A legal eagle’s look at the Jemele Hill suspension, ESPN’s position and what students need to know about “the law” vs. “the contract.”

ESPN journalist Jemele Hill was suspended Monday for two weeks after she spoke out on Twitter once again on issues of racism and discrimination. In mid-September, Hill used Twitter to call the president a racist and stated that President Trump was “the most ignorant, offensive president” of her lifetime. More recently, she offered advice on social media to people who opposed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ stand on benching players who “disrespect the flag.”

Hill1Hill2

Rather than dealing with the issue of if Hill was right or wrong from a content perspective, I wanted to look at the legal issues surrounding this in hopes of providing guidance to journalism students. As we mentioned in both books, the First Amendment, freedom of speech and punishment for speech are all often misunderstood. With that in mind, I contacted Daxton “Chip” Stewart, an expert in free speech and the First Amendment to walk through this situation.

Stewart, an associate dean and associate professor of media law in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University, said he has discussed the Hill situation in class, both in terms of the law and the societal role of journalists. He said the first thing he often has to explain is that Hill’s suspension is not a violation of her First Amendment rights.

“This is a private company and a private deal,” Stewart said. “ESPN isn’t the government, so there’s no First Amendment issue here at all.”

He said broader free speech issues are of interest here, such as how a private organization allows its employees to engage in speech activities, but non-governmental institutions like ESPN can set policies that limit speech.

“If I violated a (similar) policy and if TCU punished me, I wouldn’t have a case,” Stewart said. “This is a private contract matter… In this case, ESPN has a social media policy and if she breaches it, she can be punished.”

Even if she were tweeting on her own time or adding a disclaimer about her tweets not representing anyone but her, Stewart said this wouldn’t matter as far as ESPN and the suspension go in relation to the First Amendment. That said, other rules and laws protect individuals rights that are outlined in the First Amendment.

“When you get beyond speech, there are federal anti-discrimination laws,” he said. “ESPN can’t say they’re only going to hire white men for jobs or something like that because that would clearly show a violation.”

“You can’t exclude people because of race, ethnicity or gender or ESPN couldn’t force you to go to a church as a part of your job,” he added, noting some exceptions to the “church” situation exist for people employed by some religious organizations.

The simple fact of employment, Stewart said, is that most people are “at-will” employees, which means they can be fired for almost any reason that isn’t clearly outlined as illegal in those anti-discrimination laws.

“You can be fired for any reason as long as it’s not discrimination or because you’re a whistle-blower or similar reasons in law,” he said. “A private university, for example, could fire you for doing something it didn’t like. Even if we think it’s a valid free speech activity, they can fire you because they just don’t renew your contract.”

That said, the “it’s not illegal but can still cause you problems” angle the book outlines for situations like this can cut both ways. Journalists have come to Hill’s defense and Stewart said the ramifications of this move are bad for ESPN.

“Nothing good is going to come from this for ESPN,” he said. “It’s really really bad optics and a really bad practice but it’s not illegal. They can absolutely make this choice.”

“Some of these sorts of incidents have a lot of collateral damage,” he added. “A lot of employees might be afraid to talk about it… They don’t want to be next. It’s a job. It’s a great job and who wouldn’t want to work for ESPN? But when ESPN disciplines an employee for something like this, a lot of people are going to clam up.”

SO HERE ARE THREE TAKEAWAYS FOR STUDENTS:

