Saturday, July 22, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Lampooning a now reluctant Raleigh N&O

After “breaking” the Duke lacrosse case on Mar. 24 with a story that repeatedly told readers the accuser was the “victim,” the N&O followed that with more biased and inflammatory stories which effectively framed the Duke students in the public's mind as brutal victimizers of a “soft-spoken” young mother and college student. The N&O even went so far as to publish the infamous “vigilante poster.”

But now most fair-minded people realize what the N&O was selling them was a hoax that the N&O and DA Mike Nifong, enabled by an acquiescent Duke administration and faculty, fanned into hysteria and a witch hunt.

In that environment of false accusations, Duke acquiescence, hysteria and witch hunting a legal frame-up – the indictments of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans – became possible.

The Raleigh News & Observer, which only a few months ago was still crowing about its coverage, now doesn’t say much about the hoax. In fact, it still doesn't call it a hoax.

For weeks N&O readers have been providing the N&O’s exec editor for news, Melanie Sill, with information, tips and story ideas, some pointing to a possible connection between protection of prostitution in Durham and the many odd twists and dodges the police/DA investigation has taken.

Sill’s mostly ignored them. She hasn’t said anything at the Editor’s Blog for over three weeks except for one brief comment pointing out a reader error about a story’s location in the N&O.

All of that led a very talented JinC Regular, Joan Foster, to lampoon Sill and the N&O. As you read Joan’s lyrics hum a little of the old Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra favorite “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”

A Reporter's Lament

Back in early Spring
Man, my cell phone would ring!
Melanie on the line...
Dig up all you can find!
Now I'm lonely and bored
Don't get around much anymore...

Found interviews in the Hood
And quotes the kids were no good.
Ran the poster, ..remember then...
That "Swagger" headline was a gem
Now I sit here ignored.
Don't get around much anymore.

Wanted to hit City Hall
Give Pat Baker a call
One story! He said it!
But Mel says "Forget it."
What AM I here for...?
Don't get around much anymore.

Thought I'd drive round the State
Talk to other D.A.'s
"Should the line-ups be tossed?
(They were ONLY Lacrosse)
"Are you kidding?" "What for?'
Don't get around much anymore

Our blogs are loaded with questions
Leads and suggestions
Could win a Pulitzer Prize
But Mel says "No dice."
Might shake Durham to the core?
Don't get around much anymore.

See here's the real scoop
I can go after Duke
Take down out-of -town laddies
That have rich out- of -town daddies
Their misdeeds we adore
And ....go after full bore

It fit our certain world-view
Now we're in quite a stew
So we've "shut down" on this case
I spend days at MySpace
God, the truth is a bore!
Don't get around much anymore

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Churchill Series – July 21, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

The late comedian Fred Allen once remarked that after the market crashed in 1929 surprised Americans asked their friends: “Did you know stocks could also go down?” Allen’s line nicely captured the pre-crash euphoria that gripped most investors, leading them to believe the stock market was an “up, up, up” only place.

Churchill was one of those caught in the euphoria, as we see from excerpts of letters he wrote Clementine while visiting California just weeks before the market crashed:

From a letter dated September 19, 1929 and headed “All vy Secret”

Now My darling I must tell you that vy gt & extraordinary good fortune has attended me lately in finances. Sir Harry McGowan asked me – rather earnestly – before I sailed whether he might if an opportunity came buy shares on my account without previous consultation. I replied that I could always find 2 or 3000 (All money amounts are pounds. – JinC).

I meant this as an investment limit i.e. buying the shares outright. He evidently took it as the limit to which I was prepared to go in a speculative purchase on margin. Thus he operated on about ten times my usual scale, & … made a profit on our joint account of 2000 in Electric Bonds & Shares.

With my approval he reinvested this in Columbia Gas & Electic & sold at a further profit of 3000. He thus has 5, 000 in hand on my account, & as he has profound sources of information about this vast American market, something else may crop up.[…]
On September 29, exactly one month before the day generally agreed to mark the start of the market crash, Churchill wrote Clementine:
I have also made friends with Mr. Van Antwerp & his wife. He is …a gt friend of England [and] a reader of all my books – quite an old fashioned figure – He is going to look after some of my money for me. His [stockbroking] firm have the best information about the American Market & manipulate it with the best possible chances of success. All this …I am sure …will prove wise.
Churchill lost heavily in the market crash. Friends helped him out with generous loans, some of which were later forgiven.

Whenever I make foolish investment mistakes, I tell myself: “John, you were just being Churchillian.”

I hope you're back Monday.

Talking with JinC Regulars - 7-21-06

(One of a series of posts in the original web log tradition: notes and "thinking out loud." These posts will be most easily understood by regular visitors and are But others are welcome. John)

Brain dead now. I'll get another "Talking ..." post out late tomorrow evening.

For now, I'll just pass on the email below which attorney Alex Charns sent this morning to Durham City manager Patrick Baker.

I obtained a copy this morning courtesy of Charns while I was at his office reviewing the public portions of his CrimeStoppers file. I'll be posting on that soon.

