Monday, November 20, 2006

The Herald-Sun's Peculiar Letters Policy

From time to time, I’ve published letters to the editor, in various newspapers. The normal practice, upon the letter’s acceptance, is for the paper to check any factual assertions contained in the letter. If the paper can’t verify the facts, the letters editor asks the writer to do so; if the writer, in turn, can’t verify the facts, the letter must be modified. I’m unaware of any newspaper that has a policy of printing factually inaccurate letters.

Any newspaper, that is, except for the Herald-Sun, at least if those letters reflect Editor Bob Ashley’s party line. In its November 8 edition, it published a letter from Norma Cone, who stated, “Not all 46 lacrosse players were at the party. Those not at the party would not be suspects. Therefore, non-suspects were included in the line-up.”

That statement is demonstrably untrue. Beginning with the March 23 non-testimonial order motion, Mike Nifong had publicly described all 46 white players on the team as suspects. He continued to make such a claim until mid-May.

Then came a November 12 letter from Laura Blasberg that almost comically compared the video of the accuser pole-dancing to the average person having “worked sick.” Blasberg didn’t explain how going to work with a cold or cough is comparable to being captured on video performing in a limber fashion while telling doctors of such pain that the dancer could barely walk or turn her head.

Blasberg further asserted, “The news media spent days, fueled by defense attorneys, focusing on whether or not the rape victim went back to work in the weeks following the rape. They report on differing accounts as to this - some co-workers say that she did go back, some say that she didn’t (of course, according to the defense attorneys, the ones that say what they don’t want to hear are liars, but their witnesses are truthful).”

As with Cone’s assertion in her letter, this statement is demonstrably untrue. I have encountered no “media” reports claiming that any “co-workers” of the accuser stated that she didn’t go back to work following the incident. In an e-mail to me, Blasberg claimed to have based her letter on the repudiated affidavit of the strip-club owner—hardly a “co-worker” of the accuser; unclear is why she didn’t correct her letter after the owner himself admitted, the next day, his affidavit was untrue.

I’m also unaware of any defense attorney, at any point in the case, who has said that any of the accuser’s “co-workers” are “liars.” It’s nice to see, as well, that Blasberg has obtained knowledge that a rape definitely occurred—though she left unclear which of the accuser’s myriad, mutually contradictory, stories that she believes. I asked Blasberg about this matter; she did not respond.

(Blasberg represents a group called Take Back The News,” which describes its mission as confronting “the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of sexual assault in mainstream media,” while raising public awareness about the epidemic nature of rape.”)


The Blasberg letter contains another inaccuracy: it identifies her residence as Durham, North Carolina. Yet in a pro-Nifong letter published on April 22, Blasberg listed her residence as Hewlett, New York.

I wrote to Blasberg to ask whether she had recently moved to Durham. She replied that she hadn’t, and speculated that the H-S letters editor listed her residence as Durham because she forgot to list her hometown on her letter submission. That’s an intriguing hypothesis, but one that strikes me as unlikely—the H-S might not check facts, but it does call letter-writers to confirm submission. Unless the H-S letter editor was under the impression that Long Island’s 516 area code now extends to Durham, it would appear that the H-S knew Blasberg wasn’t from Durham.

(In the Lexis/Nexis version of the letter, the H-S added a correction that Blasberg is, in fact, a New York resident—but I doubt many in the H-S target audience read the letters page through Lexis/Nexis.)

The Blasberg letter marks at least the second occasion when the H-S inaccurately claimed that a pro-Nifong letter came from a Durham resident. During the campaign season, the H-S listed the residence of Nifong citizens’ committee co-chair Kim Brummell as Durham—even though Brummell lives in Oxford, as an August 5 H-S letter had conceded.

It almost appears as if the H-S—which in an editorial admitted to being “surprised” that a majority of Durham County voters opposed Mike Nifong’s election—is using its letters page to create a false impression that Nifong enjoys broadly based community support. The pattern is especially intriguing given that in the days after the Blasberg letter appeared, the H-S printed letters critical of Nifong from out-of-state residents.

Could it be that Editor Bob Ashley is attempting to pander to Durham parochialism as part of his pro-Nifong campaign?