  1. Know the rules or ask before you break them: Jemele Hill is a smart, qualified journalist who knew what she was doing both times she sent the troublesome tweets. Other people don’t always know what a policy says or what a rule allows for. Thus, if you are considering a job somewhere and you have already built your social media brand, it would behoove you to figure out what the rules are and if you are willing to abide by them.
    “Anticipate potential conflicts and talk to your boss,” Stewart said. “See if you can get clearance. At least have that discussion or that argument ahead of time. If they ask you to sacrifice more than you are willing to give, you might decide to walk away from the job.”
  2. You are in an impossible situation: One of the big points Stewart wanted to make was that students going into the field will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this kind of thing. Media organizations hire people who have a voice and a point of view because they engage the audience and draw a following. However, when the wind blows the other way, things can get dicey.
    “You need to engage with your readers and social media is part of your brand and the news media encourage this,” he said. “They expect you to be a person and an interesting person, but don’t you dare step into controversial topics. It’s an impossible line. It’s like ‘Be authentic, but not on these things.'”
    “Your voice is important until people start complaining and then we want you to stop using your voice until we tell you to use it again…” he added. “It places an unfair expectation on students going out there but never the less it is the expectation.”
  3. Ask yourself, “Is this the hill I’m willing to die on?” Hill not only understands the topic upon which she is speaking, but she lives it as well. Stewart noted that her voice and her perspective on broader issues has great value to her employer and likely contributed to her hiring. She also understood this was a controversial topic and one that would likely put her at odds with her employer.
    She did it anyway and took the suspension.
    She hasn’t said as much, but I’d gather she felt the juice was worth the squeeze on this and that this topic mattered more than whatever ESPN would do to her.
    Not every topic on Twitter, every post on Facebook or every photo on Instagram fits that bill. When deciding if it’s worth it to take that stand, know beforehand what the punitive outcomes are likely to be and if you can live with them if they happen. Also, know how you would feel if you didn’t take that stand and how you would feel having failed to do so.
    Weigh the consequences and then make your decision.

 

3 things to learn from the “Tom Petty is Dead” debacle besides “check your facts.”

Rock legend Tom Petty died Monday at age 66 after suffering from cardiac arrest. What should have been a simple story got horribly complicated because a few news sources jumped the gun and declared him dead before he actually was.

TMZ, CBS and Rolling Stone were among the publications that reported Petty died in the afternoon. It turned out he was clinging to life but he was still alive. He died later that night, with an official confirmation from his spokesman that this was true, this time. However in the four hours between the first report and the actual death, the internet was flipping back and forth between him being alive and him being dead. Celebrities were providing condolences, which led other people to think that either he HAD died and the star knew something the rest of us didn’t or that everyone else knew something the star didn’t.

In short, it was a mess.

When it comes to a “teachable moment,” the obvious one is “Make sure you check your facts” or “Know what you’re talking about.” (Some reports called Petty’s ailment a “heart attack” which it wasn’t. Congestive heart failure, heart attacks and cardiac arrest are all somewhat different and here’s how.)  However, here are three other things journalism students can take away from this debacle:

  1. Once you press “send,” you can’t get it back: The line about false information attributed to Mark Twain was pretty accurate- “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” In today’s world of social media and digital speed, that lie has an even bigger head start. This is why we should always treat that “send” button like the “big red button” it is. Everyone out there issued corrections immediately upon finding out that the LAPD clarified Petty’s status, but that still didn’t stop the deluge of “Petty is dead” content. “Send” is serious business and one you send it out there, you can’t ever really undo it.
  2. You are part of an information ecosystem: Grade-school science classes show you how a bug eats some poison and then the bird eats the bug and the snake eats the bird and so forth, each time passing the poison along. In media, especially these days with easy access to other media outlets’ content, we operate in much the same way.
    Even in “pre-digital” times, we still had an ecosystem that could get messed up pretty easily. On more than one occasion, a reporter at a newspaper wrote a story that was really wrong. A reporter at a second newspaper in that town couldn’t get all the facts that first story had (mainly because it was wrong), but didn’t want to fall behind, so he “cribbed” information from the first story and then included it in his story with a vague “sources said” attribution. The morning radio news folks saw the story in BOTH papers so they did a “rip and read” approach and just rewrote the story for the morning newscast using that info. Suddenly, EVERYONE is reporting something that is factually inaccurate.
    You have a duty to your audience to be accurate, but you also have a role in a media ecosystem to maintain. If you put poison in to the system with lousy reporting, or if you perpetuate poison by passing along information you didn’t independently verify, you’re destroying that ecosystem and ALL OF US in that system will be worse for it.
  3. Real people can get really hurt when we’re wrong: In the case of Petty’s death, you could argue in a reductive sense that the publications weren’t really wrong, but instead they were early. The guy had congestive heart failure, he wasn’t recovering and hey… it was only four hours, right? Not even close.
    AnnaKim Violet Petty, Tom Petty’s daughter, was one of the people dealing with the situation when reporter of her father’s death began to roll in. He wasn’t dead, even as more and more people kept reporting it. In response to the ongoing throng of misinformation, she sent several messages and made several posts that show exactly how painful this was for her. Other family members and friends also likely experienced that painful dissonance based on media reports and their own knowledge of his condition.
    Journalists often want to break news, be first and show what we know to our audience. There isn’t anything wrong with that as long as we’re right, responsible and decent about it. As much as we think of famous people as being in the public domain, they have kids, spouses and friends who can get hurt if we overstep bounds or fail to fact check in our search for fortune and glory.

