USA Today's Duke Lacrosse Report is Blatantly Biased

May 2nd, 2006 9:51 AM

While researching media coverage of the Duke lacrosse story, I came across a March 29 USA Today story, “Rape allegations cast pall at Duke.”

Let’s look at USA Today's story which ran just five days after the media began reporting on the rape allegation and its fallout. I think even those of you with a low opinion of MSM will be shocked by the story’s blatant bias.

USA Today reporter Sal Ruibal’s story begins:

The flier being distributed outside Duke's student union Wednesday night looked like a wanted poster: 40 faces of young men, smiling smugly for the camera.

What was most disturbing to those gathered was the possibility several of the Duke men's lacrosse players whose photos were arranged in those neat rows may have committed criminal charges, including forcible rape and sodomy.

These men are wanted on the Duke campus. Their fellow students want them to come forward about what happened in a shabby off-campus house March 13. Police say the athletes have refused to cooperate with their investigation. …

Alvaro Jarrin, a Duke graduate student, wore a T-shirt imploring the silent players to speak up.

"It is important that we not let this go down easily," he said as hundreds of marchers began gathering on Duke's east campus. "There's a culture of rape at Duke, so we're hoping this will get them to speak up. This rape is a symptom of a larger problem at Duke." (bold added – JinC)

USA Today’s story continues with more of the same.

A photo of the poster accompanies the story. It’s caption:

A flier featuring the faces of members of the Duke lacrosse team peppered the Durham, N.C., campus as students rallied and pled for team members to come forward with information on the alleged March 13 rape.

USA Today’s photo is not large enough to let you see whether the players are smiling, to say nothing of whether they’re smiling “smugly” as USA Today reports.

But I live in Durham and am often at Duke. I’ve viewed what people here now call “the vigilante poster.”

Many, if not most, of the players are not “smiling smugly.” They’re not smiling at all. They look serious.

Reporting they’re “smiling smugly” is a USA Today fiction.

In contradiction to USA Today’s “These men are wanted on the Duke campus” reporting, most Duke students were appalled and outraged by the poster. They felt it was prejudicial to fellow students, many of whom are classmates and friends. They said the poster stigmatized as criminals people whove been convicted of no crime. They worried that distribution of the inflammatory poster would make a terrible situation worse, including more dangerous.

None of that was reported by USA Today or most MSM. To learn about it you had to talk to those students or read editorials, columns and letters in Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle.

Certainly there were and are Duke students like Alvaro Jarrin who USA Today quoted speaking authoritatively about “This rape.” Some faculty members talk that way too. But all those folks taken together are just a small, albeit loud, minority at Duke.

On Mar. 29 most Duke students were far more sensible and fair-minded than Jarrin. They just didn’t get any attention from USA Today and other MSM outfits. That’s because what they were saying didn’t fit with how most media “framed” the Duke lacrosse story.

But the “vigilante poster?” It fit within the "frame" quite nicely, thank you.