An item posted on the Friends of Duke website, meanwhile, offers a frightening glimpse inside the mindset of the H-S editorial staff.

Debrah Correll, a Chapel Hill resident and frequent Herald-Sun letter writer, reported about “a shocking conversation with one of the guys on the editorial staff of the Herald-Sun.” She said that the content of the discussion so appalled her that she came forward despite understanding that doing so would affect her ability to publish future pieces in the paper.

In the midst of the conversation, Correll said that she “brought up their October ‘60 Minutes’ editorial again, which was very petty and cast aspersions on the LAX players in a personal and most unprofessional way. I mentioned that it was not well-written and was unprofessional work coming from a newspaper editorial staff.” (She’s right on all counts.) Correll added her concern that “they have openly and forcefully been aiding Mike Nifong at every turn.”

She then noted,

The reply that I received from [letters editor] Greg Childress was that countless black men have been falsely accused in the past . . . so what’s such a big deal about these lacrosse players?
Correll recognized the stunning nature of this admission: following the Ashley “trial-at-all-costs” agenda, “this employee of the Herald-Sun . . . actually admitted that he felt it’s OK for this to happen because there have been many black men from decades past who were falsely accused.”

Perhaps the Herald-Sun should simply dispense with its editorial staff and simply turn the pages over to NCCU student government senator Chan Hall, who can expand on his theories that the Duke students should prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”

At least, unlike the Herald-Sun, Hall is open about his agenda, and offers no pretense of either journalistic objectivity or ensuring that readers receive factual accuracy.

[Update, 11.39: It almost seems as if the H-S is eager to print anything, no matter how bizarrely argued or inaccurately sourced, that attacks the lacrosse players. Liestoppers notes the latest in H-S audacity, an op-ed from a women's studies/cultural anthropology dual major who asserts, without citing any evidence, that "very rarely are the Duke lacrosse players not partying or drinking." She adds, stunningly, "Much of this emphasis on ‘innocence’ has ignored the gender and racial prejudice of the March 13 party. If nothing else, Nifong is holding the lacrosse players accountable for that; and as a woman at Duke who knows just how much these men get away with, I’m thankful…Nifong might not be in the right legally, but that doesn’t mean he's not doing the right thing."

Meanwhile, today's H-S has a long article on a tax lien filed against Jerry Clayton, a local attorney (not the subject of a normal news story, to say the least)--and concludes with the following sentence, ' Clayton attended a mid-September political dinner in Raleigh orchestrated by former state attorney general and secretary of state Rufus Edmisten, with several other Nifong opponents who wanted to persuade write-in candidate Steve Monks to drop out of the DA's race so another challenger would have a better chance to win." The connection between Clayton's political beliefs and his tax returns? Who knows.]

Hat tip: K.R.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that Nifong will attempt to use the logic proffered about the fillers for the line up. If the LAX players who didn't attend the party were the fillers, who were the fillers in the first two line ups?
AND why dind't Gottlieb follow up on her identification of the fourth player who was NOT at the party? It looks like she fell for a filler. Thus, her credibility, as tested with fillers, is nill.
The HS is useless; a real rag of a paper.

Anonymous said...

Thank KC

I was surprised you did not mention what is clearly Laura R. Blasberg's agenda.

Here's her comment to Newsweek magazine;
I am a director of a not-for-profit organization that addresses the mis-representation of rape in mainstream media. Your cover headline, "Sex, Lies & Duke," is a perfect example of how the media misrepresent the crime of rape. There was no sex in the Duke case. If you believe the defense, nothing at all happened at the now infamous house on Buchanan Boulevard. If the defense is lying, then a young woman was brutally raped, sodomized and beaten. Rape is a brutal, vicious act that is about violence, power and control. Because it happens to involve the penetration of another using one's sex organs does not make rape "sex."
Laura Blasberg
Director, Take Back the News, Inc.
Hewlett, N.Y.

I agree "There was no sex in the Duke case".

Anonymous said...

Has anyone contacted Paxton Media officers in Paducah, Ky., about the performance of Ashley and his newspaper?

Anonymous said...

I just reread the "water buffalo" case at University Of Pennsylvania in the 90s. Really scary and the thinking very similar to this case. How have we allowed this to happen?

