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Journalistic integrity

By Scott Tibbs, April 18, 2006

Last week, I wrote that if members of the Duke lacrosse team committed rape, that they should be punished as harshly as legally and Constitutionally permissible, but made the point that those young men are innocent until proven guilty. Apparently, that belief is not held at 1900 South Walnut.

In his article about a candlelight vigil for sexual assault victims, Herald-Times "reporter" James Boyd wrote of "the sexual assault that was reported at Duke University a month ago", "the victim in that case" and mentioned "a North Carolina Central University student reported being raped by three men". None of these statements were direct quotes from people who attended the vigil.

Boyd further demonstrated his lack of journalistic integrity with the quotes he chose to include in his article on the story. The people quoted by Boyd talked asked "how can we show support for the victim" and talked about "the fact that it was the brutality of a gang rape". A "fact", eh? I guess we do not even need to go through with a trial by jury, because the Herald-Times has already handed down a conviction. What does it matter that we don't know which three of the 46 white team members allegedly committed the rape, or if there was a rape at all. Never let the lack of evidence get in the way of a good lynching.

It gets worse: the word alleged does not appear one single time in Boyd's article.

This is just poor journalism. If Boyd believes that three members of the Duke Lacrosse team did in fact commit rape, I have no problem with him arguing that point on the opinion page. Boyd's article was a thinly-disguised opinion piece in the "news" section of the H-T. For Boyd to write about the alleged rape as if it was a documented fact when there has been no conviction and the fact that evidence has surfaced that throws doubt on the stripper's story shows a stunning lack of journalistic integrity.

Boyd should get a stern reprimand from H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg and all of the H-T reporters should be reminded that, unless they are writing on the opinion page, their job is to report facts, not push an agenda. The Herald-Times should also remmeber that the same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press also protects the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.