In this respect, he started at the same point as the key reporters (Duff Wilson) and columnists (Selena Roberts, Harvey Araton) with the New York Times. Beard’s ability to work hard, do his job, and produce a consistent stream of quality reporting makes all the more troubling the Times’ poor performance on the case.
Take the two most egregious examples.
1.) According to the New York Times (Duff Wilson, August 25, 2006):
The dancers stopped. An argument ensued. Using a racial epithet, someone yelled that they had asked for white dancers, not black ones. That much is agreed. It was 12:04 a.m. March 14.In fact, of course, almost no one agreed with this portrayal of events—and the statements of all three captains and Kim Roberts explicitly contradicted it. The only three people who adhered to this timeline appeared to be Mike Nifong, Crystal Mangum, and Duff Wilson.
Yet nearly 11 months later, the false claim that racial epithets occurred at the party while Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were present remains the official version of events, according to the New York Times. The paper has never corrected this cut-and-dry journalistic error.
2.) According to the New York Times (Selena Roberts, March 31, 2006):
Something happened March 13, when a woman, hired to dance at a private party, alleged that three lacrosse players sexually assaulted her in a bathroom for 30 minutes . . . Players have been forced to give up their DNA, but to the dismay of investigators, none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.A few days later, the Times ran a brief correction noting that the captains had given voluntary statements. But in April 2006, then-Times public editor Byron Calame effectively corrected the correction, stating that based on his review of the facts, “Selena Roberts, a Times sports columnist, had ample reason for her recent concern about a ‘code of silence.’”
In fact, of course, his making the false claim that the players were engaged in a “wall of silence” formed one of the many items for which Mike Nifong was disbarred. To the extent that “silence” occurred, in any case, it was imposed by Nifong, who informed both Joe Cheshire and Bob Ekstrand that he was only interested in hearing from lacrosse players who either would confess or implicate teammates.
Yet more than 15 months later, the false claim that the players engaged in a “code of silence” remains the official version of events, according to the New York Times—a version blessed, even more remarkably, by the paper’s “public editor.”
Those inclined to minimize Beard’s performance, then, would do well to look at the embarrassingly inaccurate portrayals of lacrosse case events penned by other reporters who, like Beard, began the case with sports backgrounds and few if any local criminal justice sources.