Saturday, October 14, 2006

Duke’s Chapel Dean responds.

I recently posted, “Duke lacrosse: A letter to the Chapel Dean.”

I wrote the Dean of Duke University’s Chapel, Revd. Canon Dr. Sam Wells, after reading remarks attributed to him by the Durham Herald Sun which said, for example:

The Rev. Canon Sam Wells, Dean of Duke Chapel and one of [five panelists from Duke’s Campus Cultural Initiative committee], said he believes the university is in the third of three chapters.

The first chapter, Wells said, ran from the 1920s to the late 1950s, with the world -- as seen by Duke -- run by a particular class, race and religious tradition and summed up in one word: "Privilege."
I asked Dean Wells whether he had actually made the remarks the H-S attributed to him and explained why I hoped he hadn’t. I told the Dean I’d post in full his response.

Dean Wells responded promptly. I sent him a brief email to clarify his response. Again, Dean Wells responded promptly.

Below are Dean Wells’ initial response, my clarification email, and the Dean’s response to it.

At the end of this post I make a few brief comments.

Dean Wells’ response to my letter:

Dear johnincarolina

I think I can give you a little reassurance about my remarks on September 29. I suggested that there is a dominant narrative at an institution like Duke which is seldom articulated but widely accepted.

The narrative is that in chapter one institutions of this kind were largely characterized by a certain class, race and gender segment of the population; this era is often now described as the era of privilege. Chapter two, so the story goes, was the era when the so-called excluded groups forced their entry into the citadel. We now appear to be in an era that one might call chapter three: but the most evidently rival groups seem to take their models from one or other of the two previous eras, either wishing for a restoration of order, dignity and duty, or wishing for the remembered clarity of the civil rights period. The Duke Spring in some ways felt like a clash of these two forms of nostalgia.

I assumed that I had told the story in such a way that it was obvious I regarded the story as wholly inadequate. The flaws in it are too many to mention (as you point out), but one example is that religion is often assumed to be the preserve of chapter one, whereas in fact African Americans tend to among the most visibly religious groups and the story places them squarely in chapter two.

While I don't subscribe to this story (and so for the Herald-Sun to say I "believed" it was not correct) I do find it helpful to narrate this story in settings such as the one last Friday because, as I say, it is widely assumed, and its articulation not only makes it available for critique (which you provide) but I sense helps to identify part of what was "going on" on this campus last spring. The danger is that articulating (or quoting) a story can lead to the misunderstanding that one endorses such a story, as seems to have happened in this case.

Such is the nature of agreeing to appear on hastily arranged panels on controversial topics in informal settings where the media are nonetheless present. It is a risk I encounter quite frequently: hence my reluctance to take steps to correct misunderstandings, except when, as now, specifically provoked to do so.

I regret also that you found my remarks last April unhelpful. I tried hard to make no judgement on the case itself, but to accept that sexual violence was an important issue, and to outline what a theological response to it might look like.

You may remember that my remarks coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Week on the campus here. Such remarks are likewise subject to misunderstanding, particularly when every public statement is taken simply to be 'for' or 'against' selected individuals or issues. There can be a difference in emphasis between people who are trying to engage with what has been going on over the last few months (hence my use of the term 'the Duke Spring') and those like yourself whose concern is, understandably, focused on the lacrosse case itself and those most likely to be hurt by it.

What is in fact a difference of emphasis can appear to be a difference in conviction, as your rather polemical blog portrays.

With best wishes

Sam Wells

The Revd Canon Dr Sam Wells
Dean of the Chapel and
Research Professor of Christian Ethics

PS Lest there be any future misunderstanding, I am not in the habit of maintaining correspondence with anonymous writers, so I shall not be responding to any further dialogue on this issue.

My email seeking clarification:

Thank you, Dean Wells, for your response. I'm happy to publish it in full.

That said, I trust you'll understand the following query is meant only to inform JinC readers and others regarding whether or not you inadvertently left something very important out of your response.

I refer, you may have already guessed, to your failure to say whether, as the Herald Sun reported, you used the term "nostalgia fest" when referring to people questioning what some Duke leaders did and didn't do when the hoaxer made her false witness, and others enabled her false witness and the witch hunt that followed.

As a "nostalgia fest” memory jog, Dean Wells, I asked in my email whether you were referring to people questioning what, if anything, President Brodhead said or did when racists on May 18 repeatedly shouted threats, including death threats, at Reade Seligmann.

To put the matter simply: Did you use the term "nostalgia fest;" and if you did, what do you mean by it?



Dean Wells’ response to my email seeking clarification:

Dear John

As I think I said in my earlier message, I think part of the misunderstanding here is that you are considering the precise history and details of the so-called lacrosse case, where as I (in the spirit of the campus culture initiative, which was the subject under discussion at the panel 10 days ago) was referring to the wider discussion taking place on campus last spring, and to some extent still continuing.

It is unfortunate that , on the one hand, some of those who regard the accusations leading to the arrests as illegitimate seem to infer from that that the wider campus discussion is also illegitimate; it is also unfortunate that, on the other hand, those who sense that the wider campus discussion is timely assume (or are assumed to assume) a particular view on the likely outcome of and justification for this case. Hence my exasperation when you seem to take comments about the wider discussion to be the expression of a view on the precise case. We are simply talking about different things - albeit related ones.

