Thursday, February 10, 2005

A lot about livin' and a little 'bout libel

I was accused of libel for the first time today.

It came so unexpectedly that I was at first (and rightly) incredulous. The article was pretty well complete and I didn't expect any serious problems when it was vetted for errors. Then out of the blue I was cited on two counts of libel!

Here's a little background with certain details left to the imagination.

It was a commentary I was working on. It was the first one I had written for the Western Front and it was likewise the first conservative opinion to be voice on the editorial pages of the the Front this quarter. I will post a notice when the piece is in print and also online.

When I discussed the issue with one of (those people) who cited me for it, I found myself vacillating between two impulses. The first was to take the charge at face-value, suck it up and fix it; the second was induced partly by the realization that if I just took it for what it was worth, I would probably get seriously marked down, if not flunked, by (those people) who cited it, plus, even though the piece would run, it would be all the more stilted and stuffy for lack of one of the terms they wanted cut out.

What did I have to lose? My goal wasn't to get (this person) mad at me when (this person) was just trying to do (this person's) job. And yet, I was stung. I didn't like the idea that something like this was going to cost me points when I wasn't convinced I had done something wrong.

So I told (this person) I wasn't convinced it was libelous.

(This person) said we should take the matter to (higher person). To cut through the fat, (higher person) said it was ok and I didn't get my points cut. A happy ending and life goes on.

My conclusion:

Since the article was the first of its kind (conservative), it probably pushed (those people) out of their comfort zones and they just reacted. It was nothing personal. (This person) accepted the assessment of (higher person) very graciously. Although, graciousness or not, there's still no getting around the fact that my hackles still rise when I think back on it.

Crossposted at Western Washington Unraveled
<< Home 2 Comments:
Blogger Caleb said...

Way to go Mark. I'm glad (higher person) made the call, and that (person) submitted to it.
Being conservative on Western's campus definitely comes with an undeserved stigma, doesn’t it?
But be encouraged, Mark. You have the opportunity to do something special up there -- never get discouraged. Keep fighting the good fight.
It's funny -- as of right now, I'm being accused of conflict of interest at WCC. There is a classmate of mine who believes I cannot write a story on a Christian based club -- maybe he's right, in the sense of ethics.
This is how I look at it:
Being a journalist, I'm supposed to write objective truth (And that is always my intention). Being a Christian, I am to yield to my governing authorities, or editors, if you will (So long as they do not conflict God and His word).
Therefore, if I write this article from a Christian slant, and try to patronize the club, then I am not following God's word.
If I do report objectively, then I am giving way to God and His instructions.
Anyway, I've rambled far too long. Have a good one, Mark.

-Caleb

8:20 PM, February 10, 2005  
Blogger Mark R said...

That's an interesting situation Caleb. I don't think I've ever been accused of that kind of issue.

If your editors have faith in your objectivity, then I would stand your ground and write it. I hope it turns out for the best and the accuser is proved wrong in due course.

Thanks for the encouragement.

11:21 AM, February 11, 2005  

Post a Comment