March 5, 2007

"Do you have a comment now that Professor Kaplan has given his version of what he said and why?"

So read the email I received from a Capital Times reporter this afternoon. My answer:
Only that I'm appalled by the Capital Times reporting on this matter over the last two weeks.
Here's my account of Kaplan's letter, which explains, honestly, I believe, what he was teaching that fateful day and makes it possible to understand the terrible mistake the students made. Here is the original article the Cap Times published on February 23rd. Key passage:
In an e-mail organizing the meeting, students alleged that Kaplan made stereotypical remarks such as "all 2nd generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity" and "Hmong men have no talent other than to kill."

"These are just some of the incredibly offensive and racist remarks that Kaplan made," Hmong student [name deleted], the author of the e-mail, wrote.
And here is an article the Cap Times published on on February 28. Here is the front-page article after the March 1 public forum, which again quotes the author of the email:
Law student [name deleted] told the crowd Kaplan's comments had "damaged an entire population." She said she has heard from Hmong people across the country who are angered by the statements.

[Name deleted] said she has been disheartened by some people's inability to understand why the comments would be offensive. "I believe the underlying issue is that no one knows who we are," she said.
[CORRECTION: As noted below, I linked and quoted the wrong story there. The Cap Times article after the forum is here. It has the outrageous headline "Prof a no-show at forum." It begins with this emotive presentation of the wounded students and the professor who disappointed them:
Clearly, eloquently and sometimes tearfully, the seven young Asian women who raised the issue of a law professor's allegedly insulting remarks about the Hmong told their story at a public forum Thursday night.

The other side was not heard, however, as Professor Leonard Kaplan did not attend the forum at the University of Wisconsin Law School, to the intense disappointment of many of the more than 200 who came, hoping to hear both sides of the matter.

"He will not be here tonight because he fears that his presence would shift the focus of the discussion to what happened in his class, which would seriously detract from the broader educational function that he hopes this meeting can serve," said Professor Jane Larson.

"That's it?" shouted someone in the crowd, which then listened patiently to a lecture by Jane Hamilton-Merritt, an author and expert on Hmong culture and history, before hearing from the law students.]
[I consider the headline outrageous because it channels the disappointment of students who formed the belief that they was going to examine what happened in the class, when the event was not billed like that. It was promoted as an educational session with the scholar teaching about Hmong culture. The article makes it look as though there were some weird bait-and-switch, where the students came to some sort of show trial -- as if that would have been appropriate -- and then got stuck hearing a lecture. I avoided the event myself, mainly because I didn't want to sit though a medicinal lecture. If I had thought it was going to be more of a show-trial or witch hunt I would have gone so I could record the insanity.]

Here's a letter by former UW law student Mark A. Edwards, addressed to the Capital Times:
Dear Editor:

I read your recent articles reporting racist statements attributed to Professor Len Kaplan with a sense of disgust and dread. I don't know Professor Kaplan personally, only by reputation; but based on his spotless reputation for intelligence and compassion, I knew the stories were about as credible as him having flapped his arms and flown around the lecture hall. That was the source of my disgust. Now, many days too late, you reveal that his accuser was not present at the time of the alleged remarks, and that students who were present deny they occurred. I'm an academic myself; my dread comes from knowing that one day an editor might decide that unverified allegations about me are also newsworthy. That's called the chilling effect, and it works wonders to destroy a university. I realize that fact-checking is labor-intensive, and can end up costing you a story that sells copy. But as a service to your readers, it would be interesting if you could attempt to quantify, in dollars, the extra advertising revenue you gained by publishing this particular sensational, unverified story. Then we would know that exact price of a man's reputation. And it would also be informative if you could let us know, having done that, how well you sleep afterwards.

Mark A. Edwards
What a shameful display by our local newspaper!

