Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Herald-Sun Correction

Yesterday’s Herald-Sun featured a front-page, above-the-fold headline declaring, falsely, that NC Attorney General Roy Cooper had exonerated the victims of the Nifong/Mangum Hoax, in part, because of consideration of “racial strain.” The prominent headline blared:

Racial strain factor in Cooper declaration

The article that accompanied the inflammatory headline equally misrepresented the comments made by the attorney general in his 60 Minutes interview.
"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.

"Cooper made the comments on Sunday night's CBS "60 Minutes" news program in response to a question from interviewer Leslie [sic] Stahl, who described Durham as a "racially roiled" city because the dancer was black and the players white."
Admittedly, in our haste to address the Snooze Room’s inflammatory distortion, we also misinterpreted Cooper’s statements.
Its difficult to understand why the Snooze Room would so egregiously misrepresent the words of AG Cooper. Anyone who viewed the airing of '60 Minutes' will know that Cooper did not state that racial strain was a factor in the exoneration. The Herald Sun, however, preys upon those who did not watch the show while providing inflammatory ammunition for those who have chosen to suggest that the exoneration of the innocent victims of the Nifong/Mangum Hoax was based on ulterior racial motives.

What the Snooze Room describes falsely as a consideration for the declaration of innocence was in reality described as a factor considered in not pursuing charges against the false accuser.
"But the attorney general also announced he would not press charges against her for filing false police reports.

"Is the decision purely about her mental state or did you also take into account what this might do to this community which was already roiled in racial tension? Were you afraid that it would exacerbate more racial tension?" Stahl asks Cooper.

"We did consider it. We did talk about it. But we think in the best interest of justice, that it was not the right thing to do," Cooper says. [60 Minutes]
Looking more closely at Cooper’s statement, it appears that he deftly sidestepped Stahl’s loaded question and addressed the decision to bring charges against the false accuser in general, while avoiding describing fear of exacerbating racial tensions as a consideration. We regret this misinterpretation of the exchange between Cooper and Stahl.

It appears that the Herald-Sun has come to the same conclusion regarding the exchange after briefly reaching the same erroneous impression we initially presented. The online edition of the Herald-Sun now features a revised article reporting on Cooper’s 60 Minutes comments.

After a short stop here:
“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 not pursue false report charges against an exotic dancer who had claimed three Duke lacrosse players sexually assaulted her at a party.

"We did consider it [filing charges against the accuser]," Cooper said. "We did talk about it. But we think in the best interest of justice, that it was not the right thing to do."
The article now begins:
State Attorney General Roy Cooper says he considered filing false-report charges against the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case but decided not to "in the interests of justice."

"We did consider it [filing charges against the accuser]," Cooper said in response to a question from "60 Minutes" interviewer Leslie [sic] Stahl, who described Durham as "racially roiled" because the accuser is black and the players she said sexually assaulted her are white.
In response to notice of the error from an industrious Blog Hooligan, Mr. Ashley apparently responded by acknowledging the mistake but, because it was a story about a brief segment on a TV program, he "didn't think it was that important." Despite its supposed unimportance, the inflammatory piece somehow made it onto the front page. It should be noted that the revised story with its drastic corrections makes no mention of the previous errors. While we assume that today’s print issue will contain a buried correction notice*, it cannot undo the damage done by the prominent placement of the inflammatory headline and article so poorly considered.

Now, if we can only get Mr. Ashley to spell [16 year 60 Minutes veteran] Lesley Stahl's name correctly we can move on to figuring out why the Herald-Sun's post-Hoax coverage focuses on meetings of the lunatic fringe and "unimportant" front page features on TV shows while the News & Observer's Joseph Neff chases a Pulitzer Prize.

Hat tip: Eric, ThinkFirstTypeLater

Update: To its credit, The Herald-Sun has printed a prominent front page correction of yesterday's story in today's print edition.


Eric said...

Does anyone have the text of the correction? The website still doesn't seem to know that anything happened at all, so I don't yet know how this was handled...

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

It seems the Snooze Room's attorneys said, "Uh, uh, libel suit. Uh, uh, sue us back to the stone age. We don't retract, we're fucked." To quote Shakespeare, "Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war."

Anonymous said...

Don't spend your tourism dollars in North Carolina. The state has have shown it's colors.

Anonymous said...

Also, in today's Herald Sun is a pathetic article titled "'Innocent' declaration angers local activists" citing people like Victoria Peterson and ending with "[The activist] added that she was not in contact with the victim [sic] but hoped she would be soon." They still call her the victim...pathetic.