Local News

As Wait For DNA Findings Continues, Durham Tries To Repair Image

Posted April 7, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— National media attention is focused on Duke University and the awaited DNA test results from 46 lacrosse players. As the State Bureau of Investigation works on those samples, another firestorm is brewing.

The city of Durham is being portrayed unfavorably in national media stories that focus on race relations between the black community and Duke's predominantly white campus. Then on Friday, an unrelated bomb scare at the Durham Police Department unnerved people across the nation.

Immediately, some national media outlets questioned whether the bomb scare was connected to the rape investigation, but no association has been found. This "spin" is one of many battles Durham leaders are fighting.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell believes that while this scandal has actually united a community seeking the truth, this is not the message that is being delivered nationwide. Network reporters have been at Duke for two weeks, broadcasting what they do know about the lacrosse case and community. But critics say some journalists do not know all the facts.

An ABC "Nightline" report described Durham as "a gritty city that has seen better times." A "CBS Evening News" story was accompanied with pictures of rundown houses.

"It's disturbing," said Bell.

Bell said the national media has portrayed Durham as a black, poor working class city pitted against an elitist white university. Durham supporters say it is a more complicated story that reporters are trying to reduce to a catchy headline.

"You would like to see at that level more investigation and find the facts before they go out and report," said Bell. "What we find is they stick with one line and keep reporting it, whether its true or not."

At the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, staffers are working overtime in what they call "brand scrubbing." They are chiming in on blogs and listservs where Durham and Duke are the focus. Additionally, they are receiving information on every news report aired -- more than 1,000 so far. They then contact reporters and producers to correct misinformation.

"It also starts because it's easy to find in this region, right here when they got off the airplane, someone who said something like that, educated or not," said Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau President Reyn Bowman.

The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau have also hand-delivered informational packets to the media doing reports from campus. One of the fliersinside is titled, "25 Misconceptions about Durham."
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