As you all know from previous JinC CrimeStoppers posts, Charns, representing an unindicted Duke Men's lacrosse player, has requested an official public apology from Durham City and Police for the creation, production and distribution of a CrimeStoppers poster telling the community the lacrosse players had committed a series of horrific felony crimes. Charns has also asked for an official investigation into how, why and by whom the poster was produced on official Durham police letterhead.

I plan to contact city manager Baker and police officials Monday to get their reaction to the email Charns sent today.

More tomorrow about other matters of interest to JinC regulars.


Subject: Request to make public personnel action under G.S.

Dear Mr. Baker:

This is a request that you make public the investigation and personnel
action, if any, taken against the police employee(s) who created and
distributed the libelous flier (on official Durham Police Department
letterhead) that offered cash for “assistance in solving this [Duke lacrosse
team] case” that impugned the entire lacrosse team with its claim that “The
victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent
shock waves throughout our community.”

This flier was posted around the Duke campus and adjoining neighborhoods and sent by e-mail to neighborhood groups and the media.

As you know, the city manager with concurrence of the council "may inform
any person of" the "disciplinary action" taken against a city employee if
the "manager or council shall determine in writing that the release is
essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of city
services or to maintaining the level and quality of city services."
N.C.G.S. 160A-168(c)(7).

The failure of a police employee to know the difference between an
accusation of crime and the certainty that a crime has been committed raises
serious questions about the training of your employees. The inflammatory
language of the Durham Police Department flier increased public outrage
against the 43 lacrosse players who have since been cleared by the District
Attorney of criminal wrongdoing in this matter.

The city's failure to take responsibility or apologize for accusing 43
innocent young men of heinous crimes leads one to conclude that no action
will be taken against police employees who violate their oath to serve and
protect when they fan the flames of vigilantism. In the past we saw
high-ranking Durham police officials falsely accuse their own police
employees of running a "call-girl ring" out of police headquarters and
illegally wiretap them in the process.

If you or the police department investigated how and why this libelous flier
was created and by whom, then it is in everyone's interest to make this
information public. To quote Durham Crimestopper coordinator Cpl. David
Addison's favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson adage: "There is no den in the wide
world to hide a rogue . . ."

Alex Charns

Charns & Charns Attorneys at Law
Alexander Charns - D. Tucker Charns
123 Orange Street, P.O. Box 59
Durham, N.C. 27702
Tel. 919-956-7564
Fax: 919-956-7409

Responding to Readers’Comments – 7–21–06

On July 10 I posted on Collin Finnerty’s trial that day in D.C. on an assault charge. I said one of his accusers was gay. While that had been reported by some media, a reader noted the accuser’s attorney said he was not gay.

I checked that out. The attorney, according to multiple press reports, indeed said that in open court. So I updated the post with a correction and apology for my error.

The reader also said that by identifying the individual as gay, I appeared to be “ infer[ing] that [being gay] somehow would taint his credibility or honesty."

I rejected that contention and reminded the commenter gays often demand to be identified as gay in news reports.

You can read more about the exchange here.

BTW – That reader’s comment is a good example of the kind of comment that makes JinC a more reliable place. Thanks, Commenter.

Responses to the two "legal questions" posts, especially comments by J, were all strongly positive except for an Anon. comment which began :

You say: "The newsroom buzzed with talk of Pulitzers and big pay raises." How do you know this information? Did you spend time in the N&O's newsroom? When? For how long?
I plan to respond to “How do you know … “ Anon’s comment but right now there are more important things to do.

We’re coming up on Mar. 24, the four month anniversary of the start of what marked the public frame up of innocent young men; a frame up which it's now obvious had begun in the investigative/legal area days before.

Anon. will get a response post I’ve wanted to write for a long time. But justice comes first.

Moving on –

The quality and amount of information and commentary provided in the comments responding to the "legal questions" posts have overwhelmed me. I didn’t have what it takes to respond at first.

But I haven’t ignored them.

Tomorrow I’m going to do two things with those comments:

1) Sift out information and commentary relating to the remarkably strange absence of any composite suspect imagery produced in the weeks following the alleged gang-rape. I plan to work up a post that asks the public what it thinks about the absence of suspect composite imagery for any of the three men DA Nifong and the N&O's "victim" said brutally gang-raped her.

2) Put some of the other "legal" comments/questions material into a seperate post.

More coming soon.

This evening there'll be

"Responding to reader comments" and "Talking with JinC regulars posts."

I plan to say a lot in each post.

They should be up by 10 p.m.


Duke lacrosse: I’m helping Nifong today

At the McClatchy Company's Raleigh News & Observer’s Editor’s Blog, the “newest” Duke lacrosse post readers’ comment thread has 175 comments as of today, July 21, at 1 p.m. EDT.

For the last three weeks, Melanie Sill, the N&O’s exec editor for news, has refused to respond to readers, except for one comment that was just to tell a reader a story was not in the N&O section the reader had claimed.

But the readers are pressing on despite Sill’s refusal to respond.

Today at 07/20/06 at 23:46 reader ND Lax 84 provided a link to DA Mike Nifong’s election website where there’s a lovely color photo of the DA and his staff.

Here’s the caption that accompanies the photo:

"This is the staff of the Durham District Attorney's Office - the largest, most diverse, best educated, and most capable collection of people ever assembled under that title. They are part of the package you get with District Attorney Mike Nifong. They share his vision. Each of them is committed to his election to continue as your District Attorney. Together, they will continue to work to make Durham a safer and better place for all of its citizens."
Now, folks, most of you know I think Nifong should be removed from office and disbarred.

