Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dan Kane and the N&O's Double Standard

The N&O applies a high standard to evidence that contradicts their narrative, but a lesser standard to evidence that supports their narrative.

Soon after the Martin Report was released, multiple N&O writers dismissed it as a whitewash. Their primary reason was that Martin did not verify his finding that the director of academic support for student-athletes and an athletics administrator informed faculty that Julius Nyang'oro was conducting lecture classes as independent studies. To the N&O, Martin's failure to verify discredited his entire report. Furthermore, N&O writers reasoned, without evidence that the event in question happened, athletics and academic support were complicit in the fraud.*

Yet Dan Kane has continually cited a similarly unverified anecdote in the Wainstein Report to support the N&O's narrative of academic support's complicity.

Wainstein wrote,
On one occasion, [Deborah] Crowder told [Julius Nyang'oro] that the ASPSA academic counselors believed he was “being an ass” for demanding so much from the players and were rethinking whether they should be steering student-athletes to AFAM classes. In light of that push-back from the ASPSA counselors, Crowder took it upon herself to improvise with AFAM’s independent study classes (p. 16).
Missing from that anecdote is any attempt at verification. We do not know whether the anecdote comes from Crowder or from Nyang'oro, nor do we know which counselors were allegedly involved, nor do we have any responses from counselors either affirming or denying the allegation.

Kane, nevertheless, continues to cite that anecdote as the critical plot point in his scandalous narrative. For example, in his latest article, Kane wrote, "Crowder began the classes in 1993 after complaints from counselors in the athletes’ tutoring program about independent studies that were too rigorous." In an earlier article, Kane similarly wrote, "Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein found that the scheme began after academic counselors for the athletes complained about independent studies that were too demanding."

That anecdote is the cornerstone of the N&O's narrative structure, and Kane treats the anecdote as if it were substantiated evidence. The reality, however, is that that anecdote has less support than the anecdote for which the N&O dismissed the entire Martin Report.

"When he knew, what did he do about it?"

Kane and the N&O's hypocrisy extends further still.

John Drescher, the N&O's executive editor, was the most disparaging of Martin and his report. Drescher wrote
In trying to get to the bottom of a scandal, it’s helpful to ask the basic questions once asked by Sen. Howard Baker: What did he know? When did he know it? I’d pose a third question: When he knew, what did he do about it? 
Martin and Baker Tilly tried to show that the UNC athletic department was pure. Instead, cornered by the facts, they’ve unintentionally shown that athletic department officials suspected academic fraud years ago and did little or nothing about it.
Drescher rephrased that third question in another editorial after UNC announced it had contracted Wainstein to investigate the paper classes. At the time, Drescher believed that no evidence existed to show that athletics officials informed academic officials about the paper classes, and so he made that issue the principal criterion for determining athletics' culpability.

Yet neither Drescher nor any other N&O writer has reported on and discussed the implications of the following from the Wainstein Report:
[Senior Associate Dean] Owen did recall having conversations with [Senior Associate Athletics Director] John Blanchard about the propriety of AFAM lecture courses that were reportedly being conducted as independent studies. Blanchard approached Owen with his concern, and while Owen does not recall precise details of the conversation, she stated that she would have told Blanchard that the professors decide how to teach their classes. Owen explained that even as the Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, she was not responsible for course content; instead, she reported, the faculty are responsible for what happens inside their classrooms (p. 104).
Kane has mentioned Owen in numerous articles since the Wainstein Report, but he has conveniently made no reference to her admission that she told Blanchard that the paper classes were a matter of faculty autonomy.**

In other words, when the answer to "When he knew, what did he do about it?" undermined the N&O's narrative, they stopped asking the question.

"The questions that needed to be asked"

After the Wainstein Report, Drescher praised Kane, proclaiming that he "continued to ask the questions that needed to be asked." That is one way of describing Kane's approach. Here is another: Kane asked the questions that would sustain the N&O's narrative, and he stopped asking the questions that challenged their narrative.

The N&O under Drescher's leadership, I believe, values narrative above truth. They have become more a media corporation, less a news organization. The public deserves better.

*Although the anecdote in the Martin Report could not be verified, I believe that it happened. Witness testimony is the primary evidence for and against the anecdote, but all the witnesses have a stake, one way or another, in the anecdote's veracity. In other words, there are no impartial witnesses. I know the witnesses who say the anecdote is true, and I believe them. The N&O chooses to believe the witnesses who say the anecdote is not true. Regardless, as this blog entry demonstrates, Wainstein's finding that Blanchard informed Owen about the paper classes makes the disputed anecdote from the Martin Report much less relevant than previously asserted.

**Note that the finding about Owen comes from Owen herself. It is a telling admission, and yet Wainstein excluded it from his "Factual Narrative," relegating it instead to the interview summary at the end of his report. Narrative, indeed.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/john-drescher/article15574082.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article24027001.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/unc-scandal/article43622670.html#storylink=cpy