University Diaries
A professor of English describes American university life.
Aim: To change things.
Contact UD at: margaret-dot-soltan-at-gmail-dot-com

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

A review of the New York Times coverage...

... of the Duke story so far, by the paper’s public editor. A few excerpts:

The paper has published more than 20 stories in its continuing coverage. The dozen or so thoughtful messages I have received on this subject from readers have mostly complained of unfairness to Duke and the lacrosse players.

For instance, some readers complained about Selena Roberts writing about a “code of silence” among the players. These readers point out that

[T]hree co-captains had gone to the police station for interviews and even volunteered to take lie-detector tests, [which]... at first left me with some concern about fairness. But I think it has become more apparent, based on the public record, that the players have volunteered little eyewitness information. And that means Selena Roberts, a Times sports columnist, had ample reason for her recent concern about a "code of silence."

More broadly, the public editor is at pains to defend the bigtime page one coverage of the story. It’s an important story, he writes, because of the “allegation of rape,” but also because (in the words of the sports editor) of “the general behavior of a high-level sports team at a prestigious university."

Indeed, the public editor goes on to write that

Even if the sexual assault charges should completely collapse, the allegations of racial slurs and other questionable behavior by members of a top-ranked athletic team that have been brought to light raise important issues of race and class at a prestigious university… Covering the legal proceedings that seem likely to focus on the extremely serious charges of sexual assault and kidnapping is vital. But the paper needs to keep an eye on the allegations and reports about the racial insults voiced by various players, and on the lacrosse team's seemingly flawed culture. If the rape and kidnapping charges do not hold up, the story doesn't end. The Times should be prepared to continue covering what is done about the racial-insult allegations, given the prominence of the team and the university.