I consider myself one who senses the wider campus discussion is timely but who feels unqualified to make a judgement on the details of the case. That does not stop me seeking to hold to certain principles, among them the presumption of innocence unless guilt is proven, and the withholding of judgement on a social group despite the emotive nature of alleged behavior of one or two members of that group.

My remarks at the cci panel could be broadly summarized as 'it is time to plan for the future rather than dwell on the past'. The term 'nostalgia fest' referred to the temptation to use these circumstances as a way of rehashing arguments about the twentieth century history of the South. It was not an observation on particularly regrettable moments in this sorry episode. I find it hard to understand how a sympathetic reading of even the newspaper article might be drawn to interpret it that way.

Of course the history of the South is important but these turbulent circumstances are perhaps not the best time to agree upon it. Unfortunately the reporting (and thus your comments) highlighted the illustrations I gave of the shortcomings of dwelling on the past, rather than the encouragement to plan for the future.


Sam Wells

The Revd Canon Dr Sam Wells
Dean of the Chapel and
Research Professor of Christian Ethics


There are some things Dean Wells says with which I disagree or which I question. There are important things he didn’t say that I wish he had. I’ll return to those matters another day.

Today, I want this post to be what I promised Dean Wells it would be: A publication in full of his response to my letter.

I plan to send Dean Wells an email thanking him for his response. I'll include a link to this post.

Your comments are welcome.


This made me smile

I was playing guessing games with a lovely, bright, almost five-year old.

He asked if I could guess what he wanted to be when he grew up.

I told him that was a hard one. Could he give me a hint?

"He puts people in jail."

Posting resumes at 7 pm tonight

I'll be traveling for the next four hours.

Then home and family first.

Posting follows that.

Look for something around 7 pm.


Gottlieb's coffee talk at Mel’s

Liestoppers takes you to “Mel’s CafĂ© in Durham” and puts you in the booth next to the one where Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and his friends are discussing “the case” and the upcoming 60 Minutes episode.

Your can sip your coffee and listen to everything they say. You’ll even get a chance to find out what Gottlieb’s now wearing under his shirt. I don’t want to give away what it is, but I can tell you its not his “I Drink and Clink at Blinco’s” tee-shirt.

Mel’s Cafe is the place where Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade go to get "the word on the street."

So go on over and tell Mel I said he should put your bill on my tab.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Churchill Series – Oct. 13, 2006

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

Following the Conservatives’ election victory on October 25, 1951, Churchill became Prime Minister again. He got right to work forming a new government.
The man who served during WW II as Churchill’s Principal Private Secretary, Jock Colville, tells us about a call to serve in the new government.

Colville was with his wife enjoying a day at the Newmarket races when :

As I watched the races and contemplated my losses (endemic, as far as I am concerned, on a race-course) an agitated official emerged from the Jockey Club Stand and asked if I was Mr. Colville. When I assented, he said, “It’s the Prime Minister wants you on the telephone.”

“Whatever he asks you to do,” advised my innately cautious wife, say ‘No’”

[On the phone I heard the] familiar voice: “Would you, if it is not inconvenient (but do pray say if it is), take a train to London and come to see me?”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“No, this afternoon.”

Of course I did, and was invited to be the new Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary.
In future posts, I plan to say more about the relationship between Churchill and Colville.

Have a nice weekend and be sure to watch 60 Minutes the Sunday evening. There’ll be an episode on the Duke Hoax.
Source citation to follow.

60 Minutes: Six sure bets

You won’t be wrong if you make the following bets about this Sunday’s 60 Minutes Duke Hoax episode with Ed Bradley:

1) Kim Roberts, the “second dancer,” will contradict key elements of the accuser’s stories. You can be sure about that because 60’s already told us that at its website and in press releases.

2) Roberts’ statements, while important, aren’t the “big news” in 60's episode. Sixty believes it has much more important news to tell viewers.

If 60 thought Roberts’s statements were the most important news, 60 wouldn’t have disclosed them yesterday and sent out thousands of emails to MSM journalists, bloggers and others saying, “Hey, look at what Kim Roberts is going to tell Ed Bradley Sunday night.”

CBS’s 60 won't deliberately give away its “big news” the Thursday before an episode. You get a reputation for doing that and folks will ask, “Why watch? Don't they always tell you Thursday?

Another reason “Kim’s story” won’t be the “big news:” 60 Minutes knows Kim Roberts’ is a serial fabricator. It’s not going to hang its story on her words. (For a nice appreciation and detailing of Roberts’ creative "talents," see this Johnsville News post.)

3) The big news will come first, when the three indicted players – David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann - tell their stories and 60 says that while it couldn’t fact check everything the players said, everything it did fact check supported what the players say; and second, when 60 exposes DA Nifong, Sgt. Gottlieb and others who’ve framed the players and some other people and organizations who in various ways enabled the frame-up and continue to sustain it.

If you’ve “followed the blogs” and the few courageous journalists who’ve worked to expose the frame-up and its enablers, most of what you’ll hear won’t be new. But it’ll be important and shocking news to Americans who until Sunday night had bought into the false version of the events the Raleigh News & Observer published on Mar. 25 when it reported what the N&O said, without any qualification, was a night that ended in “sexual violence.”

4) David Evans, one of the three captains who rented the house on N. Buchanan Blvd., is going to describe the extraordinary cooperation he and his housemates provided police on Mar. 16.

Sixty will confirm they did and will very likely tell viewers the Raleigh N&O’s Mar. 25 “sexual violence” story was the original source of the “wall of silence” falsehood that so many enablers used to savage the players. ( The N&O actually used “wall of solidarity” but since that falsehood quickly morphed into the generally used “wall of silence” falsehood, I use the latter here. – JinC)

Evans will also say that a few days following their cooperation with police on Mar. 16, the captains met with Duke’s President, Richard H. Brodhead. At that meeting the captains acknowledged the party and the conduct of some players there were very wrong. Evans will also say, and this is very important, that the captains told Brodhead in great detail of their cooperation with police.

5) Bradley will “walk” Reade Seligmann through his calling the cab and leaving the party, riding with his roommate to the ATM machine, etc. Bradley may even ask Seligmann if he can “show our viewers” one of the receipts. Sixty loves to do things like that.

You can bet 60 wants to put Seligmann’s evidence up against the Nifong/Gottlieb “evidence.” Who, beside's Nifong enablers, would miss that chance?

And you know the outcome of that match-up. Talk about a sure bet!

6) Here's the last sure bet.

I’ve confirmed with Duke News Service that 60 interviewed Brodhead.

Now 60 has been working on this story for almost 6 months. They interviewed hundreds of people for the episode. Almost all of them won’t “make the episode.”

But you can mortgage the farm and bet Brodhead will "make the episode."

So what will the Brodhead part of the episode be like?

It’s a very safe bet that Brodhead will offer a lot of “It was such a confusing time, Ed. We were all doing our best. I kept insisting they were innocent until proven guilty.”

Bradley will let Brodhead go on for a while and then he’ll start asking questions such as:

“But President Brodhead, why didn’t you tell the public about the players’ cooperation? I have your Mar. 25 statement here. That was after the captains told you about their cooperation. You say - let me read from your statement
"I urge everyone to cooperate to the fullest with the police inquiry while we wait to learn the truth."
President Brodhead, you didn't make any mention of what Dave Evans and the other captains told you about their cooperation with the police. Why not?”
There’ll be other questions like that, perhaps even a question about why Brodhead has refused to meet with the parents of the players.

By the end of the episode, most viewers will know the truth of what the best of the Duke Hoax bloggers, KC Johnson, has been reporting for months: Brodhead’s silence and repeated refusals to offer his students anything more than a boiler plate “Innocent until proven guilty” acknowledgement enabled the Hoax and its monumental injustices.

I plan to post again tomorrow on the 60 episode.

Full disclosure: During the past few months, I’ve talked with CBS and 60 staffers. It was simple fact checking. I know nothing about what’s in the final episode that isn’t at 60’s website and in CBS and 60’s press releases.

So if on Monday morning I have to eat crow with humble pie, it will be a dish I cooked myself.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Churchill Series – Oct. 12, 2006

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

On October 25, 1951, Churchill, a month shy of his seventy-seventh birthday, led the Conservatives to victory in the General Election. For the second time the King sent for him and asked that he form a government.

The new Prime Minister immediately set to work at his London home in Hyde Park Gate to form a new government. Of course, he called on many who’d served with him during WWII. One of those was Lord Hastings (“Pug”) Ismay, who headed Churchill’s Defense Office during the war.

Ismay had gone to bed and was sleeping when he got a call to serve:

I was told that Mr. Churchill wanted to speak to me. There were many people sitting by their telephones that night, hoping, and perhaps praying, that the new Prime Minister might have something to offer them, but these were problems which were no concern of mine.

The conversation was brief.

“Is that you, Pug?”

“Yes, Prime Minister. It’s grand to be able to call you Prime Minister again.”

“I want to see you at once. You aren’t in bed, are you?”

“I’ve been asleep for over an hour.”

“Well, I only want to see you for five minutes.”

I put my head under a cold tap, dressed in record time, and was at 28, Hyde Park Gate within a quarter of an hour of being wakened.

Mr. Churchill was alone in his drawing-room, and told me, without any preliminaries, that he wanted me to be Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I thought that the cold tap had failed to do its work and that I was still dreaming, but Mr. Churchill brushed aside my doubts and hustled me into the dining-room where I found Mr. Eden, Lord Salisbury, Sir Norman Brook, and a bevy of secretaries working away on a variety of drafts.

The years rolled back. It was like old times.
Isn’t Ismay’s account wonderful?

I’ll say more about it in tomorrow’s post.
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945 – 1965 (pgs. 653-654)

In Durham I hope RN - VC plans

Recall Nifong - Vote Cheek

I think this Sunday's 60 Minutes epside will be a plus for the Duke lacrosse players and a big, well-deserved minus for DA Mike Nifong.

Sunday night and Monday there'll be a lot of people in Durham and across America asking, "How do we get that rogue DA out of there?"

I don't doubt that the RN-VC folks have quietly made plans to give their campaign a boost and give folks wanting to help oust Nifong ways to help.

Understandably RN-VC doesn't want to make those plans public lest they look like they're trying to preempt 60 Minutes' presentation

I don't have any "inside" information but I bet we'll see things like a news conference Monday; maybe ads in the newspapers saying: "here's where to get your lawn signs, here's our next rally;" and something telling people who watched 60 Minutes but don't live in Durham what they can do to make sure Nifong doesn't go on for four more years committing injustices.

