Friday, December 01, 2006

The Herald-Sun's Peculiar "Corrections" Policy

This morning’s Herald-Sun features a letter of apology from Duke Earth Systems Science professor Thomas Crowley. Entitled “Lacrosse Retraction,” the letter states:

On Nov. 13, The Herald-Sun published an “Other Voices” piece by me concerning the Duke lacrosse case. I have subsequently been informed of errors in that letter. In particular my blanket statement about behavior of the lacrosse team was neither fair in general nor applicable to the particular case now in dispute. I apologize for this and any other errors.

The “other errors,” it’s worth reiterating, were Crowley’s claims that:

  • “defense lawyers continue to make inappropriate public comments about the accuser to the point of blackening her name to the potential jurors”;
  • “one of the accused had been previously arrested for anti-gay comments”;
  • was [the accuser] possibly drugged by someone when they encouraged her to have a drink?”

In a subsequent e-mail to me, Crowley admitted that he no evidence to substantiate the first two claims, both of which are demonstrably false. Regarding the third, he admitted that he did not know that a toxicology test, which came back negative, had been performed on the accuser.

Crowley deserves credit for taking an action avoided by each and every member of the Group of 88; by Peter Wood; by Orin Starn; and by members of the Brodhead administration. He apologized for his errors in the case. The only other Duke-related figures to apologize for their behavior in this case were the lacrosse captains and lacrosse player Ryan McFadyen*.

It’s worth wondering, however, how and why the Herald-Sun could publish an op-ed filled with so many errors that its author—to his credit, when the errors were pointed out—had to retract it himself. Newspapers are supposed to fact-check op-eds before they appear.

At least Crowley’s retraction signals that the Herald-Sun has conceded that it published a demonstrably false defamation of the lacrosse players’ character, right?

Guess again. Crowley’s original op-ed—which he himself has “retracted”—remains in place on the Herald-Sun’s website. No corrections are attached; no retraction is listed. Those coming across the piece while perusing the Herald-Sun’s archive would have no way of knowing that even its author no longer stands by the piece.

It appears, alas, that the Herald-Sun’s prejudice against the players runs so deep that the paper cannot stand down from an anti-lacrosse screed that even its author has repudiated.

*--added, 6.39pm


Anonymous said...

Kudos to Professor Crowley for eating crow and shame on the Herald-Sun. Now that Professor Crowley has demonstrated integrity, is it too much to ask the same from the Herald-Sun?

August West said...
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August West said...

Yes. It is. They stewed over what to do with the letter for a week before its publication today.

Can't you just hear Ashley and Childress and Mortimer?

What to do? What to dooooo?

Anonymous said...

I found this article in the USA Today archives with accompanying links:

As I read it and the other articles and columns with it, I am reminded of just how one-sided the coverage was of this hoax. It seems that journalists jumped on the story and simply treated Nifong's lies as the Oracles Come Down from Mount Olympus.

One can argue that at that time, people did not have the facts that they do now. However, even possession of the facts has not kept the Herald-Sun from presenting a dishonest, one-sided approach.

Anonymous said...

"The only other Duke-related figures to apologize for their behavior in this case are the lacrosse captains."

Perhaps we should add the sophomore Ryan McFadyen who "accepted responsibility for an error in judgment" (e.g. after he was nationally reviled, and suspended from the university, for writing a (sophomoric) private message, which was published across the globe without his permission, and which broke no law.

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Anonymous said...


How do we know that the H-S had Prof Crowley's retraction last Friday? I saw someone post a reference to it, but didn't provide any backup.

August West said...

My source was in frequent contact with Crowley and had discussed releasing it (the letter) to the N&O, Mess, or other blog sites if the HS forebore printing it beyond today.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, CrystalMessMan! ;>)

I can only imagine Prof Crowley's consternation as the days passed and his retraction wasn't printed. Surely the H-S staff knew that it was going to be published somewhere, if not in the H-S?

That being said, it's not unusual for large city papers to print a letter-to-the-editor 4-5-6 days after receipt. This one, however, was radioactive!

Gray said...

I commend Professor Crowley for being accountable for his words. While I was very displeased with his article, it is comforting to know that not only did he accept constructive criticism and correction of factual errors, he openly retracted his piece after learning of his errors.

Proffesor Crowley just earned my respect.

Matt Gray
T '99

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Anonymous said...

Yes, I also am impressed by how Prof Crowley deported himself in all of this (including actually responding to emails, etc). It takes a big man to admit a mistake.

A couple of points regarding the Herald-Sun...

(1) Has anyone else noticed that, in general, the reporting done by the Chronicle seems to be of a much higher quality than H-S?

