The opinions page of a newspaper should be held to the same ethical standards as the rest of the paper. In a legal sense, newspapers cannot print anything libelous, slanderous or anything that constitutes defamation on their opinions page. However, this does not stop some newspapers from failing to apply the same ethical standards to the opinions page.
My alma mater’s student newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald, has posted an editorial that calls for student athletes who have been getting into legal trouble to shape up, apologize to the University and move on. And for the most part, I agree with the editorial in that these athletes need to apologize for their behavior.
However, I take issue with the article. In the very last paragraph, they treat Oregon running back LaMichael James as a convicted criminal. From the editorial:
LaMichael James, Kiko Alonso, Jamere Holland, Matt Simms, Rob Beard, Garrett Embry: You have all embarrassed the University. You wore the Oregon name on your jersey and have lost the trust of the campus community. Take a page from Blount and make amends. Write an apology to your peers to start the process of healing the wound. Take your punishment with the knowledge that one day you can regain that trust, but it will take time and sacrifice on your part to know that what you did hurt yourself, your team and your school. Everyone makes mistakes, but true maturity shows that you have learned from them and created a positive ending.
James, who at the time of the editorial, has been arrested and confined to house arrest after posting bail. He has NOT been convicted of any crime, and as far as I can tell, he was arrested without incident. I posted about this on the Emerald’s website, and I received this response:
Bryan, whether or not LaMichael James actually did choke his girlfriend, he still put himself into a position where he put the program and the school in a negative light. That is still his fault regardless.