IN THE COMMENTS: Chris Murphy, City Editor, for The Capital Times, writes:
I take exception to your characterization of our coverage of the Kaplan matter, which has been the most authoritative and thorough available anywhere. The fact that Professor Kaplan's explanation of events has been under-reported until now (see our front-page story today here)...
That is the story written by the reporter I refused to communicate with, as discussed at the top of this post.
... is because he chose not to discuss in any detail what he actually said for almost three weeks after the class, or 11 days after the first of two public hearings that drew hundreds of people, including a public apology from the dean of the law school. We contacted Professor Kaplan several times prior to the publication of our stories to ask for further comment, and he repeatedly declined, as he did for other media.
He had his reason for not talking to the press. There were other ways you could have tried to find out more about what happened.
But we have worked to explain his side of things even when he wouldn't do so himself. In your post, you neglect to link to our March 1 story that aired the perspective of students in the class and sympathetic faculty who didn't think Kaplan was being offensive and that his critics were mistaken. See it here.
Yes, I remember that day. Wasn't that story buried deep in the paper when another story was featured much more conspicuously with an inflammatory headline? I had trouble finding that on line.
You also erroneously attribute a State Journal story about the March 1 public hearing to us.
Sorry. That was a mistake made while putting the post together. (Both newspapers appear on-line as Madison.com.) But my position, taken in email with your reporter, was based on following all the news stories as the situation unfolded.
Our coverage of that event (which was not on page one, incidentally) is here, and it does not quote [name deleted] (who indeed was not in the Feb. 15 class).
Yes, that is the story I meant to link to, the one with the outrageous headline: "Prof a no-show at forum." Look how that headline blames him for not showing up (without conveying the fact that the event was supposed to be an educational lecture about Hmong culture which would have been spoiled by his presence). Look at how the text highlights and channels the students' emotions. This was written by the reporter I didn't want to talk to. Compare the coverage by Megan Twohey in the MSJ, here.

Murphy continues:
Instead, that story quotes [name deleted], who was in the Feb. 15 class and who does maintain that Kaplan said outrageous things that day.
There were, I think, 15 students in the class. You should have tried to interview some of them.
You don't say in the post exactly what appalls you, though I gather you are of the same mind as Mr. Edwards, who thinks we have no qualms about printing whatever unverified allegations we happen to hear about. That's not what happened here. When hundreds of students gather on campus to discuss and protest what they say a professor has said, and when that professor's dean publicly apologizes to more than 100 people, we would be negligent not to report what they're talking about. Kaplan's version of the story needed to be told, and we repeatedly asked him to tell us, but he refused for 10 days. We did what we could, but he gave us almost nothing to work with.
I agree that you had to cover the story, given the public events, but you indulged in tabloid-style coverage when a man's reputation was on the line. Journalism isn't just repeating what people are "talking about." If talking to the accused is the only way you can think of to find out what happened, you should pack it in.

NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.

33 comments:

Jeff said...

"What a shameful display by our local newspaper!"

My local newspaper, the New York Times, doesn't do much better most of the time. Just ask the Duke Lacrosse team

Seven Machos said...

Wow. This is always, always, always the ending to these stories.

Has there ever -- ever been an actual instance when a professor at a Serious University actually said the things with which she has been charged by dogmatists on the left?

MadisonMan said...

That is a honey of a letter to the editor. I wonder if they'll print it. I sure hope so.

Not having read the Cap Times, I don't know how well the State Journal did in reporting the story. But it seems it can't have done worse.

Theo Boehm said...

I'm reminded of an old monologue by Garrison Keillor from the days when he was having trouble with the St. Paul Pioneer Press ("Gastric Distress").

He said that if you know the truth of a situation and read about it in the newspaper, the two have about as much to do with each other as green and the number seven.

That isn't to say you might not find a green seven occasionally.

Hey said...

Given that this paper uses Communist, if not Stalinist, imagery to sell papers and subscriptions, why should anyone be surprised that they are untrustworthy? They are doing nothing more than following in the path of the admitted heroes of the writers, sales team, and readership. Only a few imperialistic running dogs were harmed and subject to re-education, all in advance of the cultural revolution and the red guards!

Alpha Liberal said...

Well, Ann, you are a fine one to talk!

You posted a link from the discredited Drudge, of all people, of a carefully edited recording of Hillary Clinton.

But both you and Drudge, the Republcian hack, both neglected to tell people she was reading someone else's writings and the writings contained the colloquialisms.

So, Ann Althouse, you are far worse than the reporters at The Capital Times in this case. Want some stones to go with that glass house?

Time and again when faced with the falsehoods you peddle, you ignore the facts and just turn to derision. Prediction: You'll be true to form.

Is it true Ann Coulter is your role model?

Maxine Weiss said...

Why is Althouse injecting herself in this?, instead of staying above the fray?

Nobody outside of Madison has any stake in these issues whatsoever.