3 reasons Twitter moving to 280 characters won’t help journalists communicate more effectively (Or, “Filak-ism: Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should)

(Once again proving that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should do it.)

Before I wrote my first book for SAGE, I sketched out a handful of “Rules of the Road” that had to apply to ALL journalism. That ratty piece of hotel stationary with fading black ink on it sits in front of me every day at work, a reminder of the core principles of what matters most in this field.

When Twitter announced the other day that it was taking a trial run at doubling its character limit, I hated it, specifically because it violated several of those “Rules,” specifically:

  • Right tool for the right job
  • Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should
  • Audience (and timeliness) matter most

In other words, Twitter could make it so tweets are 914,292 characters each, but that won’t make them any better or more helpful to readers, thus negating the value of the tool.

Here are three reasons why Twitter’s move to 280-character isn’t a great idea and/or why you should still shoot for that 140 limit:

  1. Noun-Verb-Object tells the best story: One of the biggest problems students have in transitioning from other forms of writing to media writing is learning to write tightly. One of the biggest reasons for that is their lack of strong sentence structure. In both books, we talk about the idea of starting with the noun-verb-object approach to a sentence and then building outward from that. Twitter, in its 140-character perfection, forces you to do that if you want to get your point across. When a sentence lacks a concrete noun or a vigorous verb, the writer must slather on adjectives and adverbs to get a point across. That makes for longer, weaker, lousier sentences.
  2. The Homeowner Theory on the Accumulation of Stuff: The more space you have, the more worthless crap you will accumulate.
    My first “grown-up job” had me moving 500 miles across the country and as such, they included a nice perk: A moving service. I packed everything in my studio apartment and had it ready for what I expected would be a full day of moving guys coming in and out of my place. The three movers walked in, looked around and started to laugh. “Is this it?” My total accumulation of goods didn’t even cover the back wall of the truck.
    The next move was from a two-bedroom apartment to our first house. The house had a giant rec room, where I dreamily envisioned adding a pool table and giant entertainment center. At the time, however, all we had to put in there was the beige velour floral couch I bought off a guy’s dead aunt for $50. We put the couch in that room and started laughing uncontrollably. It was this tiny speck of furniture in this giant room. We eventually bought a sectional and a pool table.
    Each move meant a bigger place and more crap. No matter what we thought we were doing, we kept adding more and more stuff. Thus the point: If you have extra space, you’re going to fill it with a lot of stuff you probably don’t need. If you are like our friends who live in tiny big-city apartments, you know you need to maximize space and get rid of stuff you don’t really need.
    Its true of space in a home, time in your day and characters in your tweet. If you are limited to 140, you’ll make the most of it. If you get 280, you’ll fill that space as well. Eventually, 280 also will seem too small because you keep cramming extra stuff in there and you get used to the larger size. It’s like knowing you’re gaining weight and that it’s not good but instead of trying to exercise more, you just buy bigger pants.
  3. It fails to demonstrate audience centricity: Look at the explanations that people have offered for this switch to 280:

    The idea of extending the length of Twitter posts has been contentious internally, batted around among product groups that are trying to find ways to persuade people to use the service more frequently. At 328 million users, Twitter has been criticized for its inability to attract more people. Investors have grown nervous, as that slowing of user growth has affected the company’s revenue.

    “We understand since many of you have been tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters,” the company said.

    As a result, Twitter said, if rules around characters are loosened, English-speaking users — who tend to use more characters in tweets — will also hit character limits less frequently. That may, in turn, lead English-speaking users to post more regularly.

    So, in short, Twitter is looking at this as a way to get more people sending more tweets as part of a profit motive and people who got used to the 140 characters are essentially just “emotional” in their concerns. Notice what’s missing here: The focus on people who RECEIVE information on twitter, a.k.a. the audience.
    The value of any tool you use in media writing is how well it does in reaching your audience members and providing them relevant, useful and interesting information. Nothing about the increase of the characters focuses on how much better the tweets will be or how the audience will be best served. The reason? It won’t, primarily for the reasons outlined in Points 1 and 2.

