It was inevitable, I guess, that the panel today at Duke Law School about the Duke lacrosse rape allegations would get around to discussing bloggers. Kudos to former Duke basketball star Jay Bilas of ESPN for bringing up the dreaded word about 20 minutes into the festivities. After several journalists had described their approach to the story in its early days, Bilas said it was bloggers to whom he eventually turned for news on the case. “Some of these blogs have gained their own credibility,” he said.
Raleigh News & Observer managing editor John Drescher allowed as how blogs keep newspapers on their toes. “The bloggers are what’s different about this story,” he said. But he added: “My only real reservation is you really ought to have to identify yourself.” This was, in all likelihood, a reference to John In Carolina, a blogger who has been relentless in his criticism of the way the local papers have handled the story.
Seyward Darby, who was editor of the Duke Chronicle when the story broke last spring, didn’t mince words. “I’m going to be honest. I hate blogging.” Moderator Frank Stasio of North Carolina Public Radio asked her why. “I find a lot of bloggers, especially younger bloggers, to be self-indulgent,” she replied.
During the audience Q-and-A, the first questioner brought up bloggers, saying “they had the will” to expose some of the questionable prosecutorial and police actions in the case when many journalists didn’t. Some journalists, he said, instead “had the will to believe this false story from the beginning.”
Toward the end of the session, when one member of the audience asked why it took so long for journalists to report that the lacrosse players had been instructed by Duke officials not to tell their parents, one panelist, Jerroid Footlick, said he was surprised to learn that. “Read the blogs,” several members of the audience advised the former Newsweek journalist and now consultant on media and public affairs.
UPDATE: Another anonymous blogger who’s been following this needs to be mentioned: The Johnsville News. He, too, has been following every detail of this case. Beware, in case you don’t want to know, that his site identifies the accuser by name.