Today, a letter to the editor from a WSU alum accused the Evergreen editors of bad journalistic practices for allowing Boston, with an obvious conflict of interest as he was personally involved, to write a column on the incident.
Another letter pointed out the observation Scotty made earlier about how one of the officers involved in the tasering is African-American and how it is "asinine to accuse that officer of prejudice when he is also a minority."
Then there is a wonderful rebuttal column (which I'm surprised the Evergreeen allowed, knowing how they feel about "non-student viewpoints" ) from the attorney who successfully defended the Pullman Police Department in the recent Top of China lawsuit. Stewart Estes got right to the heart of the matter:
What Boston failed to disclose is that only days before this incident, he himself was a plaintiff suing Pullman Police officers for race discrimination and excessive force. Boston actually sued the very officer he criticized, and demanded $200,000 from him – for being at the Top of China restaurant when officers used pepper spray to break up a fight. We expect objectivity from journalists, and when they are biased, we expect them to tell us about it. We didn’t get that from Boston’s column.Touche', Mr. Estes!
Unfortunately, The Daily Evergreen Editorial Board, in a Feb. 15 staff editorial, compounded this problem by using Boston’s sour-grapes diatribe as a factual basis to assert that racial bias may exist in the Pullman Police Department. This paper chose to ignore the fact that a four-year-long, detailed judicial review of police department practices and actions resulted in the rejection of all claims of racial bias. No department in recent memory has been more highly scrutinized.
Apparently, for this newspaper, the mere fact that a disgruntled litigant makes the same tired allegations means the department is again guilty until proven innocent. Likewise, after admitting that he cannot prove his point, Boston said he “would be interested to hear any proof that their actions were not [racist].” What Boston and The Daily Evergreen are saying is that in our country it is now the accused who has to prove it is not racist. Not only is that legally and morally flawed, but I just spent the last four years of my life disproving just that. The staff editorial asserts that the jury’s verdict “only clears [the officers’] names in the eyes of the justice system.” I would ask: Where else can you go to clear your name? By what logic is a jury verdict – the fundamental basis for our freedoms – to be ignored and the “perception” of an embittered, interested party given greater weight?... Baseless claims of racism, even those based on genuinely held beliefs, are irresponsible and damage the decades of work that we have all put into this issue. While feelings and perceptions are, of course, important, they cannot form the basis for a public allegation of racial prejudice – one of the most damaging claims in modern culture. This requires proof. The proof here is that a court concluded that neither the officers, nor the department, have any racial bias.
Nick Eaton, Evergreen editor-in-chief, writes on the Evergreen Editorial blog :
We stand by Boston’s column as a valid perception of the indicent that occurred on Feb. 11. He was present at the incident, just as other journalists would be if something happened right in front of them. He wrote his column without deceit. And he wrote it without trying to pass it off as objective repoting (it’s a column, after all). Reporting was what the news article was for.But the paragraph before, Eaton admits:
...we were unaware Boston was a plaintiff in that complicated case until several days after his Feb. 14 column was printed.Sure sounds "deceptive" to me, as well as a bit unbelievable. The Top of China suit had been going on for how long? How long has Boston been writing for the Evergreen? You don't think that subject ever came up with any Evergreen staffer?
All this comes at an interesting time. There is a bill making its way through the Washington House of Representatives at the moment (HB 1307) that would give high school and college newspapers complete "freedom of the press" (which is ironic, as the Evergreen editors haven't seen fit to extend that same right to the Pullman community).
Columnist Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times, doesn't think that's a good idea. He wrote on February 7 that:
Who owns the student press? The bill's supporters said the people owned it, the readers owned it or the students owned it, or some minestrone of the above. Eddie Reed, math specialist at the Tukwila School District, set them straight: "The school district owns it."The Evergreen's overreaction to the tasering incident might prove Ramsey correct. The Evergreen editors in their youthful ideological zeal, and apparently without the benefit of any sort of legal review, are heading into dangerous waters with completely irresponsible and unfounded accusations of racism against the Pullman police. God forbid any harm to persons or property comes as a result of it. At the very least, it doesn't help with WSU minority recruiting efforts, supposedly such a big issue on campus.
Then it should serve the school district's purposes: education, an activity that requires adult supervision.
The students who spoke for the bill said they were willing to take the responsibility. But when a teenager says, "I'll take the responsibility," what does it mean? Maybe not a lot.