Student Newspaper Wrongly Names City Councilor a Registered Sex Offender, G

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A screenshot from the Oswegonian's original print article. (Credit: Oswegonian, screenshot, highlight added)

A college newspaper is again the subject of a libel lawsuit.

The Oswegonian,  State University of New York-Oswego’s “only independent, not for profit, student run newspaper,” is being sued for libel after it wrongly identified local city councilor Michael Todd as “a registered sex offender and co-owner of a taxi company” when he “is neither,” reported. The Feb. 15 story in question reports on Todd’s proposed law against taxi companies hiring sex offenders but then wrongly reports “Todd is a registered sex offender and manager of D&M taxi company with his brother, Brian Savage.”

On Feb. 17, the newspaper published an apology and retraction attributing the error to “editing.” The retraction, published atop the online version of the article reads:

“Due to an editing error, Oswego City Councilman Michael Todd was incorrectly referred to as a registered sex offender and co-owner of D&M Taxi company with Brian Savage, in the Feb. 15 issue of The Oswegonian, in an article titled ‘Taxi license ban on criminals weakened.’ Todd is not a registered sex offender, nor is he Savage’s brother or in any way affiliated with D&M Taxi. D&M Taxi is not managed by Savage.  The company being referred to was intended to be Lake City Taxi, which is managed by Savage. We regret the error and apologize to both Todd and D&M Taxi.”

Tim James, the news editor for The Oswegonian, told iMediaEthics by email that “the error occurred completely accidentally and with zero malice.”  James explained:

“It was a simple case of names accidentally being switched with each other during the editing process by an editor who was not familiar with the names.  The error was corrected immediately in our online edition upon its discovery.  We also immediately made phone calls to all afflicted parties to personally apologize for the error.”

While he confirmed the newspaper “received a copy of the lawsuit” and pointed to the newspaper’s Feb. 17 retraction, James said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit.  He did note that because of the incident, the newspaper is making extra efforts to prevent future errors and is emphasizing fact checking. James wrote:

“We have revamped our editing process considerably to double the number of reviews each page of the paper receives before publishing. We also hired a new copy editor so we have 3 instead of only 2. We are also in the process of implementing other new processes that should hopefully reduce errors in the future.

“Accuracy in reporting is one of the foremost concerns for student journalists.  This incident has given us a new focus on the importance of fact-checking everything and we have learned an incredibly important lesson on the consequences of failing to do so.”

The original print version of the story is available in a PDF on The Oswegonian’s website.

iMediaEthics has written to Todd seeking more information about his lawsuit. We’ll update with any response.

iMediaEthics wrote earlier this month about a libel lawsuit against the Florida A & M University student newspaper The Famuan after it wrongly reported a student named Keon Hollis was disciplined in the hazing death of Robert Champion.

Hat Tip: Editor and Publisher


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Student Newspaper Wrongly Names City Councilor a Registered Sex Offender, Gets Sued for Libel

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One Response

  1. oncefallendotcom says:

    So, if the purpose of Megan’s Law is NOT to defame and ostracize somebody, why is this councilman so afraid of being called a “sex offender”? It is VERY clear the intent of the registry is to create a virtual scarlet letter and to constantly shame someone to the point of ostracism. Revenge driven laws have no place in a modern society.

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