I'm clearing my calendar for Monday. I'll report what I learn but you may be able to learn more first at the RN-VC website.

Full disclosure: I have no affiliation with RN-VC but wish them well and will be voting for Cheek.

Nifong is so bad that

when his friend, Durham defense attorney Tom Eagen, wrote a “vote for Mike” letter to the Durham Herald Sun, Eagen didn’t even try to defend Nifong’s actions in the Duke Hoax case.

Attorney Eagen offered readers plenty of “I’ve known Mike Nifong for more than 20 years [and he’s] working for the alleged victim and the community.”

But Attorney Eagen didn’t say anything about Nifong telling the police to violate there own identification procedures so that the alleged victim was told she would see only players believed to have been at the party. As Duke Law Professor James Coleman pointed out, that meant “there could be no wrong answers. Any three would do.”

We can all agree with Attorney Eagen that the violation of police procedures Nifong asked for helped the alleged victim.

But it didn’t help the community; or at least that part of it that wants a fair, honest DA.

Attorney Eagen doesn’t say anything about his “friend of 20 years” ridiculing people for hiring defense attorneys and claiming if they were not guilty they wouldn’t need attorneys.

Does Attorney Eagen believe all the people who retain him are guilty?

Attorney Eagan sounds like someone who's spent too much time working with DA Nifong.

There’s plenty at the blogs today

Johnsville News publishes a copy of the letter defense attorney’s have written DA Nifong asking him to turn over records regarding meetings he had with the accuser. The letter details contradictory statements Nifong has made in court and to the press. Don’t look for it to appear on Nifong’s campaign website.

JN also has a tongue in cheek "complaint" about our Durham-in-Wonderland neighbor KC Johnson keeping us all up at night. JN says:

K.C. Johnson is going to force the residents of Johnsville to start missing their bed time if he keeps dropping his big hoax-busting bombs at his Wonderland blog after the stroke of midnight.
Here’s an example of why people are staying up for KC’s hoax-busters: some excerpts from KC's latest post exposing details of Nifong’s campaign finances:
For instance, here’s [criminal defense lawyer]John Bourlon dismissing allegations that Nifong moved forward with a weak case: “I’m convinced he has something,” Bourlon told the Associated Press. Since North Carolina has an Open Discovery law, Bourlon seemed to imply that Nifong had held something back, thereby flouting the law.

The AP article described Bourlon in the following way: “The criminal defense lawyer has faced off against Nifong hundreds of times over the past three decades.” Bourlon apparently “forgot” to mention his vested interest in the outcome of the race: on February 19, he donated $1000 to the Nifong re-election effort—the second largest individual contribution that Nifong received for the primary campaign.

[The AP added that Bourlon has “seen the prosecutor drop a weak case the day before trial.” That comment begs the question of why Nifong would wait so long to drop a weak case. And does he have a pattern of filing weak cases?]
KC isn’t just dropping Duke hoax-busters.

He’s also dropping MSM hoax-busters; in this case exposing the hoax that “we in MSM, especially we at the AP, give you the news.”

If the AP gave us the news, than it would have reported what KC reported: Bourlon was a big Nifong campaign contributor.

The AP and KC just gave readers another reason for reading those blogs.

Liestoppers has an excellent post detailing some of the extensive cooperation the lacrosse players provided police. Liestoppers makes a point I’ve made here often: the “wall of silence” was, from day one, a falsehood that misled the public and did enormous harm to the players.

A few weeks ago William Anderson wrote another of his fine columns on the Hoax. I meant to call it to your attention. If you missed it, I hope you’ll give it a look now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Churchill Series – Oct. 11, 2006

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

The barbs went back and forth during Churchill’s public life. Remember this well known one he tossed at Labour Party leader, Clement Attlee: “A very humble man with much to be humble about?"

Here are a few less known ones:

Of Prime Minister Ramsay MacConald he said: "He has the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought."

About Lawrence of Arabia: "He had the art of backing uneasily into the limelight"?

Churchill often got as good as he gave. About his history of the First World War, a political opponent, Sir Samual Hoare, said: "Winston's written an enormous book all about himself and called it The World Crisis"?

I hope you’re back tomorrow.
The Attlee quote is from memory. The other three are found here at the Churchill Centre

Can you guess

which future McClatchy News Company editor wrote the following:

“I really meant to get my assignment done. When I look back on last night, I realize that perhaps I could have started a bit earlier. But there’s no point in dragging up the past.

With 20/20 hindsight, we all see things more clearly. So it’s easy to find fault with me, but I’m not going to do that.

And I’m not going to blame Samiha Khanna, whose assignment I copied for our class newspaper.

The mistakes, if any, were neither hers nor mine. Both of us were working under deadlines.

Some adults say the earth is round; others say it’s flat. As your editor, I catch it from both sides.

But I’m not complaining.

What I want to do is help all of you get ready for Middle School.”
If you haven’t guessed by now the name of the future editor, here’s a link that will take you to the latest post by Melanie Sill, executive editor for news at the Raleigh N&O.

How Editor Sill "reports" to readers

We've seen stunning examples of the extent to which the Raleigh News & Observer has, in the Duke Hoax, manipulated and surpressed news to such an extent that during March and April it provided grossly biased and incomplete reporting that presented the hoaxer as a victim and the Duke lacrosse players as her victimizers.

What the N&O did is disgraceful but nothing new for that paper.