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 1.10:

Good point; added it.

Anonymous said...

Aren't some of the officials in the infamous "water buffalo" case now at Duke?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kcjohnson9 said...

Yes, most prominently Larry Moneta.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy. You just blew the lid off of the Herald-Sun. That comment is almost beyond belief. It sure is revealing. It's no surprise that this is their agenda and yet it's still a shock to hear it come out like that.

I agree that with Chan Hall you at least see what you get. But as press, the Herald-Sun tries to create the impression that they are neutral. Clearly, they are not.

Anonymous said...

Ashley and Michaels were the only media reps at the NAACP banquet the other evening. Brodhead was the keynote speaker.



Anonymous said...

The pro-prosecution people in Durham have been giving us a myriad of conspiracy theories to explain away ALL of the exculpatory evidence. Yet, we see the H-S basically choosing to present a false address for a pro-prosecution letter, and now we have an open admission from an editorial writer that false rape charges are no big deal.

It would seem that the H-S is picking and choosing what to print, and seems to be acting in concert with others who also are trying to present a false case. Thus, if there is a conspiracy, it lies on the side of those who wish these young men to be wrongfully convicted.

When a newspaper literally goes all-out to promote what obviously is a lie, then we have to understand that the people who are associated with that publication also are choosing to side with liars.

Today's post was a real eye-opener, and is another example of how K.C. has been performing a most-needed public service.

Anonymous said...

The obvious fact about the way that the ID process evolved was that each step included measures more and more designed to prevent the AV from revealing her inability to positively identify anyone.
I bet that Nifong will try to argue that the last gasp attempt had fillers, ie, players not at the party. However, I think anyone who would look at the whole picture and still give him the benefit of the doubt is beyond reaching with logic.

Anonymous said...

The non-party attending players do not fulfill the obligation to have fillers. First, Nifong included all 46 white players as suspects, obtaining DNA and pictures from each. Second, the number of non-party attending players was not sufficient. The requirement is for 3-5 times the number of fillers as suspects. Any less and the chances of incorrect identification are too high.

Anonymous said...

If players who did not attend the party were "the fillers," why then when Precious picked someone who was not at the party as being at the party, was the line up not thrown out as not reliable? Clearly Nifong can not argue that the players who were not at the party were "the fillers" as the accuser did pick one of "the fillers" as being at the party but the line up was not thrown out.

Anonymous said...

The false accuser picked one of the players who was not at the party as one of her four rapists. Period. End of story. The line up proved that she cannot identify her rapists. It should be thrown out.

Anonymous said...

Does the Herald Sun have a classified ad somewhere?
Wanted... potbangers of all persuasion to write slanted editorials to help our campaign to railroad the Duke 3, and satisfy our reader base. Any Duke Professors or students wishing to express such an opinion highly desired. Journalistic skills are not required. Ability to write an article based on political agenda and devoid of any facts is a strict requirement. Durham residents also wanted, but feminists, activists, and others with an axe to grind will also be accepted. Out of staters please substitute a Durham address. If you can't do that we will provide one for you.

Anonymous said...

Does use of a "filler's photograph" have to be voluntary?

Anonymous said...

Blasberg unwittingly gives us her agenda, when she says that it is about "power." Indeed, that is what we are seeing, the misuse of power by the state, and the power of persuasion by others who are lackeys for the prosecution.

This prosecution is all about a prosecutor and his supporters seeing if they can railroad through a trial and (they hope) guilty verdicts against people when there is no evidence to support them. It is a pure power play, and we have to understand that beyond all of the obtuse rhetoric we see from the Evil Gang of 88, ultimately their politicized view of the world is one that requires vast powers to put their agenda into action.

In the old days, one was found "guilty" by being charged as a "Trotskyite." Today, the watchword is "rape." If you visit the websites of the feminist and rape crisis groups, this case is front-and-center. That is because they know that if they can push this thing forward, even though there is no evidence to support their claims, then they will have won a huge victory, and other prosecutors will be emboldened to levy false charges against other people.

