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April 23, 2007

NYT's Ombudsman Reviews Paper's Coverage Of Duke 3: We Got It Just About Perfectly Right

(KC Johnson link) The Times is never wrong. Sometimes, however, facts and reality fail in their obligations to live up to the Times' high standards.

In yesterday’s Times, public editor Byron Calame reviewed the paper’s lacrosse coverage in an article that reminded a Liestoppers commenter “of the women’s sleepwear you see advertised in Victoria’s Secret catalogs. It covers everything, but you can see right through it. One wonders why he even bothered to write it.”

Calame’s scarcely credible thesis: “I found that the past year’s articles generally reported both sides, and that most flaws flowed from journalistic lapses rather than ideological bias.”

Who does Calame think he’s fooling? Imagine the following scenario: three African-American college students are charged with a crime for which almost no evidence exists. One has an air-tight, public, unimpeachable alibi. Their accuser is a white woman with a criminal record and major psychological problems. They are prosecuted by a race-baiting district attorney who violates myriad procedures while seizing upon the case amidst an election campaign in a racially divided county.

Does anyone believe that the Times would have covered the story outlined above with articles that bent over backwards to give the district attorney the benefit of the doubt, played down questions about his motivations, and regularly concluded with “shout-outs” regarding the accuser’s willingness to hang tough—coupled with sports columnists who compared the accused students to gangsters and drug dealers?

Calame, in short, appears unable or unwilling to consider how the Times’ failure in the lacrosse case—and having the thesis of a paper’s major article publicly dismissed as untrue surely constitutes a failure—was attributable to reporters and editors allowing their worldviews to distort the facts.

I suppose that's the most quotable part of the piece, but not the most important. After all, all that is obvious, but an elephant in the room the media-political complex cannot acknowlege.

More interesting is is point-by-point refutation of Calame's weak and dishonest defense, but you'll have to go to the link for that. Here's one example, though:

5. Calame's Selective Standards.

In yesterday’s column, Calame maintained, “As public editor, I have sought to avoid evaluating opinion articles because I haven’t found a universally acceptable yardstick for measuring what is good opinion and what is bad. So my review excluded Times columnists—including the sports commentators critical of Duke—who may have held forth on the case.”

In his April 23, 2006 column on the Duke case, however, Calame adhered to a quite different standard. In that article, he stated that while he had a “nit” to “pick” with her March 31, 2006 column, “Selena Roberts, a Times sports columnist, had ample reason for her recent concern about a ‘code of silence.’” In fact, we know now that Roberts’ claim was wrong.

But the important point is that Calame was perfectly willing to address a Selena Roberts column -- when he was defending her from criticism.

Now, however, he claims he has attempted to avoid a critique of columnists, considering them different (and apparently non-correctable).

...

Since Calame had no problem defending sports columnists in 2006, why does he now consider them out of bounds for his critique? Could it be that even he can’t defend Roberts’ most recent effort?

The paper of record, indeed.


Rats Fleeing The Sinking Ship: a lot of Nifong's deputies are movin' on to different offices and different jobs.

But [Mark] Edwards speculated that a heavy turnover on Nifong's staff might indicate an undercurrent of lacrosse-related stress.

At least six staffers have resigned in recent months, although all said they were leaving for personal reasons unrelated to the Duke case.

Uh-huh.


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posted by Ace at 01:46 PM

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