In the end, this might be tilting against windmills and everything will be fine. However, keep in mind this is just a “test” of the new limit so if you get to play with it, don’t get too attached. After all, once you get used to 280, it’s going to be hard to fit into that 140-character space.

 

Social media: Does a politician have to “like” you?

Public employees and public officials have a lot more of their lives on display than most private citizens. The documents they produce at their job can become public records. Emails from their official work account can be sought in open record requests. Their salary is often published in governmental manuals and “watchdog” databases.

That said, they can use a non-official email like Gmail for their non-work communication and that information is as private for them as it is for anyone else. The same is true for the personal documents they create at home.

What sits in between these public and private demarcations is a fuzzy, messy gray area and social media sits right in the middle of it.

For public officials, social media has become an integral part of daily life in reaching out to their constituents and discussing important issues with the public. The president has more than 36 million followers on Twitter and his tweets have been the subject of many news stories over the first nine months of his administration. Facebook pages often run a that quasi-official line between personal information and political wrangling. However, these accounts are not “official” in the same way a .gov email address or a state paycheck would be.

Dee Hall from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism takes a deeper look at how the courts have ruled on these issues of a politician’s right to “block” users or to use social media in official capacities. (Disclosure: I worked with Dee and her husband, Andy, at the State Journal for several years and still see them from time to time at journalism functions. Also, Andy once got me to cover his shift and report on a high school graduation with the promise of a six-pack of beer from Indiana and a bucket of Tell City Pretzels. Not sure if that matters, but better to say it than not, I s’pose.)

The question is a good one: If you’re using something as a public official, should you have the right to shield its use from certain members of the public? The courts have almost famously been behind the curve in terms of dealing with technological advances, but as we see social media continue to become an almost preferred form of political communication, it will need to catch up in a hurry. Otherwise, the first filter on what we learn from our leaders will be whether or not they let us “like” or “follow” them.

“The Paragraph:” Lessons to learn from journalism’s “filthiest” screw up

Every year, as part of a final exam in my media writing class, my students read the story “Inexperience faces Green Wave Soccer.” The pedestrian look at a high school soccer team more than 20 years in the past seems like no big deal until they hit “the paragraph.”

I can always tell when they do. The class is silent until the fastest reader in the class gasps out loud. Then a few more “Whoa!” and “Pshht!” noises emerge. Eventually, they’re all saying some version of the same thing: “No way! This CANNOT be real!”

The paragraph makes obscene comments about a teenage boy on the soccer team. The writer, Nick DeLeonibus, intended it as a joke that he expected his editor to catch. Instead, the paragraph about Garrett “Bubba” Dixon made its way on to the sports page of Tennessee’s Gallatin News-Express, establishing (for me at least) what is the absolute perfect case of libel.

The story had long ago passed into myth among journalists, journalism teachers and adviser of student media. Some people just “recalled hearing” it while other “swore they had a copy of it somewhere.” Legends emerged about staffers running across lawns to steal back copies from people’s doorsteps and the publisher using the copies to build a bonfire. All we knew for sure was that this was bad.

I always kept a copy at the ready as to demonstrate that, no, this was real and, yes, there were dire consequences. One thing I didn’t know was what happened in the subsequent years since that 1997 story first hit the paper. Veteran journalist Jeff Pearlman, who has a copy of the story taped above his desk, filled in the gaps this week when he published the story for Deadspin. The story walks through how this error was made and the severe ramifications for everyone involved. If you don’t mind coarse language and you really want to know what that paragraph said, this is worth a read.

The reason I posted this and the reason I show this to my students goes beyond the shock value. The lessons behind “Inexperience Faces Green Wave Soccer” are as important today as they ever were:

  1. In journalism, you are always playing with live ammo. Gun safety experts tell you to always treat every weapon as if it is loaded. In short, you can kill someone if you’re goofing around or if you don’t keep your head on straight. In journalism, this rule is important, especially in the age of digital and social media because a) you often shoot from the hip and b) you don’t always have an editor between you and a tweet. So when you’re standing in line at the grocery store and some elderly woman is paying for a pack of Freedent gum with a third-party check, you might want to vent your anger on Twitter. Or when you get irritated at a student government official for blowing off an interview, you might feel the urge to tweet about the guy, speculating as to which farm animal he was likely cavorting with instead of showing up.

    Don’t.

    You are publishing content, just as sure as if you were pounding out that soccer story for the paper. Every time you put something out there, you take certain risks. Make sure you keep that in mind when you publish anything on any platform.