There are a large number of feminist prosecutors in this country who see rape charges as a way for them to exert power over men. Do not think for a minute that these people are interested in the truth. To them, "truth" is that all men are rapists, and that it is their job to throw as many people into prison as possible, evidence or no evidence.

We have to stop thinking that the Evil Gang of 88 actually cares about whether or not a real rape occurred. Likewise, the feminist groups are not interested in the truth. Both groups have a specific agenda, and they see this as a case that, if successful, will permit more wrongful convictions.

Prosecutors have a saying, "Any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man." Believe me, there are a large number of prosecutors in the United States who simply care about "winning." Nifong is one of them.

AMac said...

Reade Seligman was another one of the "fillers" in the photo ID sessions. Like the players who were out of town, he was not present at the scene of the alleged crime at the time it supposedly took place.

D.A. Nifong's inadvertent strategy: indict the filler!

Whenever it seems that the hoax couldn't possibly offer yet another layer of irony--it does so.

I hope that one outcome will be that Duke commissions a life-size portrait of NCCU student leader Chan Hall, to hang in the Allen Building. Hall's philosophy -- "that the Duke students should prosecuted 'whether [a rape] happened or not [because] it would be justice for things that happened in the past'" -- is the lodestone for most commentary on the case. Might as well honor him for that contribution.


Anonymous said...

I assume that NCCU student Chan Hall is black.

What is Greg Childress's race?

Anonymous said...

10:56 --
Greg Childress is also black.

Anonymous said...

The Dukies are only nominally going to trial on rape charges. The simple fact is that, thanks to the muddled thinking (though it's charitable to call it "thinking") of folks like Hall and Childress, they're on trial for "400 years of oppression." What next? Will they advocate lynching the players? That would seem the logical corollary of their views.

Anonymous said...

Bill: 9:54,

You are so right about this being a "power play" by Nifong, but there are also others trying to use the publicity of the Duke hoax to promote their somewhat "hidden agendas".

From a couple of LieStoppers recent informative pieces we have learned about Manju Rajendran, Rann Bar-on and today Shadee Malaklou. All part of the pot-banging crowd attempting to commandeer the women and minority platforms to insert their anti-Israel agendas into questionably more main stream causes.

It appears the political bait and switch is being taught and learned well at prestigious Duke.


Anonymous said...

To 11:42,
Exactly right!

Given the fervor pitch of the liberal leftists who want blood regardless of no crime, I think these boys would be better served to plea down to manslaughter.

Anonymous said...

Manslaughter? Who is dead?

Anonymous said...

The comment by Greg Childress just leaves me cold. I think we have to conclude that his comment also reflects the attitudes in Durham.

At best, should there be a trial, it should be held in a different county. Heck, I would prefer a different COUNTRY. Iraq or even Russia would be more capable of producing an objective jury than would Durham.

If an editorial page writer for a newspaper that is demanding this case go to trial is willing to say that a wrongful conviction is perfectly fine with him, then there really is no discussion left in Durham. None.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know when the next sitting in the case is? I know it is some time in December right?

kcjohnson9 said...

Dec 15.

Anonymous said...

I too can't help but believe that the Hall/Childress mentality is indeed reflective of Durham's black community, especially when considering their 95% support of Nifong.

And although Cash Michaels protests this notion, his articles pander to this blatantly racist mentality.

Anonymous said...

The only way to get the attention of the H-S: cancel subscriptions; cancel advertising.

Anonymous said...

Loss of advertising dollars hurts even more than cancellation of subscriptions. I suggest we find out the top advertisers in the Herald. Locals can help. Then we can been a letter writing campaign that they are supporting racism by adertising in the Herald. Theaten boycott of those companies unless they pull their ads.

Anonymous said...

Case in point. Murdoch and News Corp. just announced cancellation of OJ's new book and show :"If I did it" based on criticism received. What do you have to say about that Cash Michaels?

Anonymous said...

Beyond calls for boycotts and the like, we have to remember just how nihilistic this whole campaign has become. When we combine the "they may have not committed rape, but they are guilty, anyway" from the Duke Evil Gang of 88 and assorted campus feminists to the conspiracy theories from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and NAACP to Nifong's "win at all costs" mentality, you can see why this is such a battle.

