Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bill Anderson on the H-S; my response

Professor and columnist William (Bill) Anderson was among the first to call "foul" in the Duke lacrosse case. In his columns and comments at Liestoppers Meeting and elsewhere he's been an insightful, informed and dedicated advocate for as much justice as possible for the hoax and frame victims.

He commented in response to Sunday's post - Durham PD & H-S's big "present" to Duke's laxers.

Bill's comment follows in full in italics, with my responses interspersed in plain.

Bill begins - - -

"Until Proven Innocent" did a pretty good job of demonstrating the complicity of the Herald-Sun in promoting and continuing the frame.

Agreed. I wish it had done the same with the Raleigh News & Observer.

As much as anything, I believe the H-S did much of its work out of fear of retaliation from Durham.

The corporate philosophy of the H-S’s owner, Paxton, and IMO the personal preference of its editor, Bob Ashley, are, to say it as nicely as possible, "to work cooperatively" with the power structures in the community.

In the Duke/Durham hoax and framing attempt, most of Durham’s power groups either leaned in support of the hoax and frame or were full-bore for them.

So I think rather than fear of retribution, it was more the Paxton/Ashley predispositions as well as the same factors that inclined much of media to follow the N&O’s witch hunt lead that influenced the H-S’s on the whole grossly biased and frequently false coverage.

Had the H-S actually spoken the truth, one can be sure that there would have been a large, organized boycott of the paper by the hard left and the NAACP. Thus, the editorial staff there sold its collective soul to the Devil.

Bill, I’m going to assume you mean particularly or wholly the editorial page staff, headed by Bob Ashley, who’s also chief editor on the news side.

Of the four papers I’ve followed on the hoax and frame stories – The Chronicle and NY Times as well as the H-S and N&O – the H-S’s editorial coverage has been far and away the worst.

I don’t know about selling their souls but, by cheerleading Nifong, by turning a blind eye to police and city official's abuses, by failing to condemn extremist threatening violence, and by slandering and libeling transparently innocent Duke students, Ashley and the other editorial writers certainly sold out Durham.

In the end, however, the H-S’s circulation is still declining; and it either will go out of business or become so tiny that it becomes even more relevant than it is now.

Early in ’09 I’ll pull together the most current H-S circulation numbers and talk to people with knowledge of Durham and the news business; and post what I learn.

Newspaper editors love to portray themselves as heroic friends of the truth who stand between tyranny and freedom. In truth, however, newspapers pretty much are the mouthpiece of government.

The Duke/Durham case is an excellent example of news orgs acting like puppies rolling on their backs to have their tummies tickled by government officials and officers.

The vast majority of "sources" for journalists come from government, and when newspapers "expose" government "malfeasance," they usually mean that government is not using as much regulatory power as the editors believe should be used.

"Yes" to what you say. And I'll bet you've noticed so many editors want government to do everything except hold them responsible for what they do.

In other words, modern newspapers pretty much are the cheerleaders for state power. They are not the "watchdogs" of government, as they like to claim; instead, they are government lapdogs. We saw this in all its ugliness in the LAX case, and the H-S played its part well.

Amen and thank you, Bill


Anonymous said...

When a newspaper in the segregated South published something "liberal" on race relations, it was often the subject of a boycott by advertisers. (And advertisers who did not join the boycott were often then themselves boycotted.)

That's a kind of forceful, if silent, pressure.

How much in advertising revenue do the Durham papers get from Duke and Duke med--the ONLY industry in town?

How much would a boycott organized by the NAACP affect the papers?

Was that kind of pressure applied? I don't know. I do know that it is odd that the papers were backing the prosecution (and the local establishment) 100%; and that none of them seemed to ask any hard questions of Nifong.

Nor have any of them attempted an expose of the case.

Considering that this was "their" story, and that they were the closest to the sources, their lack of skepticism and their later silence suggests the possibility IMHO that something may have acted to get their objectivity compass off course.

Anonymous said...

That is assuming that there was any objectivity to begin with. I believe anonymous gives too much credit to the Herald.