Thursday, May 04, 2006

On Duke, the media and the always tender issue of race relations in the US of A

Here at our hotel in Durham, N.C., this morning, a two-man CNN crew was packing up their gear, signaling that the media, for the time being, finally has decided the "Duke lacrosse scandal" has become tiresome.

These two guys are a what they call a 24/7 crew, based in New York, ready for action at any moment.

They were stuffing their equipment into a nice ride. A Lincoln Navigator. It was a rental.

I was feeling good this morning, so I chatted them up. I had eaten a healthy breakfast of canteloupe, watermelon and grapefruit, and was wearing my Panama hat. I always feel jaunty in my Panama hat. Jaunty is not a regular state of mind for me.

So I asked the CNN boys why the Duke story got so much play.

Their answer will not surprise you.

"You've got rich kids going to an affluent university," said the older one, a white guy with a receding hairline and a New York accent who appeared to perhaps be of Italian-American lineage.

"And then the racial angle," I offered.

"Yeah," he said.

What if the roles had been reversed, I asked. Say if the school had been a mostly African-American university and the alleged "victim" had been white.

It wouldn't be the same, the CNN guy said.

Really, I asked.

"You'd like to think it'd be the same," the CNN's guy's partner, an Asian American guy in braces, said.

He left the thought hanging, not finishing the sentence, but left the impression that the national media likely would not have been interested, or at least not as interested as it is in the present situation.

Maybe it's a preposterous premise.

If the "roles" had been reversed, what would the scenario have been? A lacrosse team at a black university that had a drunken party at which a white girl who attended the affluent, private university across town was hired to dance naked? Do black universities even have lacrosse teams?

The CNN guy with the receding hairline, who appeared to be the crew chief, said the media outlet that really got the national media interested in the story was the student newspaper at Duke University.

"They broke the story," he said.

I'd been reading some of their stories. The publication, "The Chronicle," is distributed here at our hotel, where we're staying while we conduct important business.

The factoid that I recall most vividly from all their coverage is that some of the Duke lacrosse players regularly urinated out their 2nd story dorm windows when it was party time. And, apparently, it was party time a lot.

What is it about being young, shitfaced drunk and urinating in public that seem to go together so nicely? It's a mystery.

The CNN guys said they'd probably be back in Durham in a couple weeks.

"When the new DNA stuff comes out, huh," I said.

"Yeah."

The CNN crew said Duke University treated them well. Unlike some other stories in which they deal with some sort of institution under fire, the administration didn't run and hide.

"That's really the right way to handle it," I offered. "They only make it worse if they don't talk to you."

The CNN boys agreed.

I asked how the Duke student body reacted to the media deluge and they said some of the students were a bit hostile, asking them why they didn't just leave, but overall it wasn't too bad.

They'd tell the hostile students that, "It's just another story to us. We're just doing our job," the second CNN guy said.

So the rubbing up against the media should prove educational to members of the Duke student body who interacted with the newshounds. It was a life enriching experience, one hopes.

"I'll tell you where the real hostility was," said the CNN crew chief. "Between the students at the two schools."

(Between NCCU, the mostly black university where the alleged rape victim attended class, and the Dukies.}

I haven't been on the NCCU campus yet, but I've seen the highway exit sign to get to it. I did pay one visit to the Duke U. bookstore, located by the university's famous Gothic chapel.

They were sold out of Duke lacrosse t-shirts and sweatshirts, except for the 2XL sizes. Why do you figure that was? To show support for the Duke lacrosse players? Or because it's trendy?

1 comment:

luckystreet said...
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