Nifong really believes he can win this case. He is not looking at the dearth of evidence as a problem, but rather as a CHALLENGE. The same thing is true with the Durham police. This is all a game to them, a nihilistic game, to be sure, but a contest all the same.

If it does come to trial, I can assure you that the AV will weep, wail, and give an Oscar-winning performance on the stand. Furthermore, ANY attempt to challenge her credibility or make ANY part of her story to be untrue will be seen as an act of misogynyst racism. The defense knows this, and that is why they don't want it to go to trial.

The last straw to me were the comments from Greg Childress. Remember, he is a voice from that paper, not just an employee. His comments also reflect the official position of the Herald-Sun, and that position is that wrongful convictions do not matter a whit. In fact, I believe that people like Bob Ashley, Childress, and perhaps John Stevenson really do hope there is a conviction and will do everything they can to grease the skids.

If you think the Herald-Sun's coverage is bad now, just wait until the trial. These guys have gone this far, so I can be they will go whole hog and give us a propaganda show that would have made Goebbels proud.

Again, the absolute nihilism that we are seeing tells me what I need to know about modern mainstream journalism and the academic world. I guess I am glad I am in a college of business, as we seem to care more about reality.

Anonymous said...

A question:

If the idea is simply to convict white people, then why just limit it to the LAX players. And for that matter, why even limit it to men. Haven't white women also benefitted from racism and oppression?

Aren't some of the gang of 88 white? Why don't they offer themselves as a sacrifice for the cause they believe in so dearly. Clearly the facts don't matter. So, it really doesn't matter if a rape occurred. and if it doesn't matter that a rape occurred, it only matters that the convicted are white, then let's get some of them charged.

Works for me. Oh what a sacrifice that would be for "justice."


Anonymous said...

FYI, Cash is on this thread:,765.0.html

Anonymous said...

A sacrifice for the sins of the past? Why doesn't Nifong volunteer?

Anonymous said...

Bill 9:54 - Thank you for pointing out the feminist's part in this dark scene. Their ideas are truly hateful and lacking in any form of compassion and yet most people seem to see them as fighting for "equality." I have never seen such deception.

Anonymous said...

kc: I think she's just bitter that she does not get invited to decent parties.

Seriously, this sort of deranged psycho-babble is dangerous. Now, they are basically being tried for being white males who party. This is absurd, but easily justified in the minds of the "radical feminist" who wrote it. The fact that they are actually innocent of the underlying charge against them makes no difference for her, they are simply guilty for "who" they are, what they "symbolize" to the writer.

Stalin thought the same way.

-BCM, Esquire

Anonymous said...

Possessing what some might call "institutional memory" of Durham politics and race relations, this LAX case is a strong reminder of the 1993 Michael Seagroves trial.

That case -- of a white homeowner charged with shooting and killing a black juvenile after he caught him (and three friends) burglarizing his garage -- quickly turned into a complete racial circus with all the usual actors playing their parts to the hilt. Incidentally, the trial ended in a hung jury and Seagroves was acquitted.

Anyone following the Duke case would find many political parallels from 13 years ago.

Anonymous said...

KC is phenomenal. I love how he brings all the different elements of this case together like a provocative thriller. This thread is amazing.

In response to the post above, it would take a century for the white crime in Durham to catch up to the crime perpetrated by blacks. Sad as that truth is, it is the reality. Hideous people like Nifong only serve to produce a PC revolving door of crime . One can see how many black staffers he has on the public payroll. He is their "Great White Hope", serving to satiate the hunger many have to "get whitey", as he butters his own bread in the process. And judging from Nifong's ever-expanding waistline and gut, he likes his bread with lots of butter.

All of this has left me numb. Our generation will not abide this kind of injustice. No one should be paying for the black community to get off on "payback".

It would be helpful to our society if black "leaders" would spend some time working to reduce the over 70 percent illegitimate birthrate and the daily rampant crime coming out of their community.

The billions in taxpayer dollars alone which are spent on people who, for some strange reason, never seem to be able to "pull themselves up" are quite enough of a burden on society.

Watching how hard some have worked to try and obtain the conviction of innocent white men just for an orgasmic "payback" reveals further proof of black emotional, psychological, and intellectual sterility.