Wednesday, March 25, 2009

N&O Still Stonewalls On Mar. 25, 2006 Duke Frame Story

At the Raleigh N&O’s Editors’ Blog there's an Oct. 5, 2006 post by now senior editor Linda Williams titled "March 25 interview"

Williams' post attempts to explain decisions the N&O made concerning its now discredited, deliberately fraudulent March 25, 2006 story headlined:

Dancer gives details of ordeal

A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence
As you’ll see if you go to the post thread, readers immediately challenged Williams. They pointed out facts she’d misstated and inconsistencies between what she claimed were N&O journalistic practices and what the paper actually did.

Williams did not respond to the readers.

Instead, the then executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, began commenting.

After criticizing readers for their anonymity and praising the N&O for its Duke lacrosse coverage, Sill failed to provide data refuting the many reasoned, fact-based commenters who’d challenged Williams.

As an example of what I’m talking about and because it’s very relevant to today, I want to share a comment I made on the thread, after which I'll add some further comments below the star line.

Comment from: John [Visitor] •
10/16/06 at 16:01

Dear Melanie,

I've 10 questions for you:

At 10/06/06 at 15:40 above you say:

“We got the woman identified as the victim and interviewed her. As Linda notes, it wasn't an extensive or extensively planned interview -- it was boots on the street hustle to track down the key players.”

1) In the Durham community with 250,000 people, “boots on the street” didn’t lead you to the accuser.

Someone who knew who she was and where she was led you to her either directly or with address information. Most likely the person(s) was someone who could reach the accuser quickly and “arrange” for the interview.

Who was that person(s)?

2) What was that person’s motive for leading your reporter to the accuser?

3) Was that person a member of either the Durham Police Department (I include as a member of the DPD Cpl. David Addison who, while assigned full-time to CrimeStoppers, is a sworn DPD officer) or the Durham District Attorney’s office, including DA Nifong?

4) Was the interview audio taped, which is common practice with an interview of such critical importance, especially as what was said could be relevant to a then ongoing police investigation and possible subsequent indictments and trials?

5) If the interview was audio taped, what can you tell us about the custody and condition of the tape; and whether there is anything about the technical nature of the tape that would prevent you from releasing it to the public with only the accuser and her family’s IDs removed?

6) If the interview was not audio taped, why not?

7) You say you didn’t publish those parts of the interview that concerned remarks made by the accuser about the second dancer, Kim Roberts, because the remarks were unsubstantiated.

But as many readers on this thread have demonstrated, you published a great number of unsubstantiated statements you say the accuser made about the lacrosse players.

Whose interests are you serving by refusing to inform the public of the parts of the interview you suppressed on Mar. 25?

8) On what day did the N&O first learn of the extensive, voluntary cooperation the three Duke lacrosse captains provided police on Mar. 16, including signed statements, going to DUMC for “rape kit” testing, helping police ID and locate others who were at the party, etc?

9) On what day and in what detail did the N&O report to readers the cooperation the captains provided the police and the fact that the court order for 46 lacrosse players to submit to DNA testing and “mug photos” could have been appealed, but that not a single one of the 46 exercised his right of appeal (not even the ones who weren’t in Durham the night of the party)?

10) What’s your definition of news suppression?

Yes, Melanie, some of the questions are repeats of ones I first began asking months ago.

It's time you answered them.





Sill never responded.

Almost three years after I and many others first began asking those question, they remain unanswered by anyone speaking for the N&O on the record.

Regarding Question 7 - “Whose interests are you serving by refusing to inform the public of the parts of the interview you suppressed on Mar. 25?”:

On April 12, 2007, the day
after AG Roy Cooper declared the three wrongly indicted young men innocent, the N&O ran a story, Contradictions tore case apart, reporting, among other things, statements it said the accuser made in her Mar. 24, 2006 interview with N&O reporter Samiha Khanna.

The Apr. 12 story under Khanna’s byline and with Joe Neff listed as a contributor included the following:
…She did not give details but maintained that she had been raped. Mangum said that although she did not witness it, she thought the second dancer was sexually assaulted but didn't come forward because she would lose her job as an escort.

"I got the feeling she would do just about anything for money," Mangum said of the second dancer, Kim Roberts. …
The N&O withheld that critically important news, exculpatory for the players, from its Mar. 25, 2006 framing story about an “ordeal” which ended in “sexual violence.”

In it’s April 12, 2007 story finally reporting that news, the N&O offered no reason for why it had withheld it for thirteen months.

In fact, the Khanna/Neff story makes no mention that Mangum's statements were withheld from its Mar. 25 story and that N&O readers were reading about them for the first time. (That's slick, yes; disgusting, too)

Why did the N&O withhold for thirteen months such important news? Whose interests did that serve?

Why did the N&O only disclose what Mangum had said the day
after the players had been declared innocent? Whose interests did that serve?

Why hasn’t the N&O answered any of the questions I asked Melanie Sill on the March 25 interview post thread? Whose interests does it serve for the N&O to keep silent on those questions three years after the story first appeared?

