Ole Miss newspaper avoids libel suit

\nMISSISSIPPI – The staff of the Daily Mississippian\nstudent newspaper is sleeping a little easier after fending off\na libel suit.

“We had just gotten a bunch of new computers in the newsroom,”\nsaid Chris Thompson, editor of the Daily Mississippian,\nthe student newspaper at the University of Mississippi. “My\nfirst thought when I was handed the suit was, ‘There go our new\ncomputers!'”

The crisis began on April 16 when the Hinds County Circuit\nCourt served Thompson with a summons that named the Daily Mississippian\nas a defendant, along with 17 commercial newspapers and syndicated\ncolumnist Bill Minor. The plaintiff, Rex Armistead, a former Coahoma\nCounty, Miss., deputy sheriff, alleged that Minor libeled him\nin an April column, which had been reprinted in the other publications\nnamed in the suit. Armistead was seeking $2 million in damages.

“Instead of just going after the columnist, the plaintiff\ndecided to sue some deep pockets,” said Ralph Braseth, the\npaper’s adviser.

According to Armistead, statements made in the column were\nboth false and malicious and have caused irreparable harm to his\nreputation.

The first sigh of relief for the paper came after the staff\ndid some checking and realized that although the paper subscribes\nto Minor’s column, it had not printed the specific column in question.\n

“The big relief came when we got the letter from the attorney\nsaying the suit [against the Mississippian] had been dropped,”\nThompson said.

Thompson said the most valuable lesson the newspaper’s staff\nlearned from the experience was that inspecting the entire content\nof your paper for red flags before it goes to press is a must.\n

“Always double check what goes in the paper,” Thompson\nsaid. “Just because your staff didn’t write it, that doesn’t\nmean you can’t get in trouble for it.”

The case against the Daily Mississippian was dismissed\non May 18, but Armistead is still pursuing his suit against the\nother defendants.\n