As most of our readers are aware by now, NC Policy Watch reported last week on the allegations made by several women and other witnesses that State Rep. Duane Hall of Wake County had committed a series of inappropriate sexual advances toward women while serving in the General Assembly. All told, seven separate sources told reporter Billy Ball stories of persistent sexual innuendo and, in some instances, unwanted sexual overtures. You can read both of Ball’s stories by clicking here and here. Policy Watch stands behind Ball’s reporting 100 percent.
As I wrote in a blog post last week:
[T]he story in question represents many, many hours of dedicated work by Ball to report the facts as they relate to the behavior of Rep. Duane Hall. Ball interviewed numerous individuals over a period of multiple weeks and carefully reviewed and assessed the information obtained in those interviews with fellow Policy Watch journalists. Every effort was made to convince sources to allow their names to be used. In some instances, however, in which sources asked for anonymity but nonetheless related compelling and convincing stories, the decision was made on a case-by-case basis to publish their accounts of the facts. We are satisfied that these decisions were made fully within the spirit of long-established and widely recognized rules of journalistic ethics.
The result is an important story about an elected official who joins a long and distressing list of public figures who are alleged to have engaged in inappropriate personal behavior.”
As readers may also be aware, Ball’s reporting has led to calls for Hall’s resignation from more than a dozen elected officials from his own party, including Gov. Cooper and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson.
Unfortunately, over the weekend, Rep. Hall chose to issue a statement in which made the outrageous and completely false allegation that our reporting was somehow motivated by the fact that he once had a personal relationship with Megan Glazier, the daughter of North Carolina Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier. Megan Glazier is employed as an executive assistant at the Justice Center, which is the parent organization of NC Policy Watch. (It should be noted that Ms. Glazier’s relationship with Hall pre-dated her employment at the Justice Center, where she began work in 2016, and that nothing in the story relates to her or her relationship with Hall in any way).
Here is the actual truth:
- Billy Ball began investigating the issue of sexually inappropriate actions by state lawmakers well over a year ago. Rep. Hall’s name came up early in that process from multiple sources.
- Much later in the process of Ball’s reporting, he became aware that Ms. Glazier and Rep. Hall had once had a personal relationship.
- In recent weeks, as the story about Rep. Hall came together and Policy Watch moved closer to publishing, Billy Ball raised the issue with me as to whether we should attempt to report on the relationship between Rep. Hall and Ms. Glazier and/or offer some sort of disclosure about it.
- When I became aware of this fact, I convened a discussion of senior Policy Watch staffers to review our ethical and moral obligations. Three choices quickly emerged: a) kill the story and thereby deprive the public of information we were convinced was accurate, important and within its right to know, b) attempt to report on the past relationship between Hall and Ms. Glazier as part of the story and thereby broach the topic of a private matter that did not impact the story, or c) report the story in the way it ultimately appeared. After that discussion, it was decided that option “C” was by far the best and most ethical option.
- After reaching this conclusion, early last week, I brought the matter to Rick Glazier and, ultimately, discussed it with him and other senior Justice Center staff. This was the first time I had ever discussed Rep. Hall’s name with respect to his personal behavior with anyone outside of the Policy Watch team.
- After that discussion (which included inquiries from Rick Glazier to make certain that we were absolutely confident of our sources and the facts that we intended to report), and after Billy Ball received comments from House Minority Leader Darren Jackson and state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin calling on Hall to resign, he gave me the authorization to take whatever action I felt was appropriate with respect to publishing.
- Last Wednesday afternoon, after final discussions with Policy Watch team members, I did a final proofread of Ball’s story and hit the “publish” button.
- After that occurred, I composed and published the blog post referenced above and conveyed the information in it to the other members of the N.C. Justice Center staff.
The bottom line: Neither Billy Ball, nor I nor any member of the Policy Watch team was ever encouraged or discouraged in our pursuit of the story about Rep. Hall by Rick Glazier or any other Justice Center senior staff. While we readily concede that the matter of reporting on an individual who once had a relationship with a colleague poses some potentially challenging issues of journalistic ethics, we strongly believe that in this instance, we made the right call on all fronts.
Again, we stand by the story.