The Duke lacrosse case represents an enduring failure of the American mainstream media. Not only did the New York Times, CNN, USA Today, and other outlets neglect their duty to provide balanced and factual coverage of the case. Worse, they became the public relations arm of a sleazy prosecutor named Michael Nifong.
As so often happens in rape cases, the media featured lurid accusations made by an anonymous victim, all the while omitting the word â€œallegedâ€ and failing to offer the defendant the opportunity to present his side of the event.
In the Duke case, it was the Raleigh News and Observer that led the headlong rush to judge. Its March 25, 2006 issue featured a front-page five-column article with the headline: â€œDancer Gives Details of Ordeal: A Night of Racial Slurs, Growing Fear, and, Finally, Sexual Violence.â€
Media sensationalism doesnâ€™t get much worse than that.