Monday, November 17, 2003

Demanding a retraction 

According to an editor's note at the beginning of its letters to the editor, the University Chronicle has been advised to stop looking into an ombudsman analysis of the article.
Following a report Oct. 27, 2003, headlined 'Past actions haunt Lewis,' University Chronicle received two critical e-mails and some negative comments. Later we received a letter to the editor. After conferring with adviser Michael Vadnie, the editorial board decided to refer the complaints alleging unbalanced journalism to its readers' advocate for an ombudsman analysis. Last week Richard Lewis, through his attorney Marshall Tanick, demanded a retraction under Minnesota law. Such a demand can be a preface to litigation. The decision on the demand for retraction is pending. Because the demand for retraction is an intervening factor, University Chronicle attorney Mark Anfinson has advised the editors that it would unwise to continue such an investigation for publication. After consultation, the editors ceased the investigation. Letters for publication that have been confirmed as to identity will run in this edition.
That's slightly misleading still. The decision to not publish a retraction does allow one to defend litigation from Lewis by standing by the story. If they did publish it and But a retraction would allow for a mitigation of the damages. (See this discussion by the Minnesota News Council. A model law is being proposed that would allow publication of retractions or corrections without giving rise to an admission of guilt.) By choosing to cease the investigation, the Chronicle is betting that it will win the suit.

The Chronicle at least did release two letters it received bemoaning the article, a mere three weeks later. Says one alumnus,

The article of 1,121 words contains 942 words of Hoy's account against Lewis (as well as Ms. Eckes' editorialization on her behalf...)

Ms. Eckes fills in the gaps in Hoy's account - with editorialization so obvious that it would be laughable, if it weren't also so unethical. Here are some examples, all in the author's voice:

"(Hoy) did not expect to have her education ruined while being taught the politics behind academia."

"Hoy knew Stryker was being treated unfairly and wanted to put a stop to it."

"...(Lewis) disliked her bringing awareness to the discriminatory issues in the college."

"...Hoy was shocked to find that (Lewis) could and eventually did put a stop to her educational career."

...This article has only one proper place in a real, honest-to-God journalistic newspaper - on the "Opinions" page. To print it as news is a serious error, but to place it as the TOP STORY is a mockery of ethics.
The Chronicle is betting the alumnus is wrong, with taxpayer and student activity fee money.