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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Duke Case: Hoax Fast Track

The Duke lacrosse story panel discussion on Friday was still getting some coverage today. News & Observer managing editor John Drescher, who was one of the participants at the discussion, made some comments about the case today on the N&O's Editors' Blog.

Drescher reemphasized a point Prof. Coleman made during the panel discussion. Blogger style, Drescher used some clips from the N&O’s Eric Ferreri and Joe Neff:

Coleman also faulted Duke administrators for not correcting the erroneous public perception that lacrosse players had not cooperated in the investigation. Duke officials knew that the three captains living at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. had voluntarily given statements, interviews and their DNA to Durham police at the start of the investigation. Police and District Attorney Mike Nifong went on to accuse the team of erecting a stone wall of silence; The public condemnation of the lacrosse players may have lessened had Duke administrators corrected police and prosecutorial mistatements early on, Coleman said.
So Drescher is blogging to make the point that the N&O was not acting in a vacuum when it first went with the Nifong spin. The Duke administrators (that's Brodhead right?) are the ones responsible for letting Nifong drive the hoax train out of the station.

There were a lot of people on that hoax train, including the N&O, and anyone of them could have yanked the emergency brake. So why didn't anyone yell stop?

One excuse, the Duke Chronicle had this clip from the lacrosse panel:
One audience member criticized the media for having had "the will to believe the lurid and false story in the beginning," though Meadows said Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's early actions may have unwittingly influenced reporters.

"I think what made this case so extraordinary is that you had a public official saying, 'I am sure this person has been raped,'" Meadows said. "We expect our public officials to know what they are talking about."
What happened to hard boiled journalistic cynicism? Doesn't journalism school teach you to never trust a pubic official?

Drescher also said:
Overall, I said at the forum Friday, our coverage has been strong. While those in the national media often have focused on issues of race and class, we’ve emphasized getting to the bottom of what happened that night and covering the ensuing investigation and key players. If you read our coverage from beginning to end, from March 24 through today, you get the most complete picture of the Duke lacrosse story. Perfect? No. But pretty darn good.
The News & Observer has been the source that TJN has most often linked to regarding the Duke story. They have provided "the most complete picture." They were one of the first news organizations to have all the discovery information, but they did not use that information like a sledge hammer to demolish the hoax. Instead they used it as a scalpel and tried to dissect the case without leaving too much blood. However, Nifong deserved to be badly bloodied and then bloodied some more.

By the way, it was Dan Abrams at MSNBC, who was the journalist swinging the sledge hammer with all that discovery information. Too bad he didn't have more company back in June.

It seems there is a hate, don't hate, like, like a little more, thing going on between the N&O and many close followers of this case. Anyone would look good standing next to Bob Ashley and the Herald Sun.

One more N&O clip:
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said the emergence of blogs as part of the Duke lacrosse case has tested press coverage by "investigating the investigation of it."

"Some of what I've read is good, and some of what I've read is not so good," Bilas said. "But it's something we've not had before."
That last part about some blogs being "not so good." Well, the only excuse TJN can make is we're not "journalists" dammit. Johnsville is one thousand trained typing monkeys pretending to be bloggers. But our guarantee is that only the monkey cream is published.

Last observation from the Duke Chronicle:
Though the audience members seemed largely in support of the team, some criticized the lack of coverage about Nifong's conduct. Drescher noted the Raleigh News and Observer has worked over the past three years to expose prosecutorial misconduct.

During the discussion, the lacrosse player's parents also said University officials told their sons not to tell anyone, including family, about the situation last March.

"We're all afraid for our boys," the mother said after the panel.
After getting caught up in this mess newspaper editors will be treated like public officials, the public should follow the "trust but verify" standard regarding any remarks they make.

Duke lacrosse forum [John Drescher | N&O -The Editors' Blog, Oct. 23, 2006]
Panel analyzes lax coverage [dukechronicle.com, Oct. 23, 2006]

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