"Law In Action". What a gimmick that is. ---Completely meaningless and ineffective, primarily because it isn't possible to replicate a "Real World Practice" in a law school.

School and Practice are two very different things, and always will be.

Why anyone would lose any sleep over all this "Kaplan" nonsense is beyond me.

Definitely a silly little local story that has absolutely no National ramifications at all.

Other than a few good laughs. Mid-Westerners like to make hay over nothing!


Peace, Maxine

Seven Machos said...

Who has discredited Drudge? Or. perjaps, who besides far-left hacks has discredited Drudge? How can a top-10-in-the-world website be discredited? It's like calling Heineken a discredited beermaker.

Doesn't anyone on the far left understand that (1) Drudge is a portal to newspaper articles and (2) a huge number of very left-leaning journalists read and use the Drudgereport constantly, every single day?

Daryl Herbert said...

re: Alpha Liberal's comment

Ann, you've already got a thread for that. No one (whose opinion is worth a damn) would think less of you for deleting Alpha's comment here (and maybe all comments addressing it, because they would be a distraction).

Alpha doesn't want to participate in an ongoing discussion where his (her?) comment would be 100 from the top. He hasn't even commented in that thread. He's an attention whore and a threadjacker.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not going to delete what Alpha Liberal wrote in part because I'd have to also delete the responses to it, but also because it does relate to the subject of what is fair to publicize when only partial information is available. As to that, I'd say that humorous, out-of-context clips showing a big political candidate are fine. If you don't think so, I hope you denounce "The Daily Show," etc., etc.

LutherM said...

This sounds like a combination of the worst days of the Hearst Newspapers - but it may just be a reflection of the political culture.The historian in me recalls how it was Wisconsin where a good U.S. Senator, Robert M. Lafolette, Jr, was defeated by Joseph R. McCarthy. I've usually regarded the University and the town as being a center of learning and culture in an otherwise bland state. But,regarding the "reporting" in the Capital Times, it reminds me of why the town is called "The People's Republic of Madison".
At least some people are standing against this pernicious nonsense.

Fen said...

He said that if you know the truth of a situation and read about it in the newspaper, the two have about as much to do with each other as green and the number seven.

Spot on. Sad for Kaplan, but good that some of his students are being exposed the media culture of incompetence or corruption.

Every single time the MSM has reported on a story I've been directly involved with, they got it wrong. Every. Single. Time.

Its good that others are seeing the same thing. Perhaps they'll realize that their newspapers are no more a legitimate broker of information than say, Glenn Greenwald.



Looks like alot of people are experiencing the media

Mike said...

Why should anyone be shocked? This is The Capital Times stock and trade.

Alpha Liberal said...

Well, I only have about 45 seconds, but...

Ann, you run falsehoods against Democrats (perpetuated by Drudge) constantly. Like the false photo of Kerry taken being interviewed. You falsely said it showed the troops shunned him and then you never ownwed up to your peddling falsehoods. You don't do this on the GOP... Hmmmm

Law school professors are better than politicans? Really?

Daryl, I did post in the other thread on the subject, before I posted here. Give up the ad hominem. Leave it to Drudge and Althouse.

And, Drudge, is not a news source. Drudge constantly peddles fal;se stories, like the Hillary reading a quote thing from yesterday and many other false stories, all against Democrats. He runs big banner headlines.

I don't read Drudge. Many people don't.

Alpha Liberal said...

Here's a chronicle of Matt Drudge's falsehoods, carefully documented.

SGT Ted said...

Hey lefties.

Every major news outlet publishes stories that are contrary to facts on the ground. They've been caught doing it and have at times admitted doing it on purpose. You all know it's true.

I'm not going to get into a link peeing match either so don't bother. Trying to single out Drudge as a particularly aggregeous offender is lame.

David said...

The Cap Times is not a good paper - but so few are anymore.

Ann Althouse said...

Alpha Liberal: "You falsely said it showed the troops shunned him and then you never ownwed up to your peddling falsehoods. You don't do this on the GOP... Hmmmm"

I demand that you find the post of mine that your are referring to, read the whole thing, and then come back and apologize to me. If you won't do the third thing, go twist yourself up in knots explaining why.

Some said...