Below is a post, "The Editor, the Governor, and we the people," which I originally posted on Aug. 29, 2005. I hope you take a look at it. It's a very good example of how the N&O's executive editor for news, Melanie Sill, "reports" to readers.

Near the end of the post you'll see I gave Sill an opportunity to respond. I'd print in full whatever she said. Sill didn't respond. When you come to the end of the post, I think you'll understand why.


Editors and governors are important. And so are we the readers.

Raleigh’s News & Observer is suing North Carolina’s Governor, Mike Easley, for release of documents involving gubernatorial pardons. If the courts rule in favor of The N&O, I understand such release will be unprecedented in our state’s history.

The N&O says it wants the documents only to inform readers.

I thought about that when I read a recent column by Melanie Sill, The N&O’s executive editor for news.

Sill pounded many NC public officials for what she says is their lack of full and prompt responses when N&O staffers, including herself, call with questions, requests for interviews, and “deadlines.” Sill made Governor Easley and his staff her special target. Her column’s title: "Governor’s position? No comment."

But what Sill told readers about Easley and his staff didn't sound right. Stuff like Easley not explaining his thinking on major public policy issues. He does that often.

So I called Governor Easley’s office. Folks were very helpful. And wow, is there ever another side to the story Sill told in her column!

If you read on just a bit, you'll get that other side. It’s a copy of a “lengthy email statement” Sill received from the governor’s office.

Sill used the email to hammer the governor and his staff. But Sill never provided readers with a text copy. She just said what she wanted to say the email said.

What follows first is the conclusion of Sill’s column where she's telling readers about the email. Following that, there's an electronic copy of the email's text. After the email, I ask a few questions and invite questions from readers. I also invite Sill to respond and offer to publish in full what she says.


The conclusion of Sill's column:

While working on this column, I sought to hear Easley’s side of things. I put in a request to interview the governor or his representative on Monday afternoon, noting I was on deadline. The response? No interview with the governor or anyone else. Instead, I received a lengthy email statement from Cari Boyce in the governor’s press office saying that our reporters are free to chase down the governor at public events (as they do as often as they can) and ask him questions.

Thanks, Ms. Boyce, but that’s not what I asked.


Here’s the text of the email statement from Cari Boyce in the governor’s press office to Melanie Sill at The N&O.

Thank you for your recent call to our office about the Governor’s availability to reporters at the News & Observer. Specifically, it is my understanding that you are writing a column on “public officials who will not take or answer questions about public policy matters.” You cited, as an example, Barbara Barrett’s recent story on pardons and clemency.

In the past month, the Governor has had at least six public events in the Raleigh area where he has been available and has made public comments about a variety of issues. The News & Observer staff has been made aware of these events and they have all been open to your reporters. As you and your reporters know, the Press Office staff routinely works with reporters who would like to ask “off-topic” questions at public events and attempt to accommodate them whenever possible. For example, Matthew Eisley spoke with the Governor regarding the bonds for the N.C. Art Museum at last Thursday’s Bill of Rights ceremony. Furthermore, Ms. Barrett was also at the event and had the same opportunity to ask the Governor questions as did Mr. Eisley.

Ms. Barrett contacted the Press Office requesting an interview for her story on pardons mid-afternoon on Monday and claimed that she had a Wednesday deadline. She was given all the information that she requested about the process and the status of the cases in question. Subsequent questions also were answered after her stated deadline. Because of the ongoing negotiations with the legislature over the budget, the Governor’s schedule simply did not permit a one-on-one interview with her.

Other than Ms. Barrett, I am not aware of any recent requests by reporters at your paper for interviews with the Governor on any topic. Your assertion that the Governor does not comment on “public policy matters” is simply not accurate.

The Governor’s Press Office will continue to accommodate media requests when appropriate but it will continue to be done in balance with the other responsibilities and scheduling demands of the Governor


My questions for Editor Sill:

Why didn't you link readers to the email from the governor’s office or publish it in full?

How did withholding the email text from readers serve their interests?

Since you told readers you “sought to hear Easley’s side of things,” what do you say to readers asking why you didn't make the email available to them so they could "hear" for themselves his "side of things?"

Is your reporting on the email and Governor Easley and his staff a fair example of how N&O staffers report on public officials and their staffs?

There are many more questions readers will ask, but the four above are a start.

I'll publish in full your responses to these questions as well as your responses to related questions readers will ask.

Your prompt and full responses will serve to model what you're demanding our state’s public officials do.

What happened at Duke's Alumni site?

Readers' Note:

For background on the email letter below, see a JinC post, "Duke Alumni site hacked?" and two research posts by historian and blogger Robert KC Johnson, "Justify or Retract" and "In denial."


President Tom C. Clark
Duke Alumni Association

Dear President Clark:

I'm a DAA member, hold two degrees from the university and blog at

I was surprised and disappointed by "Lacrosse Responses: A Few Key Points," particularly by those talking points appearing to endorse President Brodhead's views that the students indicted by DA Nifong should be tried and there is nothing Duke can or should do about the matter.

Many alums reject Brodhead's views. Our reasons are explicated in two research documents historian Robert KC Johnson recently published: "Justify or Retract" and "In Denial."

Johnson considered Brodhead's views in light of important legal, political, social and higher ed precedents. He concluded Brodhead's views are counter to hard-won rights and standards Americans cherish.