But still, I can’t resist the urge to add a few details to the photo caption that will tell the public even more about his staff than Nifong does.

Why would I want to help Nifong make that caption more informative? Well, I guess my parents raised me right or something.

Anyway, I’ve taken the caption and within brackets and in bold placed my additions:
"This is the staff of the Durham District Attorney's Office - the largest, most diverse, best educated, and most capable collection of people ever assembled under that title [and then told to go out and start campaigning for Mike].

They are part of the package you get with District Attorney Mike Nifong. [They’re a “can do” group who won’t let due process and evidence get in the way of indictments].

They share his vision [of “no wrong answers” ID procedures]. Each of them is committed to his election to continue as your District Attorney [and to keeping their own jobs, too].

Together, they will continue to work to make Durham a safer and better place for all of its citizens [who bang pots, circulate “wanted “ and “vigilante” posters, and encourage the Raleigh N&O to continue it’s prosecutorial reporting]."
Ah, that's OK, Mike. I was glad to do it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Churchill Series - July 20, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I’m in haste today so just a few items from the old reliable/ unreliable top of my head, but what I say here you can put in the “Reliable” column.

Did you know Churchill spent a few weeks in 1929 in and around Hollywood? William Randolph Hearst and Louis B. Mayer hosted a lunch for him.

He was an overnight guest a Hearst’s famous home, San Simeon.

While he detested Socialism he became friends with many people who were Socialists or had Leftist leanings. Charlie Chaplin was one. He and Churchill seriously considered making a movie together on the young Napoleon’s life. Churchill would write the script for Chaplain. I don’t know if they ever talked about a director, but I bet we can all guess who Churchill had in mind.

Come back tomorrow. We’ll see Churchill in California and euphoric. His stocks are rising rapidly and he’s putting new money into the market. It’s September, 1929. Don’t stocks only go up?

Duke lacrosse: Johnsville’s a "must visit daily"

You're interested in Duke lacrosse?

Than Johnsville’s News is a “must visit daily” blog unless you're rogue DA Mike Nifong, a prosecuting journalist at the Raleigh N&O, or one of the shameless Duke Faculty "Group of 88."

Today Johnville’s offers extracts from an article in yesterday’s Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle. The headline's an excellent article summary: "Living A Nightmare: Lax players speak out."

Johnsville also provides today a concise summary of the main points of an open letter to President Brodhead and the Trustees which Friends of Duke University published in a full page ad in yesterday’s Chronicle.

Johnsville’s summary

Main points:

Speak up for your students

Be fair to the lacrosse team and encourage others to do so as well

Speak up for Duke

Accept the challenges presented by this crisis
If the Trustees, President Brodhead, and the Faculty start implementing those four points, it will mean big changes at Duke.

Those changes are needed. The Trustees, President Brodhead and the Faculty must refuse to grovel any longer before the Group of 88, their supporters and the “witch hunting” media. ONce they do that, they'll be in a position to start to right injustices and add to the university's strength and statue.

Folks, if you’ve never been to Johnsville, today’s a good day for a first visit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Churchill Series – July 19, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

In September 1929, following a month’s visit to Canada, Churchill, accompanied by his son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack’s son, Johnny, approached an American customs station. His plan called for his party to pass through customs and then tour America for two months.

As you’d expect of a former Army officer who believed cold champagne and warm brandy were two of life’s essentials, Churchill had prepared very carefully for his first encounter with officials of Prohibition-era America.

Before leaving England, Churchill obtained a letter of introduction from the American Ambassador. He was sure that would get them a “wave on” through Customs. But leaving nothing to chance, he also arranged for his “supplies” to be placed in small flasks carefully hidden inside various items in the party's luggage.

Historian Martin Gilbert tells us what happened next:

At American customs, Churchill produced the [party's] collective diplomatic visa and a letter of introduction from the American Ambassador in London. This did not deter the customs officials, led by George D. Hubbard, the Collector of Customs, from making a thorough examination.

“What are you looking for?” Churchill asked. “I have already told you that we have nothing to declare. The point of this letter from the Ambassador is to assure you of my integrity.”

The customs officials replied that they were looking for guns and ammunition.

“Monstrous! Absolutely monstrous!” was Churchill’s riposte.

After their suitcases had been shut and locked, Johnny Churchill recalled that an “extraordinary change” came over the customs chief. “Mr. Churchill,” he said, “I apologize for this inconvenience. May I invite you and your party into my office for a drink?”

[Afterwards the] Collector of Customs … drove the [party] to a hotel where, Churchill wrote to Clementine, “the local hotel proprietor entertained the whole party with delicious iced beer.”
Churchill often said, “The Americans are a very remarkable people.” We don’t doubt he said it at least once that day, do we?

I hope you’re back tomorrow.

Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America. (p. 112)

An exemplary service to Duke and the community

That’s what the Friends of Duke University provided today with a full-page ad in The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper. Historian and blogger KC Johnson tells us :

Today's Duke Chronicle features an open letter to President Richard Brodhead and Duke's Board of Trustees. Sponsored by Friends of Duke University, a grassroots organization, the letter urges the Brodhead administration to do more to speak up for Duke students, in part by "formally demand[ing] that Mr. Nifong immediately correct, to the extent now possible, the grave errors that he has committed to date."

