Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ashley's Apologia

The reason [the system] misfired is because people were afraid to speak truth to power. And I want to call out first the newspaper in Durham, North Carolina, the Durham Herald-Sun, who to this day has not written a single editorial critical of the way which Mike Nifong proceeded. If the Durham Herald-Sun had bothered to stand up and demand proper processes, the presumption of innocence and doing things the way our constitution provides, do you think Mike Nifong would have rolled forward?

Instead they published editorials talking about how bad all the lacrosse players were and that the lacrosse players should have to prove their innocence, and that in addition to the crimes that night, there was a crime of a cover-up. And you’ll not see a word of apology from them . . . But if they had done what journalists were supposed to do and spoken truth to power, they could have slowed this train down.

--Jim Cooney

Cooney’s words triggered a spontaneous burst of applause from people in the hall at Wednesday’s press conference. Rather than expose injustice, the Herald-Sun has spent the past 13 months doing everything it could to facilitate Mike Nifong’s efforts to railroad three innocent people.

In Sunday’s H-S, editor Bob Ashley took exception. Of course, some might suggest that right now, Ashley is hardly in a position to credibly claim even a minimal amount of journalistic competence. After all, yesterday his news division published an article falsely claiming that AG Roy Cooper told 60 Minutes that concerns over racial tensions led to the decision to proclaim the three falsely accused players innocent. Cooper, in fact, had said nothing of the sort. Thirteen hours after the item appeared on the H-S website, and after several blogs took the H-S to task, the offending paragraphs vanished, without acknowledgement that a correction occurred.

In his response to Cooney, Ashley defended both the editorial and the news performance of his newspaper. “We have repeatedly reminded readers of the presumption of innocence,” he proclaimed, “and have consistently urged the legal process to proceed, swiftly, to determine the truth in this case.”

The paper did, for instance, mention presumption of innocence in a March 28 editorial, its first on the case. It made the statement after asserting the following:

When police officers arrived at the house with a search warrant on March 16, none of the players would cooperate with the investigation [sic] . . . The allegations of rape bring the students’ arrogant frat-boy culture to a whole new, sickening level.Get a conscience, not a lawyer,’ read [potbangers’] signs waved in front of the house on Sunday. We agree that the alleged crime isn’t the only outrage. It’s also outrageous that not a single person who was in the house felt compelled to step forward and tell the truth about what happened.

Of course, in reality 47 people had told the truth about what happened. But because the H-S had presumed guilt, Editor Ashley and his colleagues couldn’t accept that version of events.

The March 28 editorial was not the only occasion in which Ashley and his colleagues unusually defined “presumption of innocence.” In July, Ashley termed it “insanity” to suggest that Nifong’s procedural misconduct was the key aspect of the story. Soon thereafter, the editorial board assured readers, “We think that the 25-year veteran of the prosecutor’s office must have some evidence, or he would have dropped the case long ago.” Both editorials, of course, subsequently proved false.

And after the election, the editorial board fantastically endorsed bringing the case to trial regardless of Nifong’s misconduct on the grounds that “it would be better for the players to have an opportunity to prove their innocence at trial.” [emphasis added]

How these editorials reflected the presumption of innocence Ashley has not revealed. He pointed out that (after ethics charges were filed against Nifong) the paper had run two editorials containing stray comments expressing some doubts about the case. The boldest attack? “If [emphasis added] Nifong is found to have acted unethically, he should face serious consequences.” That criticism could apply to any district attorney in the country.

Turning to “our news coverage,” Ashley continued, “we have printed scores of stories on this case and related issues.” That assertion is the only accurate statement in his apologia.

Of course, the content of these “stories on this case” is what has raised concern. Take, for instance, John Stevenson’s borderline fraudulent recapitulation of the DNA “evidence,” in which he suggested that the true facts regarding DNA had been concealed—a correct supposition, as we know now. But, he claimed, the defense, not Nifong, had done the concealing. Stevenson, in short, managed to present the story that changed the case in a pro-Nifong fashion.