Regarding DAA's talking points, Johnson notes " [they suggest] professors and academic leaders must remain silent amidst procedural irregularities by local prosecutors. Such 'talking points,' of course, would repudiate 80-plus years of the history of higher education, dating back to [then Professor] Felix Frankfurter's public protests against the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and would effectively condemn the thousands of brave professors and academic leaders who stood up against the actions of corrupt Deep South prosecutors in the late 1950s and early 1960s".

Acceptance of Brodhead's views means we will not advocate for what Duke Law Professor James A. Coleman believes is a proper response to the investigative and legal travesties that led to the students' indictments.

From Coleman's June 13 letter to the Raleigh N&O:

Durham District Attorney Michael Nifong should ask the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor for the rape case against three Duke lacrosse players and then remove himself and his office from further involvement. This is the only way to restore some degree of public confidence in the handling of the case. Up to now, virtually everything that Nifong has done has undermined public confidence in the case"
Endorsement of Brodhead’s views means remaining silent even as we know the truth of what Coleman goes on to say:
According to the police account of the identification … the police not only failed to include people they knew were not suspects among the photographs shown the woman, they told the witness in effect that there would be no such "fillers" among the photographs she would see.

This strongly suggests that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice."
Who doubts Coleman is describing a frame-up?

Months after the events, Nifong's principal investigator, Durham Police Sgt. Gottlieb, produced from two pages of handwritten notes thirty-two pages of typed, single space, detailed "evidence" he'd collected.

Gottleib's "notes" are the frame-up's "exclamation point."

Why would alums reject Coleman's solution and instead endorse Brodhead's views?

And why would DAA do likewise?

Professor Johnson is certain DAA's talking points are "repeats" of Brodhead’s views.

Did the talking points just "land" on DAA's site as a result of someone's "good intentions?"

Or are they there as a result of the considered judgment of DAA's officers, directors and executive director?

I appreciate the attention you and others who lead DAA will give this letter and my questions.

I'll post your response in full at I'll also post responses, if any, I receive from others to whom this letter is copied.

I trust you'll keep my email address in confidence.



cc’s to DAA officers, directors, and executive director

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Churchill Series – Oct. 10, 2006

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

It’s brief today: just an amusing little story I found in a page note in Martin Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill: Never Despair, 1945-1965. (p. 846, n. 3)

For the story to work, you need to remember three things: Westerham is the village by Chartwell; from Central London where our story “unfolds” Westerham was about a 90 minute drive in the pre-WWII years; and, finally, something we all know: Churchill loved poking gentle fun at himself and whomever he was with.

Now our story.

In 1938 Churchill attended a London dinner party hosted by the art historian, Kenneth Clark, and his wife, Jane. As Clark later told it:

At about 1:30 a.m. Mr. Churchill rose to leave us. He went out into a deserted Portland Place, the pavement glistening with heavy rain, so that it looked like a canal. Mr Churchill’s car was waiting, and he told the chauffeur to take him to Westerham.

“Good heavens,” said Jane, “you’re not going all that way.”

“Yes, my dear, I only come to London to sock the Government or to dine with you.”

Have Nifong and Ashley “split up?”

That’s what Liestoppers is wondering after reporting that Editor Bob Ashley’s Durham Herald Sun has cancelled plans to hold a candidates forum after DA Mike Nifong refused to appear on any of the dates the H-S offered.

Liestoppers says:

It is unclear at this time whether DA Nifong intends to avoid all campaign forums or if he and Bob Ashley have split up.
I find it hard to believe Ashley and Nifong have split.

Ashley’s exactly the kind of editor a DA like Mike Nifong wants at the local paper. And Ashley has stood by Nifong during some pretty tough times.

A neighbor of mine who knows them both well says they’re “joined at the hip.”

Of course, both guys are quick to lash out at people for things they didn’t do.

Ashley blames former subscribers and advertisers for bailing out on the H-S. He gets angry if you tell him they bailed because he’s run a once fine newspaper into the ground.

And Nifong? Have you heard what he’s done to three innocent Duke students?

I guess if Nifong can indict three innocent students, maybe he could turn on Ashley who, we know, is innocent of saying even one bad word about Nifong.

So that could explain things.

Still, after all Ashley's done for Nifong, I’d have thought Nifong would have shown up at Ashley's H-S’s forum for at least 60 Minutes.

Keep visiting Liestoppers.

From Raleigh’s N&O: Old whines, no answers

Readers’ Note: Below is a comment I just left on a post thread at the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editors’ Blog. For background, read the post by N&O deputy managing editor Linda Williams and the thread that follows, especially comments by N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill. It is to Sill that I direct my comment below.


Dear Melanie,

You say:

I think you'll be hard-put to find another editing team even attempting to respond to this kind of anonymous accusation. I continue to wonder why people who feel so strongly won't step up with their real names. This has become the convention on the Duke lacrosse posts on this blog, but on other such blogs many people identify themselves. I think that identification strengthens the dialogue
First, as anyone who reads this thread will see, almost all people on this thread aren’t making anonymous accusations. They’re in some cases asking fair and important questions the N&O should have answered months ago. In other cases, they're providing fact-based refutations of statements you and Linda Williams have made.

You wonder why people “won’t step up with their real names.”

Perhaps, Melanie, some of them are concerned you'll target them the way you’ve targeted the teenagers and young men on the Duke lacrosse team.