The letter also notes that beyond acknowledging bad conduct by the lacrosse team, as he has repeatedly done, Brodhead needs to "call attention to the larger, more positive, context the [Coleman] committee found” about the team.

In general, the letter advocates a more robust response by Duke to the crisis, asking the institution to use its formal, but especially informal, powers on behalf of both itself and its students.
KC says a lot more in an excellent post that's a must read. Those of you who disdain faculty foolishness and exploitation clothed as concern for students will love KC's Swiftian evisceration of Duke's faculty's Group of 88.

The Friends make clear they don’t condone the partying that occurred the night of Mar. 13/14. They want necessary reforms which recognize that “many of the team’s problems exist within the larger Duke community.” [And on most other campuses. – JinC]

People who love Duke and others who just value fairness will cheer the Friends’ vigorous, fact-based refutation of the “elitist Duke,” “walled off from the community,” “indifferent to Durham’s poor” slimes that have been hurled by the worst of media reporters and “talking heads,” and even by some Duke faculty. [Yes, the Group of 88 and the academic departments and programs that endorsed the 88’s exploitive “listening statement.” Others, too. - JinC ]

Whatever the letter’s ultimate impact, it’s already accomplished two very important things:

1) It provides Duke students with a much needed statement of the facts and issues of fairness, judgment, justice and community life the Duke lacrosse case has raised.

2) By confronting President Brodhead with facts, injustices and the sliming of the university; and by asking that he speak out and in other ways act, the letter places Brodhead in a position where he must take a stand or lose a very great deal of credibility.

Back on Mar. 29, within a few hours of listening to the tape of a 911 call, Brodhead issued a written, unqualified, public apology to the caller without knowing whether all, some or none of what the caller said was true.

Brodhead’s decision to apologize to the caller, who we later learned was the “second dancer,” is very much on the minds of Dukies and everyone else who’s watched the unraveling of what's really the Duke lacrosse hoax.

People will be thinking about how and why Brodhead decided to make an apology as they now assess his response to the Friends’ letter.

Advice to President Brodhead: Press releases and committee formations won’t be enough. You’re going to be judged against the standard you set for yourself and the university on Mar. 29.

Something for JinC readers: The Chronicle issue in which today’s letter appears is called the “mailer issue.” That’s because it’s a special edition that’s mailed to about 18, 000 addresses, including those of the students and their families. The issue is meant to be a “Welcome to the start of the new school year.”

Message to Friends of Duke University: Well done! A lot of us have been looking for something like what you put out there today.

Full disclosure: KC Johnson noted that he’s a strong supporter of Friends of Duke University; also that they’ve often linked to his posts. The same is true with me.

Also, because some people now expect such disclosure: I’m a Duke alum, and feel I'm fortunate to be one.

That said, I’m no different than millions of Americans outraged by the injustices of “Justice in Durham;” by biased and inflammatory media reporting, especially that of the Raleigh News & Observer; and by a university response which, with a handful of admirable exceptions, has been troubling to say the least.

I’m very glad so many people who’ve never set foot on Duke’s campus or visited Durham care about the case.

It’s great to be “shoulder to shoulder” with such people. I think every Dukie feels that way except the 88 and others like them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Churchill Series - July 18, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

As August 1929 drew to a close, Churchill, with his eighteen year old son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack's son, Johnny, neared the end of an almost month long trip across Canada, after which the party planned to visit the U.S. for two months. For Churchill, the trip was a mix of speaking, writing and holidaying.

On September 1 he wrote Clementine :

Tonight we reach Vancouver where alas I have to open an Exhibition and make a speech. ...

I have reluctantly consented to make another speech at Victoria [on Vancouver Island], as it is said to be the most English of all Canadian towns, with a large colony of retired officers of the Army and Navy whose pensions apparently go further here than at home. ...
All went well in Victoria until a cleric, who was supposed to simply return thanks, did what some clerics often do. Churchill told Clementine about it in a letter dated September 12 :
I addressed an enormous luncheon, 700 or 800 men, the cream of Victoria, for an hour. Thanks were proposed to me by the Dean - a foolish Cleric with Socialist leanings, who asked a number of cheeky questions and maundered on unduly, so I put up Randolph to reply and he, in a brief, admirably turned debating speech of five minutes completely turned the tables upon the Dean, to the delight of the audience and also to their amazement. ...

I could not have done it so neatly myself.
Churchill saying he could not have done it so neatly himself is high praise indeed.

Tomorrow there are tense moments at the Customs Inspection station as Churchill's party - he called it "the troupe" - crosses into prohibition-era America and the Custom's inspectors insist on searching the luggage.

Duke lacrosse: Suppose you’re an employment counselor

and William King walks into your office.

Before sending him out on a job interview, you want to know a little about him.

So he says, “Fine. Here’s a comment I posted at the blog, Signifying Nothing, on Tuesday morning, April 4, when the Duke lacrosse witch hunt was in full throttle. I think it tells you a lot about me."

