Local News

Journalists Discuss Media's Coverage Of Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Posted October 20, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— The Duke lacrosse story has dominated news headlines for the last seven months. On Friday, local and national journalists discussed why the story has turned so many heads.

"It became not just a story for us, quickly, but it became sort of a neighborhood and community protest story," said Bob Ashley with the Durham Herald-Sun.

"We were becoming aware this was a district attorney in the middle of an election," said Susannah Meadows of Newsweek. "This wasn't just about a woman saying she was raped."

Duke University estimates there have been nearly 75,000 stories done on the lacrosse case. Local journalists complained the story seemed to spin out of control when national networks and writers took hold of the script.

"They were making generalizations for purposes of sensationalism," said Seyward Darby of The Duke Chronicle.

The panel of journalists – all but one having ties to the university in some capacity -- talked about mistakes made during the coverage. ESPN's Jay Bilas pointed to self-described experts who weighed in on every aspect of the case.

"I was on (the air) with a woman in Detroit commenting on the racial tensions in Durham," Bilas said.

Panel members agreed the case has raised the issue of terminology in several cases, such as what to call the woman at the center of this case.

"The distinction between victim and accuser -- it's really alleged victim or accuser," said Bilas.

The journalists said they feel public interest in this story isn't likely to fade. And with the trial months away, the story will continue.
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