Thursday, March 25, 2004

Further on the Chronicle 

In an accompanying editorial on its own printing of false claims, our student newspaper digs itself a deeper hole.
We continue to regret the error and any confusion and pain that it caused. We apologized then to Dr. Lewis and the university community. We have tried vigorously to hold ourselves accountable.
No you didn't. As I noted earlier today, at a critical juncture you decided to stop investigating the claims. Yet today you say "we investigated the matter as thoroughly and as expediently as possible." Three weeks, gentlemen. THREE FARGING WEEKS you had to investigate, and you decided
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.
So did you complete the investigation or not? And how did you apologize? On an inside page, in a small column. Not. Page. One.

The editorial also states

Our story contained a factual error, certainly unbeknownst to us at the time of its publication.
What did they say in their retraction?
The Chronicle hereby unconditionally retracts the suggestion contained in the article that Dr. Lewis is anti-Semitic. It also unconditionally retracts the statement attributed to a source for the article that she heard Dr. Lewis use racial slurs and make derogatory comments.
That sure looks to me like more than one teensy-weensy little factual error. "We have suffered minor structural damage," said the engineer to the captain of the Titanic.

Error three:

University Chronicle is an independent student organization that produces the SCSU student newspaper. We are not owned by SCSU, nor are we owned by MnSCU. We are not funded by either; our funding comes from student activity fees, which incidentally we repay through our ad revenue. And we are not, nor do we claim to be, the official newspaper of SCSU.
Well, take a look at their masthead (or at least their e-masthead.) "Newspaper of St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota". Yes, I can read: It doesn't say "official". Is there another one? The UNews is a public relations organ. It's a publication, but to call it a newspaper stretches the definition to the point of vacuity.

Again, it's not my place to decide whether the doctrine of respondeat superior (which makes SCSU and MnSCU responsible for Chronicle's actions) applies here or not as it's outside of my expertise. That defense may be valid. But since Lewis' grievances against the university include a claim of being falsely disciplined for the Hoy affair, the libel action makes some sense. If it is found that the university acted to encourage or assist the original story in any form, they won't have First Amendment defenses.