King hands you his comment:

William King wrote @ Tue, 4 Apr 2006, 10:33 am EDT:

Since DA Nifong has gone out there and made the statements that he would charge these kids without DNA, and throngs of journalists and cable shows have parroted him in that decision –

to believe them, this is what you’d have to believe.

The boys on the team were smart enough and organized enough to
pass themselves off as another sport’s team before the incident even occurred (and score 1600 on their SATs.)

They were disciplined and sober enough to attack the victim without leaving any skin cells, microscopic hair, salvia, semen, or blood
(remember the claim is she was orally assaulted also).

They used fake names, and then remembered under duress to use the fake names.

Decisive and unified enough for all 46 to leave the house and surrounding area in 120 seconds after a 911 call was placed reporting their behavior.

Calm enough to subdue a woman fighting for her life while successfully applying a condom.

Precise enough to organize a sexual assault position and position(s) where the victim could not see that they were wearing or applying condoms (orally too – would be difficult).

Committed enough for 43 players to lie for 3. To put their future on the line for 3 other boys.

Disciplined and reasoned enough at 18 & 19 to not confide in their girlfriends, families, buddies, and fellow students, about a major traumatic event that has been leading the National news.

AND DUMB and Careless enough to leave the victim’s Four Fake fingernails, her cell phone, a roll of bills totaling $400.00, and her pocketbook lying on the floor right where the incident occurred for 60 hours after the event!

Nifong and the media talk show hosts lost me when they said if there is NO DNA the girl was still gang-raped. You’d have to be an imbecile to believe these things could all coexist simultaneously.


W. K.
So now what do you do?

I bet you’d start by saying to yourself something like: “I won’t waste King’s time by sending him over to the Raleigh N&O. And he’s certainly not the kind of guy President Brodhead’s looking for. The Duke faculty "Group of 88" and all the departments and program’s that signed that exploitive listening statement? The only person I’d send them is Osama.”

You might start scratching your head and wondering. Then all of a sudden, you have an “I got it!” moment and say:
“Mr. King, if you don’t need a job immediately, there may be some staff openings in the Durham DA’s office after the election. Can you wait that long? You seem like the kind of person who belongs there.”

Isaac Stern and 144

I posted today about Raleigh News & Observer exec editor for news Melanie Sill's ducking and dodging reader's Duke lacrosse comments, questions and news tips.

The reader comments are all good, but if you're especially interested in all the news tips Sill's been ignoring, go down to 7/7/06 at 19:31 and start there.

"Geez, John, we came here for Isaac Stern."

OK, OK. When I started the post the comments totaled 144. The number reminded me of my favorite Isaac Stern story.

Stern was being interviewed by Bill Moyers or some other self-important MSM-type who kept mentioning his age, 72 at the time, and asking Stern questions like: "As you look back at your career, what do ..." and "Do you have a favorite concert you'd like to be remembered for?"

Stern finally had enough and said something very like: "Look, I may be 72 but I don't think my career is over. And I feel like I'm just in the middle of my life. Of course, it would help if I knew someone who was 144."

McClatchy's Editor’s Blog turned 145 today

I’ll bet you know about the Raleigh News & Observer’s shamelessly biased and inflammatory Duke lacrosse "reporting" that began on Mar. 24.

But do you know about the Editor's Blog? That's where N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill is supposed to engage in "interactive journalism" with readers.

Gary Pruitt, the CEO of the N&O’s owner, The McClatchy Company, has spent gobs of company money training his journalists in “how to do interactive journalism.” He's then provided them with blogs like Sill’s.

Pruitt believes “interactive journalism” is a great service to readers that will also enable McClatchy to reap profits. He tells stockholders not to worry about McClatchy’s stock falling in the last two years from a high just above 70 to the low 40's. (Yesterday, July 17, McClatchy closed at 41.04) “Interactive journalism” will imporve the quality of newspapers and put the company back on the high road.

I thought about all of that today when the Editor's Blog turned 145.

But I didn't send Melanie a cake or congratulatory email. That's because turning 145 at the Editor’s Blog is nothing to celebrate. At least it isn’t if you believe in “interactive journalism.” And it’s certainly nothing to celebrate if you’re a long-suffering McClatchy stockholder.

Here’s why.

One hundred forty-five is the number of comments on the thread of Sill’s most recent Duke lacrosse post.

Sill put that post up on June 19. That's more than 4 weeks ago. She hasn't put a Duke lacrosse post up since.

On July 7 Sill told readers commenting on the thread - almost every one of whom was critical of the N&O’s Duke lacrosse “reporting” – that she wouldn’t be making any more comments there. She’d post again when she had something new to say about Duke lacrosse.

Let's look at what’s happened since.

In the next five days there were 31 comments. Sill clearly hadn’t succeeded in discouraging the readers from commenting.

Then on July 12 - PRESTO – Sill appeared again on the comment thread. She corrected a reader on a detail of story location in that day’s N&O.

Then - PRESTO - Sill was gone again. She hasn’t been back since.

But look at what the readers have been doing.

As of this morning, July 18, there have been 60 more comments on the thread; almost every one of them lengthy, fact-filled and pointing to important aspects of the case the N&O has either underreported or ignored.

