nando-libel

A libel case against the largest Triangle newspaper wasn’t deemed to be a significant story by the most of the media.

SBI agent Beth Desmond accused The News & Observer, the McClatchy Company — its owner — and reporter Mandy Locke of libel. Only N&O readers likely had any idea the trial was going on because it was so lightly reported elsewhere.

Credit The N&O for assigning reporter John Murawski, who usually covers business (specifically health care, utilities and energy), to write a story every day of the 3½-week trial. When the jury returned a $1.5-million verdict Tuesday, the story appeared over five columns across the top of the front page the next day. The day after the jury ruled Wednesday for an additional $7.5 million in punitive damages, that story ran six columns across the top of the front.

Because the state limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages, The N&O only is responsible for paying Desmond $4.6 million in punitive damages, and the jury said that Locke must pay Desmond $75,000 in punitive damages.

The N&O said that it will appeal the total judgment of about $6 million. This came in the same week that McClatchy reported a second-quarter loss of $1.5 million and that
print-ad revenue fell 15.6%.

Executive Editor John Drescher, according to N&O trial stories, says that the paper stands by the 2010 story in question that was part the “Agents’ Secrets” series. The story questioned the ballistics analysis of Desmond, then a forensic firearms analyst. That’s the only story in the four-part series that now appears on the newspaper’s website with an editor’s note at the top.

Desmond’s lawyers contended that the story didn’t correctly interpret what experts told Locke, and focused on six statements.

The N&O’s story on the initial jury ruling included something not often reported: the occupations of some of the jurors.

After little or no coverage from other media outlets over the course of the trial, some newspapers — including The Herald-Sun of Durham and the News & Record of Greensboro — picked up wire-service stories Thursday, the day after the punitive-damage ruling.

WRAL-TV reported about the ruling on its 5 o’clock newscast Thursday evening, according to News Director Rick Gall, and a short story went up on its website Friday. The first time WUNC mentioned the case was with on-air news updates on Wednesday, and it also reported about it on Thursday and Friday.

There are no locally produced stories about case on the websites of TWC News Central N.C., WNCN or WTVD. Derek Rowles, executive producer for WTVD’s news team, said via email that, “we have not reported on this that I know of.” Two Associated Press stories appear on WNCN’s website.

WUNC ran an analysis Friday from Jason deBruyn, its data reporter, with the headline “N&O Libel Verdict Shows Juries Like To ‘Smack Down’ Media.” DeBruyn left the Triangle Business Journal in August.

DeBruyn also discussed the case with Frank Stasio on WUNC during Monday afternoon’s “The State of Things” program. On the segment, which you can hear on the above link, deBruyn said that the “absolute truth” defense wasn’t allowed in the trial.

Maniscalco debuts as Canes TV/web host Tuesday

It’s been a crazy four months for Mike Maniscalco.

He has gone from morning-drive-time radio host on WDNC (Buzz Sports Radio) to unemployed to IMG/TuneIn host to now making his debut as the Carolina Hurricanes’ TV/web host. He’ll appear first on TV before the Canes’ Tuesday game in Detroit against the Red Wings.

The Canes named Maniscalco host for the “Canes Corner” radio show on WCMC (99.9 the Fan) the same week at the beginning of this month that Michelle McMahon quit as host to join the NHL Network. The Canes hired him for McMahon’s former role Oct. 11.

“Since his arrival in Raleigh, Mike has excelled at telling the stories of our athletes and the NHL, and making that connection between the team and our fans,” said Don Waddell, the Hurricanes’ president. “We could not be more excited that he will continue to do so in this role.”

Being a Hurricanes pregame show host is nothing new for Maniscalco, who did that on WCMC from 2007–16. Now, he’s just making the transition to television. Last season, he appeared on the big screen at PNC Arena with analysis during some intermissions in addition to providing color commentary working alongside Chuck Kaiton, the radio voice of the Canes, during the second period of home games.

A big difference this season is that he no longer has to get up in the wee hours of the morning to host a radio show after working late Canes games as in previous seasons.

“I am happy that my work and the relationships built in covering the organization the past nine seasons led to this opportunity,” Maniscalco said.

Maniscalco began in late August as host for the IMG’s “College Sports Now” radio show from 10 a.m.–noon Mondays–Wednesdays and Fridays, and commuted to
Winston-Salem. He did that show for the last time last Friday. He also has been host for a Saturday college football show, “College Football Blitz,” and will do that for the last time this Saturday.

