The University of Massachusetts student newspaper Mass Media published a story in 2013 about a campus security search for a man who allegedly took pictures of women on campus. The story included a photograph of Jon Butcher, a university employee.
Butcher sued, saying he was defamed by the story and he didn’t take any pictures of women. The Boston Globe noted that Butcher was not arrested and no charges were filed against him. But now, the lawsuit has been thrown out by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
iMediaEthics has written to Mass Media; Butcher represented himself in court but doesn’t appear to have any Facebook or LinkedIn profile.
According to the Boston Globe, “a Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with Butcher and concluded that because police never issued a search warrant or made an arrest, the information in the police report wasn’t protected and the newspaper was liable.”
In a Dec. 31 ruling, Massachussetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the lawsuit, stating the paper’s story was an accurate report on campus police information.
The Dorchester Reporter, a community newspaper, reported:
“The state’s highest court said UMass Police most certainly were acting in an ‘official’ capacity when they initially published a daily police log that included an item about a ‘suspicious’ man at JFK/UMass and then gave Mass Media the photo and description.
“The court cautioned the privilege is not absolute. Each log item must be reviewed individually, lest people with bad intent report blatantly false information to police on the hopes it will get into a police log and attract media attention, the court said. And even news reports on items that fall under the privilege need to be scrutinized to ensure the reporter does not inject any harmful mistakes.”
The ruling is published here.