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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Duke Case: The Hoax Posse Rides

The hoax posse has got some very good shooters. So if you want a license to wade into Durham's swamp of corruption and take some shots at the bad guys perpetrating this hoax you better arm yourself to the teeth with solid facts, and then double check to make sure you loaded your facts correctly.

It will be a very happy day in Johnsville when this great Duke rape hoax is finally killed and the bad guys are run out of town. Then our poor, overworked, underpaid staff can take a vacation. Covering this case has totally killed the time budget. Fact checking has become a full-time job. Posting anything worthwhile about this hoax rape case requires a high level of fact checking that deserves at least a minimum wage.

Journalistic standards and fact checking, are some of the points K.C. Johnson touches on today - The N&O's March 25 Dilemma:

...the more puzzling N&O editors’ stalwart defense of the paper’s March 25 article about the accuser, which recently triggered a firestorm of criticism at the editors’ blog.

Since I started this blog, my posts have occasionally contained factual errors...I corrected them on the blog with an apology; and I went on.

The N&O should do the same thing here. Linda Williams made the wrong call when she authorized withholding the accuser’s uncorroborated allegations against Roberts but printed those she made against the lacrosse players. Samiha Khanna should have inquired into the accuser’s background before trusting her word enough to grant her the cloak of anonymity. It serves no purpose—least of all that of good journalism—to defend the decisions of either at this stage.
The News & Observer blind spot regarding the infamous March 25th article, written by Samiha Khanna, will have to be explained at some point. Linda Williams and Samiha Khanna will be dogged about this story until they reveal what Ms. Mangum said about Ms. Roberts during that brief interview. Maybe it will come out when the book is written about this hoax. Some legal type needs to explain why the defense can't just subpoena Khanna and Williams to testify at the trial. There is no confidential source to protect. It's not hearsay, it's a direct statement made by the complainant that is in question. So why can't Khanna and/or Williams be compelled to testify?

LieStoppers did a thorough breakdown
of all the problems and errors embedded in the Khanna article.

John in Carolina also discussed the implosion of the N&O's Mar. 25th story.

John also speculates that perhaps the News & Observer has been forced to pick up the pace of it's hoax coverage due to a squeeze play by 60 Minutes. That sounds very reasonable. Good journalism is the handmaiden of competition and capitalism.

Regarding fact checking, anyone who's written more than a few paragraphs about this case has made mistakes. There are how many thousands of pages of discovery and how many articles, blog posts, and message board comments analyzing the mess? Joe Neff in his recent article, "The problem with Matt," made the same mistake The Johnsville News made, that is, miscounted the number of Matt's on the Duke lacrosse team.
On March 16, the accuser told police her alleged assailants were named "Adam," "Brett" and "Matt." The team had two players named Matt, one named Adam, and one named Bret.
There were three Matt's on the '05-'06 Duke lacrosse team, not two. The three Matt's were: Matt Zash, the senior captain, and Matt Danowski a junior, and son of the current Duke lacrosse coach, John Danowski, and Matt Wilson also a junior.

Our favorite media pundit, Jeff Jarvis, even suggests that bloggers and MSM might want to consider using a "correction" tag -

Henceforth, when I correct a post or make a correction in a subsequent post, I will add a “correction” tag. I’d love to see that become standard operating procedure in blogs — and newspapers.

The reason: We are constantly questioned about our correction policies vs those of big media. I argue that we are better and certainly quicker at correcting our mistakes and that we are better at responding to our readers’ corrections of us. If we had a tag that allowed us to search on such posts, we’d be able to prove it.

I don’t mean that we should tag corrections of typos (God knows, every post of mine would carry the tag then!). Nor am I going to tag my posts about Iraq as corrections. If we label our corrections, we are being more transparent about errors that can show up in searches and feeds. And perhaps we inspire big media to do likewise.

TJN would have to set up the "correction" tag as a hot key. The News & Observer might find it handy too. The News & Observer should just fess up and say, "Oops our bad," regarding the March 25th article. Getting fooled by a great actress is no crime. Everyone screws up, it's the credible journalists who correct their mistakes.

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