Thursday, April 10, 2008

Durham editor, speaking on his own for first time about Duke lacrosse case, offers a mea culpa

The editor of the Durham Herald-Sun, which has been criticized for its coverage of the 2006 rape charges against three lacrosse players at Duke University, said yesterday that the newspaper should have concluded earlier that the charges had no foundation.

"We were, honestly, too slow to recognize that there was no case at all," Bob Ashley told an audience at the University of Kentucky's main library. "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In hindsight, should we have come to that conclusion sooner? Yes." He said the storm of media coverage of the racially charged case was "a frenzy unequaled by anything I've seen in 37 years of journalism," and his 45,000-circulation Paxton Media Group newspaper lacked the resources to compete with larger media outlets.

Ashley said the Herald-Sun's relations with defense attorneys for the students were not good because the layers thought the paper relied too much on now-ousted District Attorney Michael Nifong. He said the paper was not close to the prosecutor, and he did not know him personally, other than having sat next to him at a banquet. He said other news outlets got exculpatory evidence from the defense attorneys "because of better hustle or better connections."

The editor has appeared on panels in North Carolina, but "Yesterday was Ashley's first time speaking alone in front of a group of people about the lacrosse case," reports Jill Laster of The Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper. "During his speech, he focused on the factors that 'kindled the fire of the Duke lacrosse case,' including race relations and the dynamic between Duke University and the surrounding community of Durham."

Ashley, a Duke graduate and native of Mount Airy, N.C., became editor in Durham little more than a year before the incident, when Paxton bought the paper, after 11 years at Paxton's 28,000-circulation Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro. "In an interview after his speech, Ashley said the Duke lacrosse case is not the first time he has had to take heat as an editor for his paper's actions," Laster reports. The Owensboro paper "published a series of columns by a woman who claimed to be a cancer victim. More than a month into the weekly series, the woman said she did not have cancer, but AIDS. The Messenger-Inquirer fired her for not telling the truth; however, a large part of the community saw this as a reaction to the woman having AIDS."

Laster reports, "Ashley said criticism of how his newspapers have handled the Duke case and the incident at the Messenger-Inquirer has changed the way he works." He told her that editors should put themselves in the place of story subjects, "to keep them humble." (Read more)


Anonymous said...

This is so sick.

Scores of residents in the Triangle begged Ashley and his staff to do the right thing.

It was so obvious early on that the case was a frame and a Hoax.

Truth is, Ashley was guided by his cowardice and would not begin to stand up against the black racists in Durham--and there are many.

There was basically a lynch mob and the Duke lacrosse players feared for their lives.

The New Black Panthers came to town and did threaten their lives.

Ashley published every libelous op-ed from the infamous and sorry Duke 88 professors--who are mostly Leftists and Afro-crazed zealots left over from the 1960's.

But he and his staff would not allow equal coverage from those who wanted to present the other side.

Bob Ashley is too backward and afraid to deal honestly and directly with the black community; therefore, he should never have been allowed to head a newspaper in such a race-based town as Durham.

You have to stand up for justice. Not cower because you are trying to appease a loud bunch of racists.

He's not too stupid to know that Mike Nifong had no case. He just wanted to avoid going against the black community in their feeding frenzy.

Bob Ashley has ruined the Herald Sun from what it once was.

It's a joke of a paper now that defends the very corrupt Durham leaders.

Anonymous said...

That's funny. Maybe if the Paxton suits hadn't adopted a slash and burn strategy upon taking over the Herald-Sun, and not lopped off a quarter of its staff, it would have been better equipped to cover a major story in its own home town. If Ashley had any integrity, he would have resigned for being so in bed with the District Attorney's office.

But hey, at least circulation has improved under Ashley's watch. Uh, what is that? It's cratered? Good job, Bob.

Anonymous said...

I'd suspect Ashley was just printing what he figured the demented hateful Durham residents wanted to hear about those evil white Yankee boys. Newspapers are a business, too, after all.

Anonymous said...

The Herald Scum, News & Oblivious, and Liestoppers are all guilty of yellow journalism, and print what "THEY" deem to be news?!

To see them applaud Freedom Of Speech under the guise of their purpose to report and print THEIR views, while banning others from speaking about theirs. The board and Baldo are hypocrites, and are no better than anybody else!

Rhonda Fleming