Finally, with the N&O refusing to answer the above questions, how can some people keep saying the N&O’s news reporting of the Duke hoax, frame-up attempt and the ongoing cover-up has been outstanding except for a few days in March 2006?


Anonymous said...

Publisher Quarles should answer these very good questions. The N&O's strategy of stonewalling has apparently paid off, however — no consequences for a journalistic travesty, for libeling the three falsely accused players or for casting the entire team in a false light.

xutag77 said...

You will get no answers, too much legal liability.

I think they get will not get off without consequences. They will be the next target of the players after the Duke case is settled.

Anonymous said...

AIG insures Durham. I wonder who insures N&O???
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Anyone who knows anything about libel law knows the paper has zero exposure here. No lawyer would take the case.

Anonymous said...

Zero exposure, huh? The three players weren't public figures under the legal definition.

Anonymous said...


When are you going to expose Taylor and Johnson's UPI crawl into bed with the N&O?

You've lost a lot of respect from people who know what the N&O did and know you know.

We don't all live in Wonderland.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to attack Durham in Wonderland because of a different view. Professor Johnson appreciates the work of Joe Neff, as many of us do. He's simply not as familiar with the early N&O role as John in Carolina is. Both the DiW and JiC sites have been invaluable in exposing the frame of the lacrosse players. They don't need to agree on everything.

Anonymous said...

Not public figures? Doubtful. That definition is quite broad. I imagine anyone the Durham police named or hauled in, or who even was on the team would qualify as a public figure.

Courts have given tremendous leeway to news outlets in this regard, rightfully so. First Amendment law favors the right to publish in almost every instance.

Anonymous said...

To the 1.35:
When the players were first framed, they were not in any sense public figures. It was the notoriety from the media coverage that subsequently made them so. First amendment cases have consistently made that distinction. Please go back to the N&O and ask them to give you some more kool-aid.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Before they were framed, no. But the very fact of their framing made them public figures. And the bad luck of being on that team and at that party. In America, people can't choose when to be written about.

Think momentarily: If one accepts the idea that these guys aren't public figures, then every time this blog or Liestoppers or K.C. Johnson or anyone connects them with the case, that would be a slander. But obviously, everyone writes about them with no fear of a libel suit stemming from an Internet slander. That's because their involvement with the case, however unwilling, made them public figures. And everyone knows this instinctively.

Seriously, you can argue all you want about how the paper did. But there just isn't a libel case here. Otherwise, one would have been filed long ago. They are nearly impossible to win, and that's good for news outlets, free comment and democracy.

Anonymous said...

John, I am probably your only reader that wasn’t aware of this index to the Duke lacrosse case, and it is a good source of links for a quick check, or to refresh your memory. Your blog is cited many times.
A ha Bloging

Anonymous said...

All very interesting.

So why did the N&O cover-up for more than a year the news it had from Mangum on Mar. 24, 2006 that she'd said Roberts had been raped at the party too?

Just asking.

Anonymous said...

To the 2.03:
Very mushy logic. The fact remains that when the N&O wrote the incendiary and false reports of the players' action, the players were private citizens, not public figures. It was only because they were publicly defamed by the New York Times and the News & Observer that they became so-called public figures. Hence, a libel suit is still a viable option. Just because one hasn't been filed as of today doesn't mean there isn't one just over the horizon. And that is what the N&O attorneys are concerned about. If they were free from concern over libel, why won't they admit that their first reports were knowingly wrong--and libelous? Sorry, troll, you can't win on this one,
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. I'm just a Libertarian who believes that the Constitution gives us largely untrammeled freedom. Even newspapers.

And perhaps you're right. Perhaps someone will sue The N&O. But I strongly doubt it.

Best of luck cultivating your civility.

Anonymous said...

Tarheel Hawkeye is correct. The lacrosse players were not public figures, under the legal definition, when they were slimed, libeled and falsely accused by the McClatchy-owned Raleigh newspaper. Other torts might also apply. The false light tort, for example. Obviously, the entire team was cast in a false light by publisher Quarles' newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Couple of salient points:

Here's a handy definition that speaks to this situation:

"A person can become an 'involuntary public figure' as the result of publicity, even though that person did not want or invite the public attention. For example, people accused of high profile crimes may be unable to pursue actions for defamation even after their innocence is established, on the basis that the notoriety associated with the case and the accusations against them turned them into involuntary public figures. '

As far as I can tell, the paper didn't use Seligmann's and Finnerty's names until they were arrested April 17. They were clearly public figures then.

Dave Evans was named earlier, because his lawyer complained publicly that his client was being slimed by Nifong. But, of course, Evans lived at the house where the supposed crime occurred. Which ropes him into the category of involuntary public figure.