I read somewhere (in the Isthmus, I believe) that the average reader of the CapTimes is 50 years old. I bet in 10 years the average age will be 60, then 70 ... their shoddy journalism, off-the-wall opinion page, and chiding tone appeals to a very closed-minded readership. They're the fourth- or fifth-best paper in what should be a one-paper town, and I believe the only thing that's keeping them alive is a contractual obligation that says something along the lines of, "If the Wisconsin State Journal continues to exist, the Capital Times must also continue to exist."

PatCA said...

The Cap Times follows a familiar pattern enabling the injection of bias--or simple sensationalism.

They never say KaShia Moua was not there, leaving readers with the impression she was, and they present nothing of her background as an activist, and a well paid activist, at all.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ann, I read your threads on Kerry at the time. Your response was to post a (admittedly funny) picture of yourself. You dug in. Maybe you finally threw in the towel long after god, solid arguments were made, but only after you responded with mocking, stunts and evasion.

And, the thing is, you don't learn. You keep passing this false tripe along without checking it out. I've never seen you do that against the GOP (but I'm only, thankfully, an occassional visitor, having a life and all).

Drudge is clearly a partisan but you seem blinded by your own partisanship and think he's an objective news source.

Ann Althouse: An empty room in the right wing echo chamber.

Ann Althouse said...

Bzzzt! Wrong answer, Alpha. You OBVIOUSLY did not go back and read the POST YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT. Now, go do your homework and then come back. Substituting blather based on what you remember is not acceptable... and is actually quite slimy and dishonest since you insist on continuing to insult me. You now owe me a major apology. The failure to give it will be read as a concession that you are a low and unethical.

Chris Murphy said...

Ann,

I take exception to your characterization of our coverage of the Kaplan matter, which has been the most authoritative and thorough available anywhere. The fact that Professor Kaplan's explanation of events has been under-reported until now (see our front-page story today here) is because he chose not to discuss in any detail what he actually said for almost three weeks after the class, or 11 days after the first of two public hearings that drew hundreds of people, including a public apology from the dean of the law school. We contacted Professor Kaplan several times prior to the publication of our stories to ask for further comment, and he repeatedly declined, as he did for other media.

But we have worked to explain his side of things even when he wouldn't do so himself. In your post, you neglect to link to our March 1 story that aired the perspective of students in the class and sympathetic faculty who didn't think Kaplan was being offensive and that his critics were mistaken. See it here. You also erroneously attribute a State Journal story about the March 1 public hearing to us. Our coverage of that event (which was not on page one, incidentally) is here, and it does not quote KaShia Moua (who indeed was not in the Feb. 15 class). Instead, that story quotes Kashoua Yangthao, who was in the Feb. 15 class and who does maintain that Kaplan said outrageous things that day.

You don't say in the post exactly what appalls you, though I gather you are of the same mind as Mr. Edwards, who thinks we have no qualms about printing whatever unverified allegations we happen to hear about. That's not what happened here. When hundreds of students gather on campus to discuss and protest what they say a professor has said, and when that professor's dean publicly apologizes to more than 100 people, we would be negligent not to report what they're talking about. Kaplan's version of the story needed to be told, and we repeatedly asked him to tell us, but he refused for 10 days. We did what we could, but he gave us almost nothing to work with.

Chris Murphy
City Editor
The Capital Times

Seven Machos said...

Chris Murphy: I have "reported" extensively that the moon is made of green cheese and that crack was introduced by the CIA in slums. These are things that have been reported to me.

That's okay, right? I mean, reporting doesn't mean getting the facts straight or the story right. Right?

qwerty said...

While I appreciate your willingness, Chris Murphy, to explain your papers reporting approach to the recent Hmong/Kaplan affair, I do not think you sufficiently acknowledge the shoddiness of your paper's reporting.

The Cap Time's reporting has not been the most thorough and authoritative available on this case. The Badger Herald has provided a much wider set of persepctives, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been by far the the most measured and contextualized reporting. For that matter, I put Ann's blog ahead of your paper.

The MJS and the BH both also labored under the difficulty of not having a statement from Kaplan - but both papers managed to give more insightful initial accounts student reactions to Kaplan's lecture and the context of his remarks than your paper. In fact, I would claim that the Cap Times' stories on this case approached pandering.

I would also point out that, to my recollections, it was not in the Cap times that were learned that the original email from Moua acknowledged that the quotes were not exact, and that she characterized her email as "misinformed" at the March 1 meeting.

