Thursday, March 25, 2004

Denial is a river that runs through the Chronicle editorial office 

The Chronicle's coverage of its own libel suit includes this:
"Why can't people just get along?" said Michael Vadnie, adviser for the University Chronicle.
Let's recall the history, shall we?

October 27th: Article published. Again, this story is still up online, with no official note of the retraction. (I put a note of the retraction in their comments.) So a story they no longer stand behind is still being reported on their site.

October 30: After receiving several letters and my post on this topic, the newspaper states at the bottom of its letters section (not front page) that the story "is being referred to University Chronicle Readers' Advocate Joe Palmersheim for analysis under the guidance of adviser Michael Vadnie. An ombudsman analysis, incorporating the facts and the criticism surrounding the story, will appear in University Chronicle prior to Thanksgiving break." So Vadnie has already decided the story may have merit, and thus isn't necessarily just trying to get along.

November 17th. Chronicle announces it has received a demand for a retraction from Lewis' lawyer. Under advice of legal counsel, editors stop the ombudsman analysis. Only then do they print letters received from readers defending Lewis -- three weeks after the initial article. Just trying to get along.

November 18th. Scholar Marie writes that case law, particularly Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton, probably finds in favor Lewis.

November 20th. The newspaper retracts portions of the story. Marie calls it a "fraction of a retraction". Vadnie tells me by email that it is not a full retraction. You know, just getting along.

Apparently, Lewis agrees, because now he is suing that the retraction failed to meet the requirements in Minnesota Statute 548.06. Whether the newspaper should be sued or the university or MnSCU ... I have to leave that to Marie and other lawyers. I'm just a lowly economist. But to run this kind of "he's picking on me" piece as page one further indicates the deterioration of the campus newspaper here. They need better advising than someone who declined three chances to "get along" and only agreed to a half-hearted retraction under threat of lawsuit that he still hasn't avoided and still can't accept. His student editor is no better today:

"We complied with the statute to the best of our ability," University Chronicle editor-in-chief Eric O'Link said.

"I think it's very telling about motives," O'Link said [in response to the decision to sue the university and MnSCU rather than the paper].