So, while you may hate what the paper wrote, there will never be a libel suit on those grounds.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 12.45 sez:
"The Constitution gives us largely untrammelled freedom. Even newspapers." Our self-described Libertarian friend apparently believes newspapers have some higher and more sacrosanct freedom than do individual citizens. Speaking myself as a Libertarian, such an interpretation flies in the face of every thing that has ever been spoken or written on the subject of freedom and rights.
In the first place, there was never a crime committed, so any argument hinged on "high profile crimes," as another poster has noted, doesn't wash either. If this was a valid argument, any newspaper could conspire with any crooked prosecutor to ruin whomever they desired and nothing could be done about it. Is this what ibertarians believe? I think not.
The N&O pushed the false story regardless of the fact that even a cursory investigation would have shown that Mangum's story was flat-out lies. By knowingly giving undue and excessive publicity to a non-crime, the N&O violated not only the rules of good journalism, but, I believe, civil law.
To my knowledge, Libertarians value individual rights much more than collective rights, so newspapers and other media have to get in line behind us. Sorry you don't like my brand of civility; they say John Adams and Thomas Paine were considered uncivil, too.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how papers in different countries (due to the law) handle explosive cases. My husband spends quite a bit of time in Austria on business. Of course the Fritzl case was a huge story (this is the man who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years, raped her and had seven (?) children by her (one died) and he took three of them to have his wife raise and left the others in the subterranean prison he had constructed for his daughter - it was only when one daughter became very ill and was taken to the hospital that the imprisoned rape victim-daughter was able to get free and the case broke - Frizl was recently incarcerated for life after pleading guilty). However, he said during the entire proceedings, neither the accused (Frizl) or the victims (his daughter who was raped or the subsequent children of the rapes) were ever identified by more than an initial. That is because Austrian law prohibits the identification of either accused or accusor. It is their way of preserving the rights of all until the legal system has had its say.
Think for a moment if that had been the practice in the Duke case. No media frenzy, no Nifong playing to the public to garner votes for his campaign, no pot bangers and more likely than not no Group of 88 petition. The allegations could have been investigated thoroughly, exculpatory evidence could have been reviewed (as it should have been), there would have been no need for the university to throw a coach and its players and students under the bus (as it so willingly did), and perhaps, just perhaps, the allegations would have been found early on to have been totally without merit (as they eventually were)minus the enormous heartache and expense (plus the real fear experienced by RCD and their families that the railroading that they were experiencing would lead to imprisonment and more likely than not death - because they would be targets for inmates).
The NY Times, the N&O, the Herald Sun, Newsweek, Time Magazine, the cable and big three electronic media fanned the flames and bear a huge responsibility in what happened. They were more than eager to repeat without any serious investigation the story of a young single black mother who was trying to better her life by attending school but who was forced to make ends meet by serving as an "exotic dancer" and who was "ravaged" by drunken rich white athletes shouting racial slurs. They were more than willing to give a corpulent prosecutor who was running to be elected to a post to which he had been appointed (and for which he said he would not run) a forum to race and class bait. They were more than willing to publicize the Group of 88 and their activities and present those as the view of the student body of Duke and its faculty. They were more than willing to imtimate that "there must be something" because of the actions taken by the Duke administration. There was no real attempt (the late Ed Bradley was really the only notable exception - along with a couple of Fox reporters) on the part of the media to stop and ask hard questions. Instead, they were more than willing to pursue another Tawana Brawley type case because it would show how times had changed - rich white male athletes (the villains in today's world) would be excoriated and the young, black, single mother who was desperately trying to improve her life would be sanctified. The problem was - the press, those who pride themselves on digging for the truth and be the guardians of all - were more than willing to accept the story spun by the prosecutor and reiterated (if not by words but by action)by the Duke administration but that story was wrong. It was the white, upper midle class, athletes who were the victims of a hoax perpetrated by a drug/alcohol addled woman who chose to perform as a stripper and pole dancer (and woman of convenience on the side)who was mad that she was not respected in a manner that she saw fit and decided to enact some revenge. Her actions played into the hands of a prosecutor who wanted a bigger retirement check and saw the case as a means to that end; a police department with some police officers who wanted to stick it to some dookies and saw this as a golden opportunity; a SANE in training who had an axe to grind; a university faculty with an ideological axe to grind as well; and an administration that was spineless. A perfect storm that led to increased ratings and readership (for a time).
What the media (electronic and print) has never done is to explore in great detail why they got the story so wrong and to publically apologize for their failure to investigate thoroughly and their willingness to take at face value (and I would also add the collusion that seemed to exist)the utterings of the prosecutor and his underlings. There was also and remains no desire to question why Broadhead, Aleva, Moneta, Wausiolek and Burnett took the actions that they did and to ask what they have learned as a result of the lacrosse case (obviously nothing given what happened and was said about Katie Rouse). As I say over and over, this is the reason why the civil suits must go forward - while at this point the press are not a party to these, I believe that depositions will reveal to what extent the prosecutor, Duke University, and the police used the press (and the press allowed themselves very willingly to be used)to further their agendas. I believe that there should be a real concern on the part of those in the fourth estate that the much vaunted position that they claim for themselves (guardians of the truth) will be revealed to be as much of a sham as Crystal Mangums's allegations.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not a libel suit, but a suit under torts such as the false light tort or several others. The statute of limitations has probably run out on libel, but not on the other torts. Why doesn't the N&O simply own up to its journalistic sins and ask for forgiveness?