Or, perhaps more outrageously, take the March 23 H-S article, in which the paper stated that Crystal Mangum’s father “still believes wholeheartedly his daughter was brutally raped and assaulted on the night of March 13, 2006—he recalls in vivid detail his daughter’s swollen eyes and cut arms.” Of course, police photos of Mangum taken two days after the party showed this statement to be a lie.

That H-S articles repeatedly appeared, verbatim, as puff pieces on the Nifong campaign website appears not to have concerned Editor Ashley. Nor does Ashley appear bothered by the paper’s troubling pattern, throughout 2006, of concealing or delaying for months reporting about items highly unfavorable to the state. (This could be called the Dr. Brian Meehan approach to journalism.) Indeed, for much of the fall campaign, the H-Svotebook” listed Nifong—a candidate who wound up with less than 50 percent of the vote—as running “unopposed.”

And what of the “related issues” that Ashley claims to have explored? In an October forum at Duke, he said that he wished his paper had “been more aggressive” in looking at the competence of the early police investigation and the anti-lacrosse “community sentiment.” Six months later, both of those “related issues” remain unexamined.

What “related issues” did the H-S consider more significant? In a January article, Ashley’s case stalwart, John Stevenson, did an exposé on how a partner at a New York law firm wrote to two Durham ADA’s, blasting Nifong. The week before the election, meanwhile, Stevenson penned a piece blatantly mischaracterizing a two-week-old North Carolina Supreme Court decision to claim that it addressed “a witness-credibility issue that echoes the Duke lacrosse rape case.”

The embattled editor added that the paper’s news articles “have consistently reported facts presented by and opinions offered by every side in this complex debate.” Perhaps Ashley was referring to his October “roundtable” that discussed the first 60 Minutes broadcast. The article solicited “opinions” from four figures—two community activists and a Duke student who demanded the case go to trial, and a Duke student who took a neutral position. Or, perhaps, Ashley was thinking of a September article that quoted two local undergrads: an NCCU student saying “the accuser should be given a fair hearing in court,” an upside-down view of the American judicial system that seemed to have been typical at NCCU; and a “black” Duke student who alleged that the lacrosse players’ actions hurt Duke’s recruiting efforts among minorities.

“Every side,” indeed. Ashley was always careful to balance the pro-Nifong perspective with opinions from people critical . . . of the lacrosse players.

In Orwellian terms, Ashley concluded that his review “has consistently reassured us we have been fair and as thorough as possible.” When the person chiefly responsible for imbalanced coverage is the person who conducts the review, what else should people expect?

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

JLS says....,

Yes the Durham paper has stressed the presumption on innocence..... in NC Bar v. Nifong. They just did feel it was as necessary in NC v. Evan, NC v. Finnerty and NC v. Seligmann.

Anonymous said...

An entire book needs to be done on the performance of the Durham and Raleigh newspapers in pushing the Nifong-Mangum hoax. Bob Wilson, Jon Ham and Bill Anderson could do it.

Anonymous said...

Stevenson defended LINWOOD WILSON as 'an experienced highly respected investigator...never BOTHERED to check a single fact

the exact same tactic taken by the Group of 88, rely on "touchy feely" get your Phd without citing a verifable fact...

the time has come to use the latest technology to review the Phd thesis of every professor who mindlessly and non factually signed the group of 88 manifesto...

what we know from financial engineering is that PATTERN of Conduct repeat themselves over and over again

Ricardo said...

The Herald Sun printed my letter a few days ago, but I don't think much will come of it:

On Wednesday, Attorney General Roy Cooper said the following: "I think a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to a lot of people. I think those people ought to consider doing that." Considering how biased your coverage has been, it is about time that your newspaper apologized to David Evans, Reade Seligman, and Collin Finnerty, not to mention to Duke University and the city of Durham.

