Watch out, student bloggers.
You may think you can freely spout whatever you choose in your blog, but that’s not the case. In fact, even words that you might see as standing up for your dear mom might land you in court.
A Butler University student has learned that the hard way.
Butler University has dropped its libel suit against a student blogger after learning his name. But that’s not the end of the story. The university is going to use “internal disciplinary proceedings” instead to punish the student instead.
And what, oh what, did this student say in his blog to cause all this ruckus?
The comments that the university considered defamatory were about administrators who removed the blogger’s stepmother from her job as chair of the music school, according to the IndyStar.
The comments included calling an administrator “power hungry” and saying that administrator “hurts the ability of the school to recruit talented students and faculty members,” according to the Indiana Daily Student.
See The Indiana Daily Student‘s fabulous editorial on the case here.
To my surprise, a post I wrote yesterday praising The College at Brockport‘s student newspaper, The Stylus, for getting the news of the spring concert act out to students over the break sparked some debate.
Dan Reimold at College Media Matters questioned the need for an e-mail alert to the story as opposed to simply posting the news on the web site. I appreciate his feedback. I’d like to clarify that quite frankly I believe the e-mail alert was necessary because this is occurring during the break and students and members of the college community would not be checking the student newspaper web site for updates when they know the students aren’t there working on the next issue. (Full disclosure: I am the newspaper’s adviser, but knew nothing of the story or e-mail until I received the e-mail.)
I don’t think those receiving the e-mails would view them as cluttering their mailboxes. The community here would see this as big, breaking news. Maybe in New York City or San Francisco or a huge university this would not be big news, but here in Brockport it is. (And please don’t take that as a sign that The Stylus is a sleepy little paper. It’s not.)
Part of determining the importance of news and even what is news is knowing your community. I certainly don’t slight Mr. Reimold for not being familiar with Brockport. I just want to offer some clarification as to why I think it is fantastic that Stylus editor Amanda Seef broke the story over the break, with the first newspaper of the semester still weeks away. She got the story, didn’t wait for the announcement to be “officially” released by the college and recognized that this would be important enough to her readers to alert them. That is good journalism.
The students at the campus newspaper I advise faced a world of tech hell the past 48 hours. Their server crashed and died. Then they found out the backup server also failed. A tech guy put together a makeshift system for them and the people from the company who publish the paper said it should work for outputting the pages. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
After hours of trying to tweak and resend the pages, the editor in chief and executive editor were faced with a horrible decision. Do they put out a print edition with horrible photos and poor quality, or do they cancel the print edition and put out only an online edition?
They chose to do the online edition only. It was a hard choice, but in the end, they didn’t want to put out a bad paper. It was a decision that I think nearly broke some of their hearts.
Their experience highlights some of the best of journalism. If it was going to be bad, they wanted no part of it. They want quality. I hope these standards stick with them throughout their careers and they never settle for less.