Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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ON CAMPUS SMU’s student newspaper recently provided a textbook case of careless reporting-and paid for it. In the fall semester. The Daily Campus reported that an SMU maintenance worker had been indicted by a grand jury on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, The story said that the man had been suspended by SMU. The article didn’t contain his response; nobody from the paper had contacted him.

To the editors’ surprise, the worker’s supervisor informed them the next day that he was still employed and had been charged with no crime. The Campus, after further checking, realized that it was a man with a different middle name,

ROBERT BURNS McCALL-not an SMU employee or student- who had been charged. The paper ran a hurried front-page correction in its next daily edition, complete with generous quotes from the wrong McCall’s boss about his outstanding character, etc.

But potential libel means having to say more than “We’re sorry.” Although LES HYDER, head of Student Media Co., which runs the Campus, insists a libel suit was never threatened, the company felt it only fair to offer a settlement. Hyder won’t reveal the amount, but a source says it was $10,000, That’s considerably less than a lawsuit would have cost, but still a steep price to pay for a lesson in reporting.