The Raleigh News & Observer has explained how it made aa major error in an article about the Duke University lacrosse rape case. The opening paragraphs of a story headlined, “Duke lacrosse files show gaps in DA’s case” said that District Attorney Mike Nifong had proceeded with rape indictments against two lacrosse players the same day he asked a police investigator to look into whether the accuser’s injuries might have had causes other than the alleged rape.
The newspaper reported many other examples of a shaky prosecution case, but the erroneous information, coming at the top of the story, was Exhibit A, says the paper’s ombudsman, Ted Vaden. Vaden said a reporter misread an investigator’s hand-written notes that were part of 1,800 pages of documents supplied by the DA to defense attorneys. The story was read by six editors, and none challenged the reporter. The newspaper published a correction. Executive editor Melanie Sill said that the error, while serious, didn’t take away from the basic findings of the story about gaps in the DA’s legal case.