fact-checking if it would interfere with the storyline (or metanarrative) you prefer?

Anonymous said...

A name you'll recall: