‘Herald-Sun’ Editor Admits Paper Erred On Duke Lacrosse Case

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By: Joe Strupp

Executive Editor Bob Ashley of the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun, which has been criticized by some for its coverage of the Duke University lacrosse case, said the newspaper should have realized sooner the charges were false.

Two reports on Ashley’s speech at the University of Kentucky on Wednesday quoted the editor as admitting his paper was late in determining the case had no merit.

“We were, honestly, too slow to recognize that there was no case at all,” Ashley said during the speech, according to the Rural Blog, a media-related Web site. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing. In hindsight, should we have come to that conclusion sooner? Yes.”

The Web site added that Ashley said the media coverage of the case was “a frenzy unequaled by anything I’ve seen in 37 years of journalism,” and claimed his Paxton Media Group newspaper lacked the resources to compete with larger media outlets.

“Ashley said the Herald-Sun’s relations with defense attorneys for the students were not good because the players thought the paper relied too much on now-ousted District Attorney Michael Nifong,” Rural Blog stated. “He said the paper was not close to the prosecutor, and he did not know him personally, other than having sat next to him at a banquet. He said other news outlets got exculpatory evidence from the defense attorneys ‘because of better hustle or better connections.'”

The editor has spoken about coverage before in North Carolina, but “yesterday was Ashley’s first time speaking alone in front of a group of people about the lacrosse case,” Jill Laster of The Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper, reported in that outlet’s story. “During his speech, he focused on the factors that ‘kindled the fire of the Duke lacrosse case,’ including race relations and the dynamic between Duke University and the surrounding community of Durham.”

“In an interview after his speech, Ashley said the Duke lacrosse case is not the first time he has had to take heat as an editor for his paper’s actions,” Laster reported, citing an incident when he was at the Owensboro, Ky, Messenger-Inquirer and a staff writer wrote lies about having cancer. “Ashley said criticism of how his newspapers have handled the Duke case and the incident at the Messenger-Inquirer has changed the way he works.”

The Rural Blog story can be found at:


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