Media Watch

Star pulls online version of guest editorial from second-degree murder suspect

Local attorney Chris Raboin was in the news a lot last week. Most significantly, he was arrested for second-degree murder in an alleged domestic violence incident Nov. 17.

Three days later, the Arizona Daily Star ran a guest editorial from Raboin. Unfortunately for the Star, it couldn't retract the guest editorial—Raboin opined about the troop numbers in Afghanistan—in time for the print edition, but once someone, or a series of someone's, outside the newspaper brought the situation to the paper's attention, the Star decided to disable the link to the online editorial.

"A guest opinion on Nov. 20 about the U.S. role in Afghanistan was written by a man who was arrested earlier in the week on a charge of second-degree murder," said Star Editor Bobbie Jo Buel in the paper's explanation, and in email. "He submitted the column on Nov. 4 and it was edited on Nov. 13. Enough time passed between when the column was edited and the arrest story on Nov. 19 that his name didn't flash any recognition among those of us who read both. We apologize that the guest opinion was published."

The "name didn't flash any recognition" defense may be true, but still curious. Are second-degree murder arrests of local attorneys so common in this city that we just don't pay attention any more? Furthermore, it's not as if the timeframe between editing the story on Nov. 13 and publishing the arrest story for the print edition Nov. 19—Star reporter Carmen Duarte put the story online the evening of Nov. 18—was so significant that the paper and its editorial staff were overwhelmed by a flood of other guest editorials within that brief window.

Also, once Raboin's guest editorial ran in the print edition, and once it was brought to the Star's attention, the newspaper ran a guest editorial by a man arrested, but not convicted of second-degree murder, why bother pulling the online version? Why not just explain the situation with additional text at the bottom or top of his editorial? Naturally, the Star would have nixed the guest editorial had it been on the ball in the first place, but once it went to print, that was that. Pulling it from the site, even though text from the link still shows up in web searches, including the Google powered web search on the Star's home page,, only seems to bring more attention to the initial botch.

Wildcat falls for false petition tale

In the week leading up to the annual football rivalry between the UA and ASU, students attempt to mastermind pranks on the competitive institutions. Usually, these take the form of things like painting the school symbol—the block A in Tucson or its counterpart in Tempe—the color of the rival.

But a few enterprising ASU students raised the bar a bit. They asked UA students and faculty on campus to sign a petition that would give ownership of the Tucson university back to Mexico while allowing Mexican-born students to pay in-state tuition prices. This, itself, is part of a long-running line of dialogue. Arizona students and alum often call ASU "Tempe Normal," a reference to its roots and the UA's status as the state's first university. They mock the school's party reputation and performance skills within the porn industry.

In return, ASU falls back on one of its familiar refrains. Give the UA, and Tucson in general, back to Mexico.

So perhaps it wasn't all that surprising when ASU students arrived on campus with a petition pushing for Mexican ownership, and it wasn't even all that surprising when they got signatures—put anyone with a clipboard and official looking piece of paper in any public place and some folks will sign it—but getting the UA's student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat, to bite and run the story as if legitimate was pretty much the coup de grace.

"I called The Daily Wildcat and they jumped on the story," prank mastermind Ben Kaufman told Campus Rush. "They ran it no problem. The Daily Wildcat editor called me and was yelling at me because he was so upset I took up his time and that I owed him an explanation."

The Daily Wildcat owed its readers an explanation as well.

"When The Daily Wildcat's editorial leaders realized that we'd been essentially 'punk'd' with a fake story—one that admittedly did appear both online and in print—planted by a crafty quartet of Arizona State University students, our initial reaction was one of frustration, disappointment and, well, embarrassment," The Daily Wildcat said "We pursued a story about a made-up 'Proposition 200,' which allegedly would have let Mexican students go to the UA and pay in-state tuition. Unfortunately, that story was completely false, right down to our laughable misspelling of one of the supposed students' fake names in the photo caption."

"We dropped the ball on this one. Sure, the ASU students who started the prank gave us fake information, but really it is on the staff of The Daily Wildcat to do the single most important job in journalism—verify. We failed miserably."

At least The Daily Wildcat stepped up and took full responsibility. While it explained the circumstances, it didn't shy away from blame for the occurrence. Compare the tone of that explanation with the Star's. Perhaps the pros can learn a little about humility from the students still trying to find their way.