Some comments suggest a possible link between the framing of the players and an attempt to protect people involved in prostitution in Durham. The information being offered to support that suggestion is impressive. It warrants investigation. But Sill and the N&O are hiding from it.

Sill claims she needs to spend her blog time on other matters that readers are demanding she talk about.


As of this morning, Sill has put up a total of 10 posts since June 19.

One of those posts was a "rah-rah" supporting the New York Times' national security disclosures. It drew 21 comments, a few of which were Sill’s telling readers how lucky they are to have newspapers that disclose national security secrets. The other comments were critical of Sill’s “your right to know" baloney.

What about the other 9 posts Sill’s put up during the past four weeks?

Between them they’ve drawn a total of 14 comments, counting ones from Sill.

Sure I’ll repeat that: In the past 4 weeks the 9 posts have drawn a total of only 14 comments.

How about that!

The 145 comment thread is one of a number of Duke lacrosse threads at the Editor’s Blog on which readers have expressed outrage and asked questions, most of which have been ignored or received outright misleading answers. The comments number well into the hundreds.

“Interactive journalism” at the Editor’s Blog.

Good luck, stockholders.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Churchill Series - July 17, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

September 1, 1929 found Churchill in Western Canada, at a place many of you may have visited: Banff. His visit was part of three month long speaking, writing and holiday trip he took across Canada, down the American West Coast, and then across America to New York by train. He was accompanied by his son, Randolph, his brother, Jack, and Jack's son, Johnny.

Here follows most of a wonderful letter Churchill wrote Clementine from Banff. Mary, his youngest daughter, is then seven :

I have some news which will interest Mary. [We] have encountered bears. [WSC underlined "bears." JinC]

We were motoring along when suddenly at a turn in the road, bears were seen approaching at no great distance. It was in fact a she-bear attended by two large cubs. We stopped the motor alongside of them.

The she-bear reared up on her hind legs in what looked at first a menacing attitude, but it turned out that she was not at all hostile, but was in fact only begging for biscuits [which we did not have.] …

[We] slept at Lake Emerald, after a fine drive along the sides of precipitous hills, across foaming torrents and through magnificent gorges. Lake Emerald has an extraordinary colour, more Turquoise of Jade than Emerald. … I painted three pictures which give a very inadequate idea of the great beauty of this spot.

In the evening we reached Lake Louise, where there is another enormous hotel. [Here there is] another green Lake of wide expanse surrounded by enormous precipices and with a wonderful line of snow clad peaks and glaciers in the centre. …

No more prefect Alpine scene exists than this though it is but two hours ride from a Ritz hotel. No wonder Lake Louise is becoming one of the most famous pleasure resorts on this continent! …
It makes you want to head right off to Banff, doesn’t it? I have a friend who’s been just about everywhere in the world. He says Banff and the lake area surrounding it is the most beautiful place he’s ever been.

The letter gives us a wonderful look at Churchill, the father and husband. He knew Clementine would read Mary the letter, especially the part where Papa, Randolph, Uncle Jack and Johnny meet the bears.

He knew both Clementine and Mary would love the striking “word pictures” he drew.

But he couldn't know that 70 years after he wrote that letter, Mary, now Lady Soames, would take it and other letters her father and mother wrote each other, and make them available to us.

What a wonderful thing Lady Soames did.

I hope to see you tomorrow. We’ll be on Victoria Island where, among other things, we’ll meet that cleric I mentioned the other day. Remember? The one Churchill said had “socialist leanings.”

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. (Edited by their daughter Mary Soames) ( p. 343)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Police investigation questions (Post 2)

Readers’ Note: If you are not familiar with “Police investigation questions (Post 1)," I encourage you to read it before continuing. Thank you. John


Post 1 drew a comment from J who self-described as having a background in police investigative work. J critiqued Post 1; and offered details and questions he thought I should consider. His comment impressed me as did a follow up comment he made.

I responded to J on the thread. I said I’d ask him some clarifying questions about his comments, and then build a post based on them.

What you’ll read below are J’s comments and, interlinear in italics, my clarifying questions.

J said he’ll respond to them. Once he’s done that, I’ll get to work on the post.

Meanwhile, in the shared spirit of the blogosphere, no one “owns” J’s comments or my questions. As long as you link to this post and make clear that J and I are in a drafting process, I have no objection.

J can speak for himself but my guess is he won’t object either, as long as you observe what I’ve just said about identification.

That said, we all recognize that anyone can take anything in the blogosphere and do as they will. It’s sort of like what happens in mainstream newsrooms only in the blogosphere we admit what can happen and warn readers.

Now to J’s comments and my questions, J begins:


I doubt ( as a matter of policy as well as a result of the scrutiny they are under) that the DPD will comment on anything but good luck in asking ( most departments will give a verbal miranda and then get the suspect to sign a statement- I dont know what DPD's policy is.

[ J, Do different PD’s have Miranda policies that are significantly different as regards the right to be informed? I was under the impression Miranda rights are governed by US Supreme Court decisions which dictate one set of rights for all.

Am I off base to think that matters of when, how and whether the Duke lacrosse captains were read their Miranda rights are relevant? Also, I was under the impression that a reading of Miranda rights would apply to the 43 other Duke students required to submit to DNA testing and strip naked to the waist for Durham police photos.