You published and distributed over 200, 000 copies of the “vigilante poster” knowing that doing so would endanger the lacrosse players.

Now if the N&O would do something that despicable to the Duke lacrosse players who did you no harm, people will surely ask themselves what you’d do to them for asking questions and providing information that expose the N&O’s falsehoods and news suppression.

Think about it, Melanie.

BTW – Has it occurred to you that you’re still keeping anonymous the source(s) of the “vigilante poster” and those at the N&O who decided, “Let’s put it out there anyway?”

Your Mar. 25 story told readers: "authorities vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity.”

The truth on Mar. 25 was that the lacrosse players had since Mar. 16 been extraordinarily cooperative with authorities.

I detailed some of that cooperation in my comment above at 10/08/06 at 12:54. I also noted police say they reported the cooperation to media as it happened.

Melanie, you need to tell readers on what day the N&O learned of the captains’ cooperation (detailed, signed statements to police voluntarily given, etc., etc.).

Then you need to tell readers on what day and in what detail the N&O reported the captains’ extensive cooperation.

Every question asked in my comment above is fair, needs to be answered, and should have been answered months ago.

Stop whining and answer those questions and the other ones people are asking.

You say, “I think that identification strengthens the dialogue.”

I don’t know about that. Look at all the journalists in the last five years who were identified by their newspapers through bylines, posts and comment threads who turned out to be lying to us.



Monday, October 09, 2006

The Churchill Series – Oct. 9, 2006

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

On August 23, 1946, Churchill arrived in Switzerland for a three-week working vacation. He planned to do some work on his WWII memoirs and make a few speeches, but mostly he wanted to rest and paint by the shore of Lake Leman.

The Sunday Express gave its readers a description of what things were like for Churchill at Chateau Choisi, the villa where he stayed.

Martin Gilbert tells us The Daily Express story so amused Churchill that he cut it out and kept it for years. Here’s some of it:

Mr. Winston Churchill, Europe’s most popular personality, has today become known as “The prisoner of the chateau.”

From the moment he set foot on Swiss soil at the airport yesterday, for a three weeks’ holiday, accompanied by Mrs. Churchill and their daughter, Mary, he has held the concerted attention of the Swiss police.

At Chateau Choisi, on the shores of Lake Leman, scores of armed police patrol the grounds and police speedboats manoeuvre constantly within 50 yards of the shore.

The police have built a nest in a high tree in the chateau’s grounds, from where the look-out man can take stock of the surrounding territory and at the same time watch Mr. Churchill’s every movement. …

Rising early in the morning, he went down to the lake side, followed discreetly by two policemen, to look at the scenery. In the afternoon he was seen with brushes and easel wending his way to the private port to start the first of his pictures of Lake Leman. …

Mr Churchill has expressed a desire that no official reception be given while he is holidaying.
I think we can all understand why Churchill would ask that no official receptions be given. He just wanted to enjoy a holiday with his family and the Swiss police.
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill:Never Despair, 1945-1965.(p.261)

60 Minutes' "squeeze" & N&O news suppression

Back on Sept. 10 I posted, “The N&O finally tells about Gottlieb. So why now?”

How could we explain a Raleigh News & Observer Sept. 9 story detailing arrest records of Durham Police Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, the principal investigator in the Duke Hoax case?

The records revealed that, compared to other officers, Gottlieb had arrested Duke students in disproportionate numbers. Also, that Gottlieb frequently handcuffed Duke students and jailed them for such minor offences as noise violations.
The records covered the 10 months prior to March 2006 when the N&O “broke” the Duke story.

Since Gottlieb’s arrest records were publicly available in March and thereafter, why did the N&O wait until Sept. 9 to report them?

I suggested the N&O’s Sept. 9 story was the result of its realizing CBS’ 60 Minutes, then planning a Duke Hoax story for Sept. 24, was on to Gottlieb’s treatment of Duke students and would include it in its report. The N&O didn’t want its faithful readers going off to bed on Sept. 24 asking themselves, “Now why didn’t I see anything about that in the N&O?”

The N&O is the principal news organization in Duke’s area. Its grossly biased, inaccurate and inflammatory Duke coverage, particularly its Mar. 25 “young mother gang-raped” story, defined the Duke witch hunt.

So 60 Minutes’ staffers would naturally want to spend a lot of time talking to N&O reporters and editors. And the N&O couldn’t very well give CBS’s 60 staffers the kinds of misdirection and brush-offs it has regularly given readers and bloggers asking about its Duke Hoax.

From 60 staffers questions and requests the N&O has learned a lot about what 60 knows beyond what the N&O and other media have told the public. That puts the N&O in a squeeze

Now, let’s fast forward to today.

The 60 Duke episode didn’t run on Sept. 24. It’s scheduled to run next Sunday, Oct.15.

There are a few people here in Durham who’ve almost always “gotten it right” in the past who say 60 has used the delay to investigate and interview in Durham until just last week. They say 60 is putting together an episode which will “move the story forward in a big way.” They haven’t said anything beyond that.

But I thought about their remarks when I read Thursday the N&O’s disclosures at its Editors Blog that withheld from the public critical parts of the notorious Mar. 25 interview with the anonymous accuser which did so much to turn inflame public sentiment and turn what should have been a fair, thorough police investigation into a witch hunt.

