LaMichael James is innocent until proven guilty, Emerald Editorial needs to reflect that

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.
I am not aware if the person works for the Emerald or is appropriate to represent it. However, I still find that position disingenuous.  If James is innocent, the only thing he can be held accountable for is having a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. If the charges are fabricated, then it would be inappropriate to ask James for an apology. He did not ask to be arrested or placed under house arrest.
As far as I know, the only facts the Emerald has regarding the situation is that James had a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. Does that warrant an apology? Does that warrant being unfairly incriminated by the media?
Just to be clear, I am not apologizing for James’ behavior if he is guilty. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that the Emerald is breaking the law by running their editorial. However, I would like to see my alma mater’s school newspaper apply the same ethical standards to its opinion page as it does its news page and treat suspects as innocent until proven guilty.

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