But I can’t find any mention in the media of Miranda happening to the 43. Am I right or wrong about Miranda and the Duke captains? Or is that question best left to attorneys? What about the 43? ]

A person becomes a 'suspect" when there is EVIDENCE suggesting he MIGHT be involved ( as opposed to a "person of interest"- who MIGHT know something about it or MIGHT be involved)

As to the investigation- this has gone BACKWARDS almost from day one- here are some questions you SHOULD ask

1) WHY did it take so long to get a search warrant ( reality is, the accuser statement alone combined with the VISUAL finding of diffuse edema is MORE THAN ENOUGH to get a search warrant) The normal process is to send a unit to secure the scene- CALL a judge( wake him up if needed) get a VERBAL and start searching ( I have done this in LESS than 30 minutes)

[ J, You’re bang on. I’ve seen search warrants done in a short time too. They’re even sometimes done in emergency rooms, after which the PDs go find the magistrate and they’re on their way.
Am I right that obtaining a warrant in the first stages of an investigation is a police matter and not something the DA decides? ]

2)WHY was Kim ( who was NAMED as an assailant) NOT arrested? [Great question for the Raleigh News & Observer. ]

3) why were the SUSPECTS not arrested or FORMALLY questioned ( as to alibis etc)

[ J, I think this is a major question that’s been ignored. Can you help me ask it with some specificity regarding prior similar allegations of equally horrific crimes.
If the police, DA Nifong and Nifong’s friend and mentor, Judge Ron Stephens, ascribed any real credibility to the accusers allegations, why were the students allowed to walk free among us for weeks? ]

4)WHY was a sketch artist NOT called ( she gave names and descriptions) and those SKETCHES distributed and a HUMAN line up NOT conducted ( DPD CANNOT say they didnt know who the players were and none of them seem to match HER descriptions)

[I’m planning to break what you aask here into two seperatge questions: One about computer generated suspect likenessnesses; and the other about line ups. ]

5)WHY does the DPD have HER computer? ( since she didnt know Kim or ever had meetings with the Duke people- I see it as IMPOSSIBLE she would have information about them PLUS even if she DID- she is the AV- NOT a SUSPECT- why do they have it?)

[On this question, so important, I plan to refer readers to Sill’s blog. So many of the questions on her most recent Duke lacrosse post thread bear on this question.]

6)WHY was this "mystery" fourth person just "ignored" ( from the line up)

7) WHY so MANY line ups?

[ Would you accept as an answer something like: “Now, Accuser, you’ll see only photos of Duke lacrosse players. You need to pick three of them and tell us they raped, beat and strangled you. If you can’t do that the first time, we’ll keep working at it until you do.

J and others, Do you all remember Professor Coleman’s objection to the line up process? There were “no wrong answers.”]

8) WHY didnt the DPD get a FULL list of attendees of the party and FORMALLY question them?

[ Terrific question. All I plan to do is provide a little context for it.]

9) WHY does Nifong want the personal information of UNINDICTED players?

[Same response as 8]

10 WHAT was the cabbie arrested for ( was he charged in that other incident? was it a bench warrant? ) and WHY were INVESTIGATORS doing the arresting ( thats normally a DEPUTY'S job)

[ Are you sure it’s a Deputy’s job and not usually a Deps job? Also, do you have any knowledge of who told the investigators to go arrest the cabbie? ]

This is really a very simple case ( the AV is known, the suspects are, witnesses are, all forensic evidence has been collected etc) yet the DPD has violated almost every generally accepted procedure used in every jurisdiction in the US

That ought to get you started

[It has J. Thank you.]

J said...

Since you will do your post this weekend, here is a little more "thought fodder' for you

1)WHERE is this Gottleib's report and WHY doesnt Nifong have it? ( heres reality- when a DA wants an officers report for court[ complete or not- there is such a thing as an interim report] its a SIMPLE matter to stop what one is doing and type it.( believe me- thats a HIGH priority when asked for) I can only GUESS but I believe there is something in that report that MAY "criminally" implicate Nifong. I say that because of this. ( contrary to what may be done in Durham) the police do NOT work for and are NOT 'subject to" a DA or his office ( they report to the Chief, County Sheriff or whoever- and that position generally reports to the Mayor or County manager etc) So, with that said, it has been reported that Nifong "took charge" of the investigation or "directed" it- the REAL question is WHO gave him that AUTHORITY? and WHY?

[We could build a series of post on the questions you ask here. In a few days I’ll try to build a “Calling Sgt. Gottlieb” post out of them.]