RICARDO CASTELLS
Miami
April 13, 2007

http://www.heraldsun.com/opinion/hsletters/

Okay, I take it back, I know nothing will come of it...

Anonymous said...

In response to blatant factual errors in their editorials -- including incorrectly quoting public officials -- when called out, Ashley would claim their editorials were only opinions -- obviously comfortable lying in editorials. Rather than correcting their lies, they'd tell readers to send letters to the editor if they wanted to object.

I hope the Duke 3 go after them and succeed in running them out of town.

Anonymous said...

Not only did the HS NOT bother to print what everyone knew, it refused to print what IT knew.

My discussions with various HS staffers, including reporters on the hoax, revealed that they admitted they knew the accuser was a prostitute, not a struggling mother trying to feed her babies, who had legal and mental problems of longstanding. Yet, they would NOT print that information at the same time they printed every scurrilous libel about the LAX players they could come up with.

Why, I have to ask, wasn't the truth good enough for the HS journalists? They had it hand, they recognized it and yet they refused to print it. Why?

Good lord, they need to be run out of town.

Anonymous said...

hey risardo

if you think ur letter has any value post it here, be prepared to defend it, stop wasting peoples time copying and pastiny an urls

have some respect for other peoples time

Mr. said...

you never run them out of town...let them survive but take away all their money slowly and with patience

we always need emotional irrational dummies like the herald...they distract their ilk

Anonymous said...

It seems that since they are part of a small-town newspaper chain, the management philosophy is "All the good news fit to print." So everything is working fine in Durham, the DA and the police chief are great, and the only problem Durham has is with those out of control northerners. Well, they don't call it the Bull City for nothing...

Anonymous said...

Is not Ashley a Duke graduate? What fun he will have at reunions recounting his crusades against privilege. How privileged certain corners of Duke must feel to have one such as he holding forth his narrative for the greater good of Durham.

Ricardo said...

To anonymous 12:16

My letter to the Herald is included in my original post at 12:13. Sorry I gave the impression that I didn't respect your valuable time.

Anonymous said...

i knew you were an honorable man

Greg said...

At this point in time, other than job preservation, why does Bob Ashley continue to behave as a partisan for Nifong? He must have a political or business agenda that is driving his decision in taking a jounalistic position that is so contrary to reality. He's not acting alone. Does the Kentucky family that owns the newspaper have some interest in this issue?

Unlike many issues where you can typically predict how an editorial page will break, this story doesn't seem to carry that kind of left/right type of split. Why has the Observer's coverage been so different?

Is there some fundamental split int the Durham community that is just not apparent here? Is this connected in any way to the long standing hostility that Mike Nifong has harbored for Joe Cheshire? And, why that hositility in the first place? Is there some history between Cheshire and Nifong and/or the editor/owners of the Sun that might explain this?

Cheshire has been a leading criminal defense attorney in the state for 30 years and a successful one at that. Is there some institutional or establishment agenda here that opposes lawyers like Cheshire?

What connection does Broadhead or the trustees have to Ashley and/or the owners of the Sun?

I'd be interesting in knowing more on this subject.

Gary Packwood said...

It is almost as if these people were having dinner each week as a group for the purpose of deciding how they were going to 'bring down' Duke University and the three students.

I can't help but wonder if all the people at those dinners were journalists or did groups at the two universities in Durham have observers at the dinner dialogs?

Who moved the message forward that evidence is coming... month after month after month?

GP

Soobs said...

I know I've said this before, but the media response, especially in Durham, continues to blow my mind.

Deklan Singh said...

This may be insensitive, but I feel it should be noted, given the presence of a NCCU student's views in this post, that NCCU is not, in any way, a distinguished or elite university, and, though I am ashamed to think about the Duke community's response during this past year, I experience equally high levels of both outrage and schadenfreude when thinking about the NCCU community.