He said that he was thankful for the opportunity IMG gave him, adding that, “the people in Winston-Salem are first class.”

Shuffling on two local SB Nation websites

There have been shifts in the leadership and staff expansions for two prominent SB Nation websites in the Triangle — Tar Heel Blog and Canes Country — with the founders who started those sites in 2006 leaving.

Tar Heel Blog founder Brian Barbour left in June, along with all of his writers except for Paul Kushner. UNC grad Tonya Bondurant, who also is the general manager of the SB Nation New York Yankees site Pinstripe Alley, took over as manager of the site that covers UNC athletics. Jason Cohen is one of three Pinstripe Alley editors and is the THB editor.

Canes Country founder Bob Wage left at the end of August to start a new Carolina Hurricanes-focused site called Canes Edge. The Canes Country editor now is Brian LeBlanc, the operations director of the Triangle Traffic Network, whose traffic reports can be heard on six local Curtis Media Group stations.

These sites are a challenge since they are side gigs in most cases. Both Barbour and Wage have full-time jobs that have nothing to do with the sites, which make the total time commitment large. Barbour’s move was his decision, and he’s enjoying watching Tar Heels games without having to write about them.

Wage wrote that SB Nation had “grown into a multi-million dollar conglomerate.” It had increasingly pushed for bigger staffs and at least six posts per day.

“Unless you have a dedicated staff capable of producing quality content, it might lead to a higher dependence on aggregating content,” Barbour said of that six-posts-a-day goal. “That can lead to diluting [the quality of the content]. Blogs like Tomahawk Nation and sites like [Inside Carolina] produce a steady stream of content that’s very good, but you need a good staff to do it.”

Tomahawk Nation is an SB Nation site that covers Florida State and lists a staff of 15.

SB Nation bought Canes Country in 2009 and Tar Heel Blog in September 2012. To accommodate SB Nation’s desires, the staffs of both sites have expanded from six last school year/season to 15.

Canes Country has two writers dedicated to covering the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate. Also on the staff is Brett Finger, who has moved away from Cardiac Cane, a Fansided site he started.

Wage said that leaving was his decision and that there were no hard feelings with his departure from Canes Country. He says that he simply didn’t have the time to recruit and train writers, and do the social-media work and other duties that were expected.

Edwards replaces duo on Duke women’s basketball broadcasts

Chris Edwards, who has broadcast Duke baseball, volleyball and men’s soccer since 2013, will be the sole on-air voice on Duke women’s basketball radio broadcasts this season.

Edwards replaces Steve Barnes, who was the play-by-play voice for 19 seasons, and Morgan Patrick, who was the analyst for eight seasons. Their contracts weren’t renewed. Patrick is now the host for pregame and postgame shows for WCMC coverage of the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I’m ready to get started — it’ll take some adjustment but I’m use to going solo with baseball. Hoping for a smooth transition,” Edwards said.

Edwards has been the Coastal Plain League’s Director of Broadcasting since 2013 and has done play-by-play for high school football and basketball broadcasts on the Time Warner Sports Channel.

New Duke beat writer finally on the beat

The same mid-August week that The N&O named Jessika Morgan to replace Laura Keeley as its Duke beat writer, Morgan gave birth to her first child and began maternity leave. She started on the beat last week, thus concluding a busy three-month period for Carolina Hurricanes beat writer Chip Alexander.

In addition to covering the Canes, Alexander wrote 43 stories about Duke after Keeley left to start law school at Columbia and before Morgan’s leave ended.

As busy as Alexander has been, his most notably crazy time filling in on the Blue Devils beat wasn’t this year. With Keeley on vacation during the 2015 football season, Alexander was covering — on deadline — the improbable Miami victory over the Blue Devils that included eight laterals.

More Indy Week departures

Two staff members at Indy Week quit last week: Reed Benjamin, the web content manager for about 2½ years who had been with the newspaper since August 2013, and staff writer David Hudnall.

Hudnall came to Indy Week from The Pitch, an alt-weekly newspaper in Kansas City, in December and is returning there at the end of the month. The general manager resigned and Hudnall, who is originally from Kansas City, will help run The Pitch.

Raleigh & Company, WRAL-TV, Buzz Sports Radio and 99.9 the Fan all are business units of Capitol Broadcasting Company.