2) the "wanted poster"- we need a copy of the charter and mission statement to see exactly how much influence the DPD has over them ( for those who dont know how this works, these organizations usually operate as an ancillary function to LE but are "official" representatives to LE- the reason they have a separate identity is because they PAY for information and it could be argued ( and has)that "money" has "influenced" testimony ( the civilians pay so it doesnt look like the police "purchased' evidence or testimony)

[Great background info at least for me. I plan to sit down in Alex Charns office this week and go through the portion of his file that deal with “public” CrimeStoppers correspondence he’s had back and forth with public agents or agencies. ]

3)WHY was there such a "fuss" over the DPD investigation and the DUKE pd investigation and WHY did the City manager get involved ( remember, they said in the beginning that the AV was unreliable and that was a point of contention)- we NOW KNOW she in fact DID give several versions and was viewed as unreliable ( that almost smells like a conspiracy)

These things just dont add up

[No, they don’t, J. I look forward to your response. And thanks again. ]


Duke lacrosse: The Raleigh N&O's cover up has started

(Welcome visitors from La Shawn Barber and Johnsville )

Beginning Mar. 24 when it "broke" the Duke lacrosse story with a report repeatedly saying the accuser was “the victim" without ever using the conditional "alleged," the Raleigh News & Observer produced in a few days a series of stories that effectively framed the Duke lacrosse players as a lawless group that included the three brutal rapists of a young mother, whom they also beat and strangled, and their forty or so teammates, privileged white males all, who looked on while the crimes occurred and afterwards refused to help police identify their rapists pals.

The N&O’s stories, especially those published in the period Mar. 24 through Mar. 27, so powerfully biased and inflamed public opinion against the lacrosse players that when Ruth Sheehan's Mar. 27 N&O column ("Teams' silence is sickening") appeared, it was seen by many as a righteous expression of "community outrage," instead of what sensible people now know it to be: a McCarthyite screed attacking a group of college students for doing nothing more than following the advice of their legal counsels.

We know those N&O stories were part of a terrible hoax that fueled a witch hunt. And like all witch hunts, it’s claimed innocent victims and harmed a community.

But for many weeks after publication of those stories and subsequet ones like them, N&O reporters and editors boasted about them. The N&O’s executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, gushed about how proud she was that her staff had "pushed hard.” The newsroom buzzed with talk of Pulitzers and big pay raises.

It's quieter now at 215 S. McDowell Street. At least it is if you mention the Duke lacrosse case. Sill’s telling readers there isn’t much to report about Duke lacrosse.

At the Editor’s Blog, which the N&O’s parent McClatchy Company provides so Sill can interact with readers, she's ridiculing people who ask such questions as: "Why did the N&O publish the infamous “vigilante poster?” She says such people are making “a hobby” of the Duke lacrosse case. She’s even told questioning readers to go find some other blog. I’m not kidding. Read the comment thread here.

And now today, July 16, in a story under the byline of one of the N&O's lead Duke lacrosse reporters, Jane Stancill, we catch the N&O “air brushing” its March Duke lacrosse stories. Stancill and her editors tell trusting N&O readers the Duke lacrosse story really didn’t begin until April, when journalists “rushed to Durham.” What’s more, if anything went wrong, it’s all DA Mike Nifong’s fault.

Stancill’s story begins:

Journalists rushed to Durham in April to tell the world about a sordid evening at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., where a black exotic dancer reported that she was raped by white lacrosse players from Duke.

An avalanche of media coverage followed, as the confident prosecutor gave dozens of interviews and reporters ferreted out a pattern of drunken misbehavior by jocks at an elite university. […]

Early on, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong gave scores of interviews, calling Duke lacrosse players "hooligans" who were hiding behind a wall of silence. His emphatic statements fueled a national media story.
The N&O’s cover up of its role in the Duke lacrosse hoax has begun.

But before saying more about the N&O, I want to say a few things about Nifong.

Mike Nifong should be removed from office and disbarred. Those actions would be better done sooner rather than later. If there’s a way Nifong can be prosecuted, that should be done. He should also be subjected to the public scorn many of us are now directing at Duke’s faculty's Group of 88 and others like them.

But while we're working to do all of that, we must avoid the trap the N&O and others who helped with the hoax, hysteria, and injustices are setting out for us: The “Mike Nifong did it all” trap.

Nifong had many helpers. In fact, some of them are still trying to help Nifong even as they abandon him.

That’s because they know if they can keep Nifong “afloat” while they “abandon ship,” that gives them time to escape responsibility for their roles in a hoax.

So even as we all recognize, for example, that Reade Seligmann was framed and is clearly innocent, we find Stancill and the N&O editors ending their cover up story with a quote from a professor in Missouri: "The system has to play itself out. The media is not going to answer the question until the jury comes back."

Leaving Reade Seligmann under indictment denies him a chance to go to school in a few weeks. It adds to the stigma he will always carry. Reade, his family and others who care about him will continue to endure heartache.

But Reade Seligmann under indictment and awaiting trial serves to drag out the Duke lacrosse hoax. That helps give most hoax perpetrators time to “swim to dry land” where they’ll say: “Who us? It was all Nifong's fault. And Seligman? We need to hear all the evidence before we make up our minds. What kind of people do you think we are?"

That's why you don't see an N&O editorial demanding justice for Reade Seligmann. That's why, instead, the N&O gave you a cover up story today.

Another day of "justice in Durham" and "fair and accurate reporting" at the N&O.

Another day for Reade and his teammates.

Another day for their families.


I’m sending emails to:

Stancill at:

public editor Ted Vaden at

editorial page editor Steve Ford at

I doubt if it will make any difference to any of them. But I want to let them know two things:

1) Not everyone is indifferent to what they do or cheers them on.

2) Not everyone is suckered by the N&O's cover up.

Thanks for reading.


Posting by 9 p.m. tonight, - 7-16-06


A lots happening.

I'll have two Duke lacrosse posts up by 9 tonight.