If any student at Duke had made a similar statement to the one Chan Hall made at the infamous townhall meeting, he or she, regardless of their race or other background would have been openly, consistently and unremittingly denounced, ridiculed and mocked. It would have been roundly demanded by the entire student body for that person to step down from any position they held within any Duke organization. I believe that the treatment of Chan Hall at NCCU following his statement could only underly a deep and abiding ignorance and bigotry at a pathetic fraud of a university.

What sad, simple, stupid lives these people must lead as worthless, hateful sheep.

hman said...

There is a question at the heart of my near obsession with this case which is admittedly un-answerable but is nonetheless unavoidable to my angered curiosity - when exactly did the many key enablers know for sure that they were enabling the torment of innocent men?
For some individuals there is an answer (or a pretty good guess): CGM; from the start. M. Nifong; April 10. R. Brodhead; ? some time in May.
But what about someone like Ashley or Cash Micheals? I know I am putting this in a very harsh way but dammit, that is the main question that these people will face when they go before The Lords of Karma - who I am sure will not be in a good mood about this story either.

Anonymous said...

The hoax-enablers claim that the 3 accused men are "ok, not guilty, but we know they did something wrong", and of their own actions that "ok, the accused lax players are not guilty, but we did something right."

But the hoax enablers cannot point to anything that the 3 accused lax men did wrong, nor anything that the enablers themselves did right. Instead they resort to meta-narratives, which are nothing more than excuses, deception, misdirection, back-pedaling and more lies.

Idiots.

Go KC! Your work is excellent, and your pen is indeed mighty. Eviscerate the louts and their fraudulent work!

Eric said...

I'm really curious to see know what, if anything, that newspaper will do about their blatantly false front-page article today. So far the website has no indication I can find that anything wrong was ever published...

If they don't print a clear and public (not buried on page 12) retraction and correction, this needs to be brought to the attention of national media and commentators -- people who read this newspaper need to know that they've been told such a huge whopper. Their article for tomorrow covering the outrage among community activists about the exoneration -- could that outrage possibly have been stoked by being told (falsely) that the AG had admitted that race played a role in the decision? First they create outrage by lying, then they report on the outrage -- wouldn't that be quite a story?

Even if they do admit their error, the nature of this error, since it openly and erroneously stokes existing racial tensions which have been a national story, is arguably a valid news story.

james conrad said...

freedom of the press means that the press is free to not tell the truth if thats what they wish. even the NY Times, once a great newspaper but now reduced to a partisan rag has refused to come to grips with the fact that its news division is little more than an extension of its editorial page. once again, the power of the web reveals how MSM in general remains clueless in how their world has changed thanks to the presence of the web.

bill anderson said...

Shortly after the outrageous Brianne Dopart piece of the alleged "swollen" eyes and jaw of Crystal, I wrote a letter to the Hurled-Scum. Not surprisingly, the paper did not print it.

The Hurled-Scum's coverage and editorials of this sorry affair have bordered on something we might have seen in Pravda during the old days of the U.S.S.R. Ashley's recent response is straight from the Orwellian Memory Hole. Either Ashley is Nifongingly dishonest or he is delusional. I would hope it is the latter, but I fear the former.

Anonymous said...

What is amazing is that effective April 15th the Durham paper is requiring anyone wanting to read their site to register.

Sort of like the workbook that the German government under Hitler back in the 1930s.

After reading what the Durham paper was like during the Duke case the last thing I would want is to offer them my personal information.

That the Durham paper has chosen such an approach speaks only to their continued cowardice.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 12:16.....

I'm sure we're all sorry your time was wasted.

Were you, as a consequence, robbed of the opportunity to write a few more barely literate comments elsewhere?

No justice, no peace said...

12:16 They are selling true pulp fiction. If you subscribe, cancel the subscription. If you advertise, use an alternative distribution channel.

It is not an accident that both national and local circulation/broadcast ratings are diving.

Given the dishonest nature of the reporting, one would not be surprised in the least to learn that they are manufacturing their subsription numbers. When is the last time they had their circulation numbers audited? Have advertisers demanded an audit? They should.

