Friday, September 28, 2007

Hodding Carter Opening Remarks

Had spent a portion of his adult life in trying to get press to come to grips with own failings.

“often arrogant refusal” of press to accept that it has some responsibilities of broader citizenship—has had deleterious effect in terms of public attitudes toward press (national security issues, etc.)

Two key points:

1) “trial by media is as American as apple pie”

2) actions of AG and state bar were “extraordinary”—need to keep in mind this wasn’t the normal approach

Yes—will be lessons from this case—but will only last until next high-profile case

Recall Sacco & Vanzetti case—“try them after you convict them”

Leo Frank case another such example

Quite aware that usual victims of media lynchings were black men—accused of crimes against white; only occasional cases (Scottsboro) attracted attention to the injustices

“even now, newspapers too often blandly play the conveyer belt” for improper utterances of prosecutors

“We should all be so lucky as to live in a country where the work of the Raleigh News & Observer [in this case] was the rule”

“to read its work was to watch a newspaper turn on a dime”—began to repeatedly say things weren’t straight: work especially impressive in comparison to other newspapers, “some much better known in other parts of the country”

Media never learned lessons of McCarthyism

--Wen Ho Lee, Kobe Bryant, Jon Benet Ramsey, Barry Bonds (?), Richard Jewell, Whitewater

Recall the movie: Absence of Malice (even sometimes Hollywood gets some things right)

“cannot look to the media for a solution” in terms of media coverage of fair trial; also cannot hold media accountable for its misconduct except in very rare cases

But, unlike the media, there are clear rules for the court, the prosecutor, the police—no constitutional protections for them violating their rules, unlike the First Amendment for the media

Burden for ensuring fair trial relies on the Bar; can’t demand that media behave like lawyers

Why was this Bar intervention "extraordinary"--why not routine to curb a rogue prosecutor?

"What are canons for if not enforcement?" Why: "nothing quite so clubby as the Bar

real lesson of the Nifong horror show is that there are tools aplenty to strip a case from an unscrupulous prosecutor's hands

blogosphere has role to critique press--in a way that the press has failed to critique itself

to Nifong: "to violate every canon, every principle, every single standard emblazoned in law school texts and bar canons"

Nifong "the poster boy for all that is wrong" with prosecutors.


Anonymous said...

Is Nifong a Communist?

Kgun5 said...

'actions of AG and state bar were “extraordinary”—need to keep in mind this wasn’t the normal approach'

This is a strong argument.

That is not to say that it is watertight in any way, but it resonates the most with me. The counter to this, of course, is that the media is supposed to be a check on those people we trust with power. And one could argue that this kind of abuse is the very thing that the media is supposed to expose.

Still, this was a very atypical situation in modern times. Insinuations, posturing, half-truths and the like have become the normal roadblocks faced by reporters these days. They probably would have recognized that type of game, had Nifong chosen to be vague. But Nifong was not vague. He told bald-faced lies, not just to reporters, but to the entire nation during press conferences. They were fooled like many others, as no sane D.A. would do such a thing. My biggest beef with the press is their lack of remorse.

It's interesting to note that the last time I remember a high-profile case in which a person lied directly to the American public in such a way, it was Bill Clinton telling us he "did not have..." I think the difference in the reporting of that case was that Clinton was the defendant, whereas Nifong (should have) had no emotional attachment to the case.

In both cases, the lies were exposed. I guess that's the important thing.

Kgun5 said...

Geez...I misread KC's post.

I thought the section I quoted above was the MSM defense that the actions by Nifong, et al. were "extraordinary", and thusly, the MSM was taken by surprise.

My bad.

Orson Buggeigh said...

Hodding Carter has some good points. The thing is, the media people remember all the wrong trials, and all the wrong movies. Instead of watching "All the President's Men, " the J-schoolers should have to watch and discuss "Absence of Malice." And then Sacco and Vanzetti are not exactly poster boys for innocents railroaded to the chair. Their trial was a mess, but largely because it was, like the Duke Lacrosse Burning, a media circus, promoted by media (newspaper) folks with a progressive agenda, along with a willingness to talk up the lurid details of the crime to sell papers. Careful reporting, and concern for the defendant's rights were not really high on the media's list of concerns then, or now, despite all the noble sounding words from media spokemen. Nothing much has changed in 80 years.

Carter is correct though, the media frequently fails to live up to its role as a responsible corporate citizen, and there is no constitutional mechanism to force the press to behave responsibly. This is where the bloggers and the citizenry become so important, by doing what D-I-W, Liestoppers, and similar groups do - shining the spotlight of factual truth on the failings of the self-absorbed media and public officials. One way the public can enforce this is to not support media who behave egregiously. I have not regretted canceling my subscription to the New York Times nearly fifteen years ago. The paper has gotten worse since then.

Debrah said...

actions of AG and state bar were “extraordinary”—need to keep in mind this wasn’t the normal approach

Yes, we will remember....and mostly we will remember that the reason they acted in an "extraordinary" manner is because of the illumination and the national and international attention the case has gotten.

Because of the heavy-lifting of people like KC and Wonderland.....things will never be the same.

mb said...

IMHO the best line of the post: "blogosphere has role to critique press--in a way that the press has failed to critique itself"

I couldn't agree more. Good show K.C., et al!

Anonymous said...

The American public understood immediately that Bill was not lying but lying about sex. 44 million dollars for the whitewater non event. Newt resigns instead of a sucessful impeachment of Clinton. We were having fun then. Now we have Nancy P running off to the Middles Ease, convorting with the enemy and wearing a head scarf.

Ralph Phelan said...

"nothing quite so clubby as the Bar"

Except for academia. The Bar has at least tossed out its worst offender - Houston Baker, Lubiano and Farred have all had their careers continue to advance.

And the press, which has shown a similar degree of self-criticism and demand for consequences.

Steven Horwitz said...

Actually, Ralph, Kim Curtis committed the worst sin of all in my book. It still isn't clear if she is employed by Duke and/or teaching students, but if she's not, then I would say academia tossed its worst from this case.

It's bad behavior to say all kinds of bad things about your students, but wielding the power of the grade as an ideological weapon (or as a threat of any kind) is way worse.

That's the most sacred trust we have with students and there's little, if anything, worse than abusing it.

Ralph Phelan said...


Nifong was publicly thrown out of his profession.

If in fact Kim Curtis has been quietly removed from the profession with no public acknowledgement that she did wrong, then academia is still significantly clubbier than the Bar.

And I've got to disagree with you about relative severities. Curtis' sin was more closley related to her job, ture - but it was much less closely related to the real risk of going to prison for 30 years, which was a vastly more significant issue to the students' lives.

inman said...

steven howitz @ 4:54

Thank you for restoring (somewhat) my faith in the academy. If, in fact, the sacred trust is held sacred, then there is hope.

M. Simon said...

His Girl Friday video is a comedy about the press.

It seems pretty truthful about attitudes if not exact operation.

M. Simon said...

Much better inet version of His Girl Friday video.