The lead editor on the story, Linda Williams, told readers:

Our March 25 article that included an interview with the woman who accused Duke lacrosse players of rape has been the subject of questions and speculation on blog posts. There is a mistaken assumption that the N&O conducted an extensive interview with the woman and deliberately withheld a substantial portion of the interview.
Then Williams went on to acknowledge the N&O had been suppressing for almost 6 months the news that during interview the accuser had described the second dancer and made accusations about her. You can read more here including on the thread readers’ comments which expose holes in Williams’ misleading or worse “explanations".

I bet you’re already saying to yourself the next thing I’m going to say, “The N&O isn’t disclosing this news it's suppressed for almost 6 months to clear up mistaken assumptions. The N&O knows 60 Minutes is on to the content of the interview and may very likely include it in next Sunday’s episode.”

You're right

And again, 60 Minutes has "squeezed" the N&O.

I can’t wait to see the 60 episode. It hasn’t even run, and look at all it’s helping us learn.

Final note: On the comment thread to Williams post a reader, really a citizen journalist, Joan Foster, asked Melenie Sill, the N&O’s executive editor for news, whether the N&O was planning to tell its print readers about the news suppression, or whether those of us who’ve learned about it on the net are supposed to keep the information to ourselves.

Great question! I hope it doesn’t take the N&O 6 months to answer it.

Keep reading those blogs, stay tuned and have a good week.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Duke lacrosse: N&O's Mar. 25 story implodes

To fair-minded people the N&O’s Mar. 25 story about the anonymous young mother brutally gang raped at a party hosted by Duke lacrosse players was always suspect.

They knew the story was about a woman’s disputed accusations. Yet the N&O ran unqualified headlines across page one just as it would for a straight news story it had verified:

Dancer gives details of ordeal
A woman hired to dance for the Duke lacrosse team describes a night of racial slurs, growing fear and, finally, sexual violence
Why, fair-minded poeple asked themselves, hadn’t the N&O put quotes around the headlines to indicate almost all their content was based on one person’s accusations almost all of which everyone else at the party was disputing?

The N&O went on and told readers:
It is The News & Observer's policy not to identify the victims of sex crimes.
A lot of people read that and took it at face value. Why weren’t those players in jail. Some started banging pots and demanding to know why Duke Univeristy still hadn’t expelled all the players.

But fair-minded people kept their heads. They asked what basis the N&O had for the statement. They wondered why the Durham Police officer quoted in the story hadn’t provided any physical descriptions of the three alleged rapists. Why hadn’t the N&O mentioned that? The alleged rapes had occurred almost two weeks ago. And here the alleged victim was granting an interview. Hadn’t she found time to give police descriptions of her attackers?

The story’s flaws and falsehoods have been exposed for months now but never as extensively and intensivly as in the past three days.

It all started when N&O Deputy Managing Editor Linda Williams posted at the N&O Editors’ Blog the N&O’s latest round of misleading explanations, excuses and delials that were quickly deconstructed by readers doing the kind a fact-finding and analysis reporters and editors are supposed to do. The N&O executive editor for news Melanie Sill stepped in on the comment thread to help Williiams out but that only seems to have made things worse for the N&O.

I’ll repeat something I said yesterday: Keep going to the Editors’ Blog and follow what’s happening there.

I just left the following comment at the Editors Blog ---

Dear Melanie:

Your Mar. 25 story told readers:
"authorities vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity.

“We're asking someone from the lacrosse team to step forward,” Durham police Cpl. David Addison said. “We will be relentless in finding out who committed this crime.”
If the truth had been told to your readers on Mar. 25 they would have learned the authorities had received a Niagara of cooperation from the lacrosse players.

The Niagara of cooperation began on Mar. 16 when the lacrosse captains who lived at the house voluntarily answered police questions first at the house and then at a police station, gave police signed statements, voluntarily went to Duke Hospital and submitted to rape kit testing, offered to take polygraph tests, helped police identify who was at the party and who wasn't, and then helped police locate the others who were at the party.

Police tell me they were letting the N&O know about the cooperation right after it happened. They say they continued to report to media on the players’ cooperation.

The police also reminded me that reporters always ask, “Is the suspect cooperating?” If the police answer yes, the next question is always: “What kind of cooperation?”

On what day , Melanie, did the N&O first learn about the captains' cooperation?

On what day and in what detail did the N&O first report that cooperation to readers?

Did anyone at the N&O tell Ruth Sheehan before she wrote her "Team's Silence is Sickening" column about the captains' extraordinary voluntary cooperation?

When you prepared your Mar. 25 story, you knew the court order the players had received was appealable. Anyone of the 46 could have exercised his right of appeal. None did. Every one of the players immediately complied with the order.

What a remarkable example of cooperation with the authorities.

So why did you decide to tell readers nothing about the captains' cooperation and all of the 46 players' waiver of their right of appeal?

Why did you instead only tell readers "authorities vowed to crack the team's wall of solidarity?"

You knew what you were reporting to readers about "the team's wall of solidarity" was false. But you've never explained why you did that. Why?

It’s sad to have to ask these questions. If the N&O Duke lacrosse coverage had been fair and reasonably accurate they wouldn’t be necessary.

Why did the N&O deliberately do such a malicious thing?

Last two questions: Who put you in touch with the hoaxer? Why did that person(s) do it?

Thank you.


Today Johnsville News and Liestoppers provide excellent takedowns of the N&O Mar. 25