The tragedy of Cheryl Mangum: As you may have noticed, some topics and incidents get widely discussed by our press and pundit corps.
Other topics and incidents may not get widely discussed. On Saturday, the New York Times gave 83 words to a very unfortunate incident involving a person who long ago seemed to need help.
The Times ran copy from the AP. This was all the Times published, headline included:
NEW YORK TIMES (11/23/13): North Carolina: Woman in Duke Case Guilty in KillingWe’ll be honest. We hadn’t even heard that Mangum had been charged in this matter.
The woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape seven years ago has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of her boyfriend, Reginald Daye, 46. The woman, Crystal Mangum, 34, was sentenced to 14 to 18 years in prison. In 2006, Ms. Mangum claimed Duke lacrosse players gang-raped her at a team party where she was hired as a stripper. After a disastrous local prosecution that led to the downfall of the district attorney, the state attorney general’s office concluded there was no credible evidence an attack had occurred.
The so-called “Duke lacrosse case” got massive attention starting in March 2006. By the time the case was resolved in April 2007, it was fairly clear that Mangum seemed to be troubled—that she could probably use some help.
In the recent trial in North Carolina, Mangum claimed that she acted in self-defense. We can’t judge the legal merits of that claim. (It seems she didn’t start the fight which led to the death.) According to the Charlotte Observer, Mangum faces trial on another incident involving an alleged attack on another boyfriend.
The Times gave this matter 83 words. Some major newspapers haven’t mentioned it at all.
Did this incident deserve more coverage? On balance, we don’t necessarily think so. But when we saw this limited coverage, we thought about the massive ongoing discussion of domestic violence accusations involving George Zimmerman.
On balance, we don’t think those incidents rate massive coverage either. But those incidents, which involve accusations, are being widely discussed.
Why are incidents involving Zimmerman producing so much discussion? Yesterday, Howard Kurtz posed that question to Lisa Bloom as part of his new Fox News Channel weekly program, Media Buzz. Tomorrow, we’ll look at what Kurtz and Bloom said about the ongoing Zimmerman coverage.
Kurtz didn’t mention the Mangum case. We were struck by the disparate coverage accorded two sets of events which are somewhat similar.
The Duke lacrosse case was very high-profile. So was the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Granted, the Zimmerman matter is more current. But we were struck by the very large difference in coverage.
Why was Mangum’s conviction barely covered while accusations against Zimmerman are producing massive discussion? We’ll discuss that question tomorrow. In the meanwhile, notice this:
The New York Times rewrote some of the AP’s reporting. The Times shortened a 209-word report, as is completely appropriate. But as a long-time reader noted, it also changed some of the AP reporting.
What happened in the Duke lacrosse case? According to the New York Times, “the state attorney general’s office concluded there was no credible evidence an attack had occurred.”
Technically, that’s accurate. But this is what the AP report actually said:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (11/23/13): The three players arrested were eventually declared innocent by North Carolina's attorney general after Mangum's story crumbled and her mental stability was questioned. The Durham prosecutor, Mike Nifong, who championed Mangum's case, was later disbarred.Accurately, the AP report said the players were “declared innocent.” The New York Times softened that statement. It also fuzzed the accurate statement about Nifong being “disbarred.”
There may be reasons why the Times changed the text in those ways. But here’s a question, the very question Kurtz raised with Bloom:
Why is so much attention being devoted to the fear that Zimmerman might kill someone? Sadly, Mangum has done that very thing.
No one seems to care.
Tomorrow: Kurtz and Bloom