As only a humble contributor to an online blog, I'm a bit intimidated at writing to a big-time, professional Editor like yourself. But your headline and article today, misrepresenting Sunday's 60 Minutes segment about the end of the Nifong/Mangum Hoax, just spurred my compassionate nature to reach out to you with some sympathy and advice.
Your article today begins:
"Racial strain factor in Cooper declaration"
"State Attorney General Roy Cooper says the strains the Duke lacrosse case inflicted on Durham's racial climate played a role in his decision last week to declare the three defendants innocent of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer.Bob, I know you're under a tremendous strain these days, being humiliated once again before a national audience and all ... so, to refresh your memory, I'm enclosing a clip of AG Cooper's actual words from the actual broadcast to refresh your memory.
"Cooper made the comments on Sunday night's CBS "60 Minutes" news program in response to a question from interviewer Leslie Stahl, who described Durham as a "racially roiled" city because the dancer was black and the players white."
I want you take a few deep breaths, sip your frappuccino, turn the volume way up, and play this a few times.
Done? Alrighty then. Now tell Joan what you heard. Cooper said racial strains may have played a part in his decision NOT TO CHARGE THE DEMENTED CRYSTAL MANGUM. He said nothing about racial strains impacting his decision to declare Collin, Reade and Dave innocent!
There's a big difference, Bob. Fair-minded readers see it. Angry lacrosse parents see it. Curious civil attorneys see it. You need to progress beyond the "denial" stage of your grief and see it too. Wishing does not make it so. This type of flagrant misreporting begs the question of whether you, as an Editor, are derelict in duty or just stupid.
Bob, I know dreams die hard. I've read every bit of your coverage of this case every day. I have absorbed every one-sided editorial. You've championed the strange notion that an allegation without a scintilla of evidence must advance to trial at all costs. You saw two benefits in this. First, the falsely accused players would um-m-m. get "to prove their innocence" ... albeit in front of a local jury your coverage had whipped into a frenzy. Secondly, a trial would serve as sort of a healing "judicial rap session" for the community at large. "Evidence" presented for months in the media by fair-minded journalists like yourself, Nancy Grace, Wendy Murphy, Georgia Goslee, and the NC NAACP might just compensate for the true fact that there was, as Dave Evans said "no there, there."
Readers will never forget the palpable euphoria at your newspaper when one DNA cell was thought to have shown up on a press-on fingernail retrieved from an innocent victim's own overflowing trash can. This was the "hallelujah" moment that indicated that a single "one in fifty could not be eliminated" speck might prove, in the absence of everything else ... a vicious 30 minute rape and beating had taken place. Here was vindication for your DEMANDS for trial. A constant stream of pro-prosecution guest editorials. And for twice issuing a Nifong election endorsement. Bob, that's quite a track record there at the Herald-Sun under your leadership!
So, I do understand that you still may hear voices that aren't there and hear things as you'd wish them to be. My heart goes out to you. But, Bob, someone has to tell you ... it's time to STOP.
Here's some friendly advice. On our little blog, we've come up with a revolutionary process. It's called screening. After any of us writes a piece, our whole team critiques it for accuracy and reliability of content. We add links where necessary and must defend our premise when pressed. No excuses. Perhaps twice in this whole process, an error has survived scrutiny. We pulled the article and apologized, because our editors have this strange predilection for credibility and integrity.
But who am I, a little blogger, to advise big-time, important newspaper Editor like yourself. And it has occurred to me that you may have some sly Machiavellian purpose in your strange reporting today.
Perhaps, having been excoriated on national TV by the universally admired attorney, Jim Cooney, you knowingly offered today's egregious factual error as confirmation of your paper's shameful coverage. Hey, Bob, is this your way of ingratiating yourself with the brilliant Cooney... by so blatantly proving his point in such a speedy and humiliating fashion?