Thursday, May 21, 2009

UPI and the N&O’s "Take Back The Night" Lax Frame Report

While researching for a post concerning Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson’s Until Proven Innocent’s treatment of the Raleigh N & O’s coverage of the Duke lacrosse case, I reread today the N&O’s March 30, 2006 story "Lacrosse players lawyers' object." ( reg. req’d).

It includes the N&O’s report of events associated with the "Take Back The Night" rally the previous evening on Duke’s campus.

Reporters bylined on the story are Ben Niolet, Anne Blythe and Jane Stancill.

In their book and talks I’ve attended, Taylor and Johnson cite Niolet and Joe Neff as the most outstanding of all N&O reporters who covered the case.

But despite her very prominent role reporting the case beginning with the March 24, 2006 story the N&O says “broke” the case and continuing up to the dealine day for their book , Taylor and Johnson don’t mention Blythe.

When I called that to KC’s attention, he said he hadn’t been aware of that. He went on to add he considers Blythe an “exceptional” reporter.

Those of you who’ve followed the travesties and injustice that were essential parts of what was a frame-up case no doubt recall that by the night of the rally both the CrimeStoppers Wanted poster and the still anonymous Vigilante poster were circulating at Duke and in Durham.

The Vigilante poster contained face-photos of 43 white Duke students who played on the Men’s lacrosse team. It was widely distributed at the rally and posted on Duke buildings that night.

With the foregoing information in mind, here’s the entire portion of the N&O’s March 30 story reporting on Take Back The Night. It’s followed by a letter to the editor which appeared in the N&O on April 2, the same day the N&O published a photo of the Vigilante poster after Duke expressed concerns doing so would jeopardize

Excerpt from the N&O’s March 29, 2006 story:

Tension builds

The case, which erupted last week when police took DNA from all but one member of the team, heightened tensions between the city and Duke, a private university sometimes accused of walling itself off from a community with blue-collar roots.

The incident has sparked outrage on and off campus about classism, racism and sexual violence. The woman, an N.C. Central University student and employee of an escort service hired for the party, is black; she told authorities that her attackers were white. The one member of the lacrosse team not DNA tested is black.

Frustration over Duke's response continued Wednesday.

Wednesday's Take Back the Night rally, planned months ago, drew nearly a thousand people. Students and residents walked nearly a mile from East Campus to the landmark chapel on West Campus, chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, all rape has got to go."

Ignacio Adriasola, an art history graduate student, had a sign taped to his shirt: "It isn't what Duke has, but what it lax," using the shorthand word for lacrosse.

Jean Leonard, Duke's sexual assault support services coordinator, welcomed rally participants from Duke, NCCU and Durham Technical Community College. TV trucks from national media outlets rumbled nearby.

"Tonight is about more than a great media story that the nation has great interest in," Leonard said. "Tonight is more about healing."

Malbert Smith, a Duke alumnus and a Chapel Hill resident, went to the rally because he is unhappy with the way his alma mater has handled the situation. He said he had hoped Coach Mike Pressler and athletics department officials would have taken action against players for having the party and for racial slurs that allegedly were made there.

"For us to say it's basically boorish behavior, I'm offended by that," Smith said. "I'm offended by the fact that the lacrosse team is still practicing."

The community outrage to a case that has yet to produce criminal charges bothered the [players] lawyers. …
Now the April 2, 2006 letter to the editor:
As one of the organizers of the March 29 Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and speak-out at Duke University, I want to clarify that we did not plan, nor do we endorse, the distribution of names and pictures of members of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

The distribution of the pictures, the targeting of the lacrosse team, and the violence implicit in the defacement of the pictures are nothing less than violations of the space that TBTN exists to create.

The event is neither a protest of the kind we've witnessed recently, a forum for accusation nor a place to target and defame. That some attendees tried to make it so is saddening and not at all in the spirit of the event.

That being said, TBTN was a resounding success. It was inspiring to see that students, administrators, faculty and community members from Durham and N.C. Central University could come together in incredible numbers for what was, on the whole, a beautiful event. I hope that, in the future, the Duke community, and the Durham community at large, can continue to unite to address these issues and offer support to survivors.

Geoffrey Lorenz

Folks, I can understand why Mike Nifong who was working to frame the students and Dick Brodhead who was his principal enabler would appreciate the kind of reporting Niolet and Blythe were bylined for on March 30.

And I can understand why Nifong and Brodhead would appreciate other stories Niolet and Blythe reported.

But for the life of me I can't understand why Taylor and Johnson could be so generous in their praise for Niolet or why KC would call Blythe an "exceptional" reporter.

And, of course, I don't understand how Taylor and KC managed to leave Blythe out of
Until Proven Innocent.

What about you?


Anonymous said...

Be careful now John.

You are going to upset KC's wonderland fans.

Are you ready to leave town?

Anonymous said...

John: Thanks for your great work. Of course, you are correct and Professor Johnson is off base on some of his N&O analysis. I might be moving to North Carolina and would love to say hello.

Anonymous said...

What frame John?

The one in Bob's brain?

Remember John, the N&O
got the story right the first time.

Anonymous said...

As I've often pointed out, the trolls' case should be the acronym by which they found their argument" S-omething H-appened I-n T-here. That sums up what the 2.51 and other trolls claim.
Tarheel Hawkeye

KC Johnson said...

John notes, "I don't understand how Taylor and KC managed to leave Blythe out of Until Proven Innocent."

I agree, and take full responsibility. In the process of boiling down all the loose strands in the case into the book, there were clearly people who did good work on the case that Stuart & I missed (not only Blythe, who did excellent reporting in fall and winter 2006, but also LaShawn Barber and Aaron Beard). I take full responsibility and apologize for this.

Two other, more general, points. First, while I disagree with JinC in terms of analyzing the N&O's overall performance in the case, I agree with him on the editorial page, where race/class/gender tenets often produced editorials, in 2006 at least, which suggested the editorial writers weren't reading the news coverage of their own paper.

Second, it's worth remembering the three principal victims in this case were Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann. Their attorneys--publicly and privately--strongly praised the N&O's performance in the case (and it can't be argued they praised the media in rote fashion: they just as strongly criticized the NYT and the H-S). It seems to me that there's an element of being more royalist than the king in taking a harder line on the media's performance than that taken by those who most suffered in the case.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Professor Johnson — and he deserves much respect — he fails to recognize the importance of the shoddy reporting done by the N&O in late March 2006, especially the Khanna-Blythe story.

Anonymous said...

Johnson also fails to recognize the importance of the exculpatory information the N&O withheld from its March 25 story.

Mangum said Roberts was raped too at the party.

Lucky for Mike Nifong the N&O never reported that until after the players were declared innocent.

Lucky for the N&O Johnson beats the drum for it.

Cary Guy

Anonymous said...

If the N&O had admitted its early coverage was totally based on lies, and then proceeded to provide adequate coverage, one could overlook the first transgression.
However, the paper has "Pelosied" and refuses to admit it was dead wrong and actually ignited the firestorm that almost destroyed the many real victims of the frame-up.
I have great regard for KC Johnson, but I take strong exception to his characterization of N&O critics as being "more royalist than the king." I assume he means that since the lacrosse players weren't hanged in the public square, all is well.
I know JinC will provide an honest and civil rebuttal, but I had to enter the lists.
Tarheel Hawkeye