Kaplan's biggest sin, if I understand the thrust of your letter, is that he did not respond directly and immediately to your reporters queries and that he did not respect your papers news cycle. I wondered, in fact, if you were suggesting that because Kaplan did not comment on the case earlier, no one has a right to complain about your paper's characterization of the case.

While reporters have no monopoly on laziness - it pays to recall what a reporter once told me: never underestimate the laziness of reporters.

The initial email written by Moua provided a great hook (racist professor goes on rant) and your paper did next to nothing to find out if this frame fit the actual facts.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ann, if youi post a link to the old thread, I'll go back and suffer through it one more time.

But you're not especially organized here and my time is a finite resource.

You'll disdain me no matter what I read anyway, but I try to be fair, so give me a link.

Note: I don't surf your site daily or even weekly. So don't assume your challenges are read...

AlphaLiberal said...

Chris Murphy makes a good case that the Cap Times provided balanced coverage of the Kaplan affair.

They tried to get his side for weeks and he refused to talk to them. Sounds like he bears some resonsibility for what happened to him.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ann, I went back and reviewed your post. As I said, you dug your heels in, you mocked people instead of answering questions but you did finally throw in the towel.

AND... I did go back at the time and update my Dailykos post to reflect the record. Did the same in the comments.

So... what? My point still stands. You consistently parrot false right-wing attacks on Democrats. the fact that you went back long after your readers accepted your initial interpretation and edited means something, I suppose, but you only did so long after logic and reason would have indicated it was a wise choice.

So, why not an entry on Judge Ziegler, her "law and order" campaign for Supreme Court and her approach to the Court's ethics rules for judges which she seems to think don't apply to her?
Any mocking for Judge Ziegler?

Ann Althouse said...

Alpha Liberal, you originally said: "You falsely said it showed the troops shunned him and then you never ownwed up to your peddling falsehoods. You don't do this on the GOP... Hmmmm"

The word "never" means something and you were flat wrong. You went back and saw that you were wrong, and instead of apologizing, you went into weasel mode, with all this "So... what? My point still stands. You consistently parrot false right-wing attacks on Democrats."

What COMPLETE and utter bullshit! You should be embarrassed.

Chris Murphy said...

Ann,
Thank you for giving prominent display to my rebuttal.

But I wish you would acknowledge that we did the very reporting you say we should have done.

"There were, I think, 15 students in the class. You should have tried to interview some of them," you write.

You mean, of course, students who were not outraged by what they heard, and we did that. It's right here.

I grant you that the story appeared with the jump of another piece that focused on reaction to the allegations in the Hmong community. In hindsight, we should have given the linked story much better play, especially in light of the fact that Kaplan wouldn't speak for himself for another five days.

But at almost 1,000 words, this was no fig leaf; it was an honest and thorough effort to provide the context and additional perspective that Professor Kaplan (at least at that point) would not.

Ann Althouse said...

"You mean, of course, students who were not outraged by what they heard, and we did that. It's right here."

No, I mean the other students. They were witnesses, yet not committed to the story the aggrieved students were telling.

qwerty said...

Chris Murphy,

It must be insisted that your reporters had other ways of providing context for Kaplan's remarks than getting a statement from Kaplan.

Indeed your remarks here indicate that your paper was already committed to a very particular frame for the story, "outraged students versus those who were not," before looking for the context in which the statements were made or seriously investigating whether the alleged statements were even made.

Given the careful attention I assume your paper pays to where it places its articles in both the printed and electronic editions, your concession that you could have done a better job of foregrounding the article in which students in the class contextualized Kaplan's remarks is interesting indeed.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ann. Sorry to have used the word "never" when I should have said "not until long after rational arguments were made and even far-right bloggers like Michelle Malkin had come around."

Like I said in the post, I was responding quickly and used a word I try "never" to use. It was a mistake to hand you a red herring to divert attention from the solid point I made on your hypocrisy.

My point remains unrebutted. You criticize the Cap Times for not carefully researching the charges levelled at Kaplan before publishing them.

But, you frequently do the same damn thing to Democrats. Adding an update admitting your error, weeks later, without a separate post, long after the majority of your readers have moved on, is not a serious apology nor does it disprove my point. You still parroted the attacks against Kerry, and others. And you buried your admission of guilt.