Selena Roberts may have been a columnist for the NY Times and ostensibly only writing her “opinion” about the Duke lacrosse team but being a columnist doesn’t excuse you from having to get your facts right. In 2006, as the story broke, she wrote, “But why is it so hard to gather the facts? Why is any whisper of a detail akin to snitching?” She was wrong about that. There WAS no coverup, no difficulty in gathering the facts. The problem was that there was a corrupt prosecutor (since jailed) named Mike Nifong that twisted the facts to try to make a name for himself. She then went on a concentrated tirade aimed at smearing the players, who she named personally and their families, their upbringing, their school,and their entire culture.
So she screwed up. It happens, right? Did she apologize to the players and their families? No, in fact, she continues to smear Duke and the team to this day. I don’t know about you, but I have a profound distrust for anyone who ignores the facts that conflict with their own agenda and stubbornly continue to push that agenda regardless of the actuality of the situation.
I found this post, here, particularly enlightening. It is by a Brooklyn College History professor, on his blog, which has won ethics awards from the American Bar Association Journal. It’s a great read and it clearly documents the journalistic quicksand that Selena Roberts tends to tread in. Among her transgressions: she referred to incorrect information in the search warrants as being information from “court documents”. “This statement drew a rebuke from even the Times’ milquetoast then-public editor, Byron Calame, who noted that journalists do not consider search warrants to be “court documents.” She also claimed that no players came forward to give an eyewitness account, but that was patently false. Several officials from the Times have henceforth offered public apologies, yet Roberts offers none and even continues to accuse the players of misogyny and race-baiting.
Supposing I hear some rumblings about you being a child molester and I jump on it and write a column about how horrible you are, and how your horrible parents and your horrible peers and the corrupt people at your job or school all contributed to what an awful excuse for a human being you are, and covered up for your heinous crimes. Suppose it turns out that some overzealous prosecutor fabricated the charges and victimized you without grounds. Should I apologize, or should I simply say, “well, maybe those charges were found to be without merit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a child molester, and the police found legal non-kiddy porn on your computer, so you’re still a pervert, and one of your classmates in college said you told a racist joke once, and I’m still sticking by the allegations that the culture that produced you is corrupt and vile, and I’m not apologizing for anything, despite all the people and families that I unjustly smeared.
Would that be fair and honest journalism? Because, from what I’ve been able to tell of the case, that’s exactly what she’s done (please correct me if I have anything wrong). Just because she was a columnist, doesn’t alleviate her from all journalistic ethics, does it? How does she even still have a job? She was right about A-Rod’s steroid test, yes, but at least A-Rod admitted it when HE got caught. Did Selena?
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