Editorial boards and writers have been stuck in an elevator smelling each other's bad gas for years, joyfully commenting about how fresh the air is in the elevator. They really do not understand that content is king and that bad content isn't mitigated by color pictures and snappy graphics.

The comics are PC. The crossword is available on the Internet. My neighbors will tell me when someone dies. Their financial ruin, has forced them to cut national/international desks and use Reuters, which is much worse. Why subsrcibe? Our children won't.

Zimri said...

The good news is that, by mischaracterising Cooper's position, the HS has p!$$ed off the state Bar. So, if some LAX players were to sue for libel...

jim2 said...

I believe that Ashley and the H-S were looking for a sensational local story to sell papers. Bad things about a local minority prostitute do not sell papers, but they judged that a gang rape story by upper-class white out-of-towners would.

I suspect that they have lately been praying for a different sensational college story that would divert national attention on to something else. So very sadly, any such prayers they might have had were answered yesterday at Blacksburg, Virginia.

another.anon said...

OT for this post, but I know how modest KC is. The article on KC yesterday in the National Post was *a full page*!!

National Post

KC, do you want a hard copy?

Anonymous said...

Thomas Sowell discusses "gutless lemmings" at:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZWM3MmZiOWQxODM3NzIxNDZmN2ZiYjE4NTkxMDdhNmM=

lm said...

I was curious about when Broadhead "flipped". The timeline done by Kethra at Liestoppers, and a couple of news articles make it appear to have been between March 30 and April 5. What Broadhead says on March 30 at an NCCU forum and what he does April 5 reflect quite a change.

Ashley, in an interview, refers to the "slow response" of Broadhead and notes that it improved after the email. Ashley also seems to indicate that he was involved in the exposure of the email.
Did Ashley meet with Broadhead? If so, was it an interview, or something else?
How close were Ashley and Nifong and how much was Ashley was using his paper to pressure Duke and milk the case? All for the betterment of Durham, of course.

Anonymous said...

Is there any kind of correction or notice in today's Durham Herald about yesteday's false statement?

Is the paper just ignoring it? Pretending it never happened?

P. Rich said...

Idiots like Ashley, the Gang of 88 et al operate using the Dictionary of Liberal-speak. It contains a very flexible set of definitions, enabling convenient lies to be true on the strength of mere assertion.

Anonymous said...

Parker

Debrah

don t. said...

Ashley knows who his constituents are. If he ran a fair and balanced presentation of the Duke case, he would lose what few subscribers he has left.

Trinity60

Anonymous said...

My email to Bob Ashley at the Herald:


Your own 'review' of your reporting of the Duke case
finds that you were "fair and thorough"?

Are you truly that intellectually shallow that you saw
fit to print that statement? Let me remind you if a
politician, a District Attorney or a suspected
fraudster made the same proud announcement in public
of their own self review concerning their own
controversial acts they would rightfully be ridiculed.

I suggest that you publish the review of your paper's
work done by Durham-in-Wonderland. Now that would
expose your readership to some "fair" reporting....

Failure to do so is a measure of your true
credibility. You, sir, are directly culpable in this
travesty of justice. Very reasonable people
objectively believe that you and your paper are
irreparably biased. It is astonishing that you
blithely exonerate yourself without any single
admittance of failure or insight and with no objective
outsider.

Your arrogance is amazing.

Anonymous said...

I hope that crazy m-effer Ashley is run out of town. The H-S will be bankrupt if that lying toad is allowed to stay.
Run that imbecile out now!

Anonymous said...

9:40pm
Good letter. Send CC's to publisher Geoff Moser(gmoser@heraldsun.com); editorial staff--Ron Landfried(rlandfried@heraldsun.com); Greg Childress(gchildress@heraldsun.com) also.
The staff needs to know how the public feels about what they've done. Especially in light of what happened yesterday.
Someone needs to force this paper out so that we in Durham can have a useful and accurate news source again.
I ask that everyone e-mail the paper and make your voices known.