(2) KC et al are on the vanguard of the new media. Blogs, etc are going to radically change the ability of big media to control and contour information. I don't think that the H-S quite gets that just yet...

Anonymous said...

Thanks KC and ND

"My source was in frequent contact with Crowley and had discussed releasing it (the letter) to the N&O, Mess, or other blog sites if the HS forebore printing it beyond today."

That's good to hear, adds greatly to the value of that apology!

It was good of you to share that here Mike.

Who's next?

Anonymous said...

Sounds as if old Bob the straw hat wearing nag is on his way out-- Way to plod the streets pulling your wagon, Bob! Some nags would have begged to be made dog food, doing what you do, but not you! You were happy to wear the straw hat and walk in circles around the downtown every day for whomever paid the buck and climbed into the wagon. You were a good nag! We have a place for you in which to spend your golden years-- away off to the Crosseyed Cricket in Crossville where you can fish the stocked trout pond deep into senescence. Yank that line, now, Bob. You've earned all those trout-- every one of those pond-raised cornmeal-fed beauties like a rewrite from the AP you can shove right into your newshole. Thanks so much for all you did not do. Wink. The boys from Paducah want a fresh face to reinvigorate the Hurled-Shunned: Brodhead sends a new towngown specialist over, one Shadee Malignant, Malachite, Moron, whatever-- the deal is, instead of lying for the town, the New News Editor will Lay With the Town-- Get it? Alex Rosenberg does! New Left Power to the People Stripping as the New Church the Hurled-Shunned as the center of the new Durham, the Platinum Club as Town Hall! New news editor, Whore shall we say, at it her. Trinity Park enthralled. The lolling Negroes want to know if this means more actual benefits, or mere more pandering. Hey, do it matter: invite those potbangers, and throw down with the street partays. So Third World here on the Piedmont! So Second Line! So like the Ninth Ward before the Hurricane! But after this LAX storm, Durham is gonna need some FEMA assistance, cause that disaster area is going to be stone broke, busted! sic semper tyrannis

Anonymous said...

I was impressed with the players' statement of responsibility and apology that they issued almost immediately after the false allegation was made. I am glad that Prof. Crowley retracted his statements because they were inaccurate and because I believe he truly regrets making them.
Hey, you other 88+ know-it-alls, you should provide a written apology too. But, please don't let Holloway write it.

Anonymous said...

I was pleased to see Prof. Crowley's willingness to publicly correct his earlier remarks. Frankly, I was surprised that he had even written the original editorial. Normally, people in the sciences tend to be more fact centered and dedicated to the truth than people in the weak-minded subjects taught by the Group of 88. I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with the Duke geology department as well.

Anonymous said...

A very minor, nit-picking correction:
"The only other Duke-related figures to apologize..."
You could add Professor Steven Baldwin's apology (in a letter to the Duke Chronicle on 10/25/06) for using the phrase "tarred and feathered, ridden out of town on a rail".
This apology was completely unnecessary, of course.

Anonymous said...

Now that 11:34 has included Karla's name in this thread, I wanted to point out that the current Indy has an interview with her (surprise!) which asked, "What are you currently reading."

Her answer: Memories of My Melancholy Whores

So KC and others, when you start writing books about the Hoax, please note this title is not available.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about the fact that newspapers usually do some fact-checking before publishing a letter--and presumably do not print if the facts are wrong. That has not been my experience with our local paper--but it SHOULD be a paper's policy. Does the HS have a written policy about this? Or is there any evidence of a letter they have refused to print (or corrected) because of false statements? Aren't there other letters they have printed that have included false claims--if so are all of those on the same side of the issue?

Anonymous said...

re facts: newspapers generally don't lie intentionally, they obfuscate intentionally--eg, in the duke story u won't hear that the majority of false reporters are black and hispanic, or that loq iq is associated with the prostitute's lies and lifestyle

it's common knowledge among educational psychologists that there are cognitie deficiencies among blacks and hispanics, but the ny times will never mention that when discussing racial "lags" in performance, or the absurdity of the premise of no child left behind--all important issues to consider when choosing a county to site the trial

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the name of the AV's website? Couldn't find it on Google

Anonymous said...

I've seen the AV described as fat and homely on this site. Is that true? I haven't been able to find photos of her. Appreciate some input on this, as I think it is relevant to the case.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that he wrote his retraction--but frankly its the least he should have done. Much better would have been not to print the letter in the first place. It was a little late in the game with this situation to speak publicly without having reviewed any facts. Also, do you all really believe that words like defamation and violation of privacy policies have not made some of these profs worried that when this is all over they will be sued? I would guess that has played into things somewhat.