Thursday, April 12, 2007

Feeling Numb

I’m feeling more numb than relieved this morning about the Lacrosse party story. I’m relieved for the young men and their families.

But having been near the epicenter when the story erupted, my mind still keeps going back over what could have prevented this.
  • It turns out both Duke and the police were accurate in downplaying the allegations when first made.
  • The paper in Raleigh took credit for “breaking” the story, but they weren’t taking credit yesterday when charges were dropped.
  • Actually there is dispute about how the story exploded. A member of one of the listservs picked it up on the DPD log and, because there had been friction between neighborhoods and student parties, it was a natural topic on the listserv.
  • The Raleigh N&O by some accounts actually picked it up from the listserv and made it a story about race. As WUNC reported this morning during NPR, the story fed the media’s appetite for salacious stories about race and crime etc. Maybe that media appetite should be a candidate for some serious dieting.
  • People pled… I was one… during the initial listserv discussions for calm and a presumption of innocence.
  • But part of Durham’s personality is activist… and the story set off people with issues about Duke, people with partisan UNC issues, people angry about domestic violence, people who have issues about race, poverty etc.
I guess my concern in hindsight is the news media wasn’t there to balance perspective and provide an anchor with the facts. Instead it fell hook, line and sinker and became a huge part of the problem.

I don’t understand the rush now to judge Durham as a community. More than half of the community didn’t vote for the district attorney. And even if they had, it’s a double standard to blame a community for the actions of individuals or groups. Are Raleigh and Charlotte being blamed, one for electing Jim Black, an admitted felon, the other the place where the bribes were exchanged? No.

In fact, we should all step back from blame for a moment and take a good hard look at whether justice is being served by the rush to judgment and impatience with process so common now. If you think lessons were learned during Lacrosse, just watch coverage of the Imus story right now… actually, it isn’t coverage as much as news media and listservs eager to drive a story.

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