The Duke Case.--

If bloggers were eligible for Pulitzer Prizes for journalism (they aren't unless their blogs are hosted on newspaper sites), I would nominate Brooklyn Professor KC Johnson, who blogs at Cliopatria and Durham-in-Wonderland, for his coverage of the Duke case. No self-respecting journalist would think of writing anything long and evaluative on the Duke case without first checking the "blog of record," Durham-in-Wonderland.

Those of us who have been following Johnson's staggeringly insightful analyses of developments in the case can't wait for his book on the hoax, which I heard will be co-authored with the brilliant Stuart Taylor.

Although the deadline for postmarked nominations for the Pulitzer's passes in a couple days, I wonder whether anyone has thought of nominating the Duke student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle. Perhaps (if KC Johnson's assessments of the quality of their work is accurate) they might merit a shared Pultizer along with the best of the MSM reporters, Joseph Neff, of the News and Observer. Johnson assesses the Duke Chronicle's work:

Few people any longer are defending the print media's coverage of the lacrosse case. In a recent edition of CNN's Realiable Sources, CNN and Washington Post media correspondent Howard Kurtz termed the event an "absolutely awful performance by the media, pumping this into a big national melodrama." Christine Brennan, a reporter for USA Today, agreed that it was "an awful performance, an embarrassing time, I think, for journalism . . . I think some people lost their minds in this story."

One general exception to this pattern exists: the college media. The journalists of the Duke Chronicle have provided more, and better, investigating reporting on the case than every reporter in the country combined except for Joe Neff. . . .

Add to these articles the paper's regular coverage, first-rate commentary from columnists Kristin Butler, David Kleban, and Stephen Miller, and prescient editorials on Nifong and the Group of 88's statement (among others)—and the Chronicle's performance over the past ten months has been remarkable.

In fact, compare the Chronicle's coverage to that of the New York Times on this case, but remove the mastheads from the two papers. I suspect that most people would guess that the Times, with its (until recently) simplistic, one-sided articles and commentary was the college newspaper, and the Chronicle's work was that of the country's paper of record.

The Duke Women's Lacrosse Team Should Be Honored.--

More on the Duke case: I was reading a long, stirring letter/post from a Duke alum, who identifies herself as Meadow (posted on Liestoppers):

Last spring, one of the only groups that stood up against a tirade of prejudices were the members of the Duke Women's Lacrosse team, led by their courageous coach, Kerstin Kimel. While the rest of the world was condemning the Men's Lacrosse team as guilty, Coach Kimel was actively supporting the students and her players' choice to show their support by wearing wristbands with the numbers of the indicted players. Rather than highlight the fortitude and commitment to the truth of these accomplished female athletes, the media rained criticism down in the most sexist and dismissive ways. Some examples:

Duke Free-falling from Grace (Stephen A. Smith)

"I never believed the day would come when we'd see an educational institution so flagrantly stupid, so selfish, so conspicuously aloof. Evidently it's Duke, supposedly one of America's more honorable institutions of higher learning."

Duke Women Not Innocent (Kevin Sweeney)

"And what lesson has the women's team taken? They apparently have learned that pack behavior is a good thing. They are speaking as one, and are proclaiming the entire men's team, as one, to be innocent. Team unity trumps all."

"By making such a public stand of unity before the facts come out, by saying so clearly that the accused is a liar, the women of Duke's lacrosse team won't make it any easier for other women to step forward. I can only hope that none of them will ever be in such a position — where they may be a victim, want to step forward, but sense ultimately that it just isn't worth it."

Duke Women Show Lack of Sensitivity (Jeff Schultz, quoting Katherine Redmond)

"These are stupid, spoiled little girls. It smacks of high school. Maybe one day when they'll read about one of their friends who was raped. Then they'll rethink this." said Kathy Redmond (founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes). Redmond goes on to say, "More than any other sport, there's this mentality with women lacrosse players of, 'We're as tough as the men.' It's almost like a competition. It's like they try to carry themselves with a masculine edge. They want to be looked at as being just as good as the men, yet they still look to the men for validation."

Coda: Bodies of Evidence (Karla Holloway)

"They were athletes themselves, as well as "true fans." In a moment that called on more action than I had will for, I wanted to write to them to ask if they might, instead, consider writing the word "justice" onto their gear, a word whose connotations run deeper than the team-inspired and morally slender protestations of loyalty that brought the ethic from the field of play onto the field of legal and cultural and gendered battle as well."

Amazingly, in face of all of this unsupportable ridicule, Coach Kimel told reporters after the women lost in the semi-finals:

"Any attention we got for the wristbands paled in comparison to having the media staked outside of our practice and the girls' dorms. Of watching your friends be arrested; watching your fellow students not support fellow students; watching professors not support students."

Did Duke professors choose to support these female students dismissed as "little girls" in the press? Was calling collegiate women "little girls" a social disaster? Apparently not. Has anyone come forward now that the women's lacrosse team was obviously correct to acknowledge their heroic courage and apologize for the response they received?

The women of the Duke lacrosse team knew that their friends on the men's team were innocent because they had talked with them, they knew that the rape story was implausible, one of the men had an airtight alibi, and, of course, the Duke suspects had already been exonerated by the DNA evidence.

Meadow writes about all the people who need to apologize, but I was thinking that some of the courageous people who spoke up for the truth relatively early on should be recognized and honored for their efforts. Every year Duke gives many graduating students prizes for contributions to the community. Every graduating member of the Duke women's lacrosse team (as well as perhaps the chief reporters and editors of the Chronicle) should be given the William J. Griffith University Service Award:

The William J. Griffith University Service Award will be presented to a select number of graduating students whose contributions to the Duke and larger communities have significantly impacted University life. Students whose efforts demonstrate an understanding of the responsibilities of effective university, communal and global citizenship are eligible for this award.

To have stood up for justice and the best principles of the Duke community in the face of opposition from some members of the faculty, the administration, and the press was an act of bravery that should be rewarded. When one compares their behavior to the usual activities for which such prizes are given to students, these student-athletes engaged in actions that risked real sacrifices of the kinds that one can't list as credentials on applications to graduate or professional schools--risking their own grades, reputations, and honor.

Such obviously deserved prizes would show real contrition on the part of the administration.

There appear to be other awards that these students have also earned. The most ironic award that one of these brave students might be eligible for is the "Karla F.C. Holloway Award for Service to Duke." The fact that it is given out by the African & African American Studies Department may mean that none of the Duke women's lacrosse team members would qualify (I have no idea what their majors might be), but one of the team members would certainly fit the description of "Service to Duke."

The administration should also consider faculty service awards to law professor James Coleman, coach Kerstin Kimel, and whoever was behind the Duke economists' faculty letter. These are people who tried to uphold the highest values of the Duke community in the face of attacks from both within and without.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Duke Women's Lacrosse Team Should Be Honored.--
  2. The Duke Case.--