Saturday, September 15, 2007

Times Review

George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen reviews Until Proven Innocent in this week’s Sunday New York Times book review:

From the Scottsboro Boys to Clarence Gideon, some of the most memorable legal narratives have been tales of the wrongly accused. Now “Until Proven Innocent,” a new book about the false allegations of rape against three Duke lacrosse players, can join these galvanizing cautionary tales . . . In their riveting narrative, Stuart Taylor Jr., one of America’s most insightful legal commentators (and a former reporter at The New York Times), and KC Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, portray Nifong as “evil or deluded or both” . . .

Nifong’s sins are now well known, but Taylor and Johnson argue that he was aided and abetted by the news media and the Duke faculty. They are withering about the “lynch mob mentality” (in the words of a defense lawyer) created by bloviating cable news pundits on the left and the right. But they are also sharply critical of what they call the one-sided reporting of the nation’s leading newspapers, including The New York Times. With a few exceptions, the authors suggest, The Times’s coverage consistently showed a “pro-Nifong bias,” most notably in a front-page article apparently trying to resurrect the case after it seemed on the verge of collapse.

At least “many of the journalists misled by Nifong eventually adjusted their views as evidence of innocence” came to light, the authors conclude. That’s more than can be said for Duke’s “activist professors,” 88 of whom signed an inflammatory letter encouraging a rush to judgment by the student protesters who were plastering the campus with wanted posters of the lacrosse team and waving a banner declaring “Castrate.” Even when confronted with DNA evidence of the players’ innocence, these professors refused to apologize and instead incoherently attacked their critics. In the same spirit, the authors charge, the president of Duke, Richard Brodhead, fired the lacrosse coach, canceled the season and condemned the team members for more than eight months. The pandering Brodhead, in this account, is more concerned about placating faculty ideologues than about understanding the realities of student life on his raunchy campus . . .

Taylor and Johnson have made a gripping contribution to the literature of the wrongly accused. They remind us of the importance of constitutional checks on prosecutorial abuse. And they emphasize the lesson that Duke callously advised its own students to ignore: if you’re unjustly suspected of any crime, immediately call the best lawyer you can afford.

Read the entire review here.


Stuart Taylor and I were also interviewed by US Lacrosse about the origins of our interest in the case; the long-term effects; and other case-related matters.


Anonymous said...

Does the New York Times think this favorable review will make up for the damage to the lacrosse players by Duff Wilson's awful reporting?

Anonymous said...

Will Duff and Serena be writing about this case anymore?
Enquiring minds want to know.

Michael said...

The US Lacrosse interview provides some nice insight into Taylor and answers a few things that I was curious about, particularly the team members that made the comments. The interview was handled very, very well.

I still have to read the rest of the morning stuff today. KC had a Winding Down post within the last week. Feels more like things are winding up.

Anonymous said...

raunchy campus? Now the whole campus is tainted by the hiring of strippers?

One step forward, two steps back.

Tim Murray said...

Wow! Your book is a landmark, and even the Times can't deny it. I am surprised, but overjoyed.

Debrah said...

Yes, the Rosen critique was a good one. Best of all, it will be in the Sunday edition which is read by an exponentially larger readership.

I wonder how KC was able to provide a link that worked. You now have to be a Times-Select subscriber to have access to the opinion columns and the fora.


My favorite was the interview with US Lacrosse.


I had no idea that KC knew the names of the guys at the party who had the argument with Kim Roberts.

I also agree that it was wise to keep further identities out of public play.

With the mob mentality in Durham and the New Black Panther Party creating unrest, some lacrosse players could very well have been attacked....or worse.

This was--and still is--such a nasty mess.

Even Kitty Diva is disgruntled about the whole never-ending fiasco.

Mew! Mew!

Debrah said...

I am surprised, but overjoyed.

I was never surprised by this.

Anonymous said...

What strikes me most about the reviews so far is that they are devoid of "yes, but..." One gets the impression that the reviewers got really angry well before the end of the book and lost all interest in defending the initiators or the enablers of this hoax.
For big-time, pretending to be balanced news organizations, how often does that happen?
Th implication that I discern is that an honest telling of this saga will reliably cause ordinary, fair minded people to become very angry and single minded in their reactions.
Message to Durham: Settle, you fools.

Anonymous said...

So why didn't Duff Wilson do the book review? Maybe he would have learned something.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know how the reviewers in the NYT Book Review are selected, but apparently once they are, they're given pretty much free rein. So it's a pleasant surprise that Professor Rosen has applied a straightforward analysis to UPI, uncolored by the extreme political advocacy of the paper's editorial and news pages.

For sure some editors are grinding their teeth at this point. I suppose that the next sign of degeneracy of the NYT might be the attempted forcing of some conformity on the opinions displayed in the Book Review.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Rosen and the NYT. The Economist.

And you still can't buy it at Barnes and Noble.

Go figure????

Anonymous said...

aon.1:30 It's a good thing when you need to print more books, it means it's a sell out. That's what I figure anyway.
You may not like the NYT or Economist, but it's a big wow to get great reviews in two still highly regarded news outlets.(Despite the disappointment of the coverage by the NYT, it is still one of the only well written papers left. Hopefully the coverage in the review changed a few biased minds.
KC all of this could not have happened to a more deserving person. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it something? Take Prof. William Chafe, who probably had such a lofty idea of himself writing about the Civil Rights movement and the like, yet who revealed his true self by acting so rottenly when it came to the Duke case. Now, with the NYTimes review of UPI, Chafe is officially categorized like one of the "villains" in his own writings: another one who espoused a lynching, no different than KKK members of the past. When do we ever see karma work so perfectly?

Anonymous said...

Despite the disappointment of the coverage by the NYT, it is still one of the only well written papers left.

There are many people that would disagree with you on that. Well written, hardly. It's become a parody of agenda driven lefty drivel. I'll take the WSJ anyday over the NYT's.

Anonymous said...

I bought the book at Barnes & Noble in Westbury, L.I. In the True Crime section. I got the last one so they have to order more. :}

Anonymous said...

KC -

I remember an item from the NYT a long time ago. I was in college (circa 1980 to 1981) and reading micofiche of recent NYT editions. There was an item that I remember as being commented on as exceptional. The editor of the Times ran a front page correction. What was unusual about the front page correction, was that the story the NYT corrected was not particularly significant. They interviewed the editor to ask why he went to the extraordinary step of running a front page correction. His response was that "we are writing history" (paraphrase). His concern was that a future researcher would see the story, but not the correction.

I have googled looking for a citation, but am unable to locate the story.

I don't know if you have access to an archivist with a better skill set, but if you could cite the story; it offers an interesting contrast to the editors of the NYT then versus now.


Anonymous said...

Agreed the WSJ in content is better paper, but writing quality vs content are different animals. I may not always agree with what is written, but have not found any other paper besides the WSJ that comes close to the Times for at least style correct writing. Most papers I've seen in other parts of the country are very poorly written. Opinion only.

Anonymous said...

This is an old NY Times trick: trash people, mislead, lie, etc in the news section and then try to make up for it (when its obvious they were wrong)in a place like a BOOK REVIEW.

After reading the book review:

1. The NY Times should apologize on the editorial page
2. Correct the poor coverage with a frontpage story
3. Fire Duff Wilson and an editor or two

Of course, they will do no such thing. Which is why the paper continues to decline.


Norman Oder said...

Note that the reviewer, despite several other critical assessments of the Times's performance (as compiled by Slate media critic Jack Shafer), was unwilling (or not permitted) to offer a conclusion as to whether the Times's coverage was inadequate, instead simply framing the critique as an allegation or suggestion. See: