Monday I reported a tipster informed me reporters at the N&O had been told not to do any followup reporting on a man who was named "Tar Heel of the Week" by the N&O, despite receiving new information the man was arrested for assaulting his wife.
Contacted by John in Carolina, executive editor John Drescher was almost indignant. He said the information in my post was "not true."
”There is no truth to a report we quashed a follow-up story on Mr. Stephens. Our readers should look forward to reading a follow-up story to the original ‘Tar Heel of the Week’ story."Today comes the lame follow-up:
James Stephens III, who was named The News & Observer's Tar Heel of the Week on April 19, has an assault charge pending against him in Wake County District Court.
Cary police arrested Stephens on Dec. 9 and charged him with misdemeanor assault. His wife, Dr. Tammi Stephens, accused him of striking her.
In a phone interview, Stephens, 50, said he did not assault his wife. He said she assaulted him in an argument. The couple is going through a contentious divorce, he said.
According to court documents, Tammi Stephens said she struck her husband in self-defense.
James Stephens' charge did not appear in a background check conducted by The N&O prior to the story's publication, in part because an incorrect birth date for Stephens is listed in the court's computer system.
Stephens' next court appearance is May 15.
Stephens, an entertainer, was named Tar Heel of the Week for his work raising money for college scholarships.
Information about the arrest was known to the N&O days ago. No explanation in today's story for the delay in telling readers about it.
The tipster has the explanation: reporters who wanted to do a follow-up were told by senior editor Linda Williams to leave it alone -- Williams said news about the arrest was "not important."
There's a lot going on inside the newsroom that hasn't come to light.
UPDATE: Jeff Taylor says there is still an unanswered question:
The question left hanging is whether Linda Williams had any interaction with the story, specifically if she told the reporters who received a tip from Mrs. Stephens about the charges not to do a follow-up, or expressed opposition to doing a follow-up, or questioned the news value of a follow-up which included the charge.