  2. If you wouldn’t want it published, don’t write it. I’m fairly confident that the majority of journalists (myself included) has gotten punchy near a deadline or frustrated while writing a headline. Thus, the instinct to write “Quote from Congressman Dipshit goes here if he ever gets off his ass and calls us back,” in a story or “Replace this shitty headline with something less shitty later” into a headline hole kicks in. We do it to just “get something in there.”
    Fight that instinct with every ounce of your being, as it’s not always a guarantee that you will remember to get back to that paragraph or that headline hole and fix it. Also, whatever you think is “so funny” at deadline probably isn’t. (A similar rule exists in broadcasting, which is to treat every microphone like it’s “hot,” in other words broadcasting to the audience. Thus, cussing on the set is highly discouraged.)
  3. Ramifications always exist for your actions. Everything you write will have a ramification of some kind, be it good or bad. Your story about the local kid winning a spelling bee will be the source of pride for parents and grandparents who will clip the story out and hang it on the refrigerator. The piece you wrote about someone being arrested for robbing the local gas station could make people wary of stopping there for gas or it could bring shame onto the robber’s family. Each action has a reaction of some kind.
    The thing that stuck with me all those years was, “Why Bubba Dixon?” The legend was the DeLeonibus had dated the kid’s sister and, as a bit of revenge for a bad break up, decided to pick on him. Another version had the editor picking on DeLeonibus for giving Dixon special treatment as a way to get back with the sister, so he decided to shock the editor by “slamming” the kid. Pearlman’s story demonstrates that neither of these were true. It just happened to be the player DeLeonibus picked out. It could have been Sean Sparkman or Travis Watson or Michael McRee as the butt of DeLeonibus’ attempt at humor.
    Instead, it was Dixon, an honor-roll student with a deeply religious background, who went through hell because of this. Why? It just was. And the ramifications were unending.
    Keep this in mind every time you ply your trade and think about what could happen as a result of your actions. Don’t let it paralyze you, but let it serve as a bit of caution before you hit the “send” button.

 

When reporting crime feels criminal

The idea of “stupid criminal stories” is as much a staple of the crime beat as first-graders doing hand-print turkeys for Thanksgiving is for the education beat. Readers can seemingly never get enough of this kind of stuff, whether it’s the man arrested on suspicion of smuggling monkeys in his pants or the woman who showed up for her drunken driving court appearance drunk. Cranking out these stories is simple, as the leads tend to write themselves and they drive traffic to your site from all over the world.

However, as we talk about in the book, there is an ethical standard we ascribe to as journalists and within that standard is a call for empathy. Hunter Pauli took a hard look at his work in this piece, recalling the saga of “Dickface,” a low-level criminal in Butte, Montana with an unfortunate facial tattoo. The question he asks is a good one: What the heck are we doing here and why are we doing it?

We should be thankful small places in America are safe enough to not always need a daily update on last night’s mistakes, but instead we blow small crimes out of proportion and ruin people’s lives for pennies, all while missing the big picture.

The question, “What am I doing and why am I doing it?” is at the core of the critical thinking we preach here. Keep it in mind the next time you read about a guy who tries to rob a store with a banana (and then eats it instead).

The boy who cried, “Will anyone notice if I Photoshop out this wolf?”

The accusations of “fake news” and “Photoshopped” images aren’t new and they aren’t always without merit, even in the field of news journalism. One such case of “news” manipulation in 2003 caused a 24-year-old sports editor to lose his job after he inserted quotes from the movie “Caddyshack” into a golf story. However, it isn’t always inexperienced journalists or humor gone wrong that leads to manipulation. In 2014, a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer lost his job after he removed part of an image through “cloning.” The L.A. Times fired a photographer in 2003 when he submitted a “composite” image from Iraq as an actual photograph, one that seemed to demonstrate tension between soldiers and some Iraqi citizens.

The instances of “fake” or “manipulated” images clearly damage the credibility of the individuals involved as well as the overall reputation of journalism as an industry. The biggest concern is that of the “boy who cried wolf” issue, in which real photographs and real stories, especially those that strain credulity, will be ignored or treated as “fake.”

A recent study into photo manipulation found that people often can’t tell when an image is faked, manipulated or otherwise untrue. The researcher noted that some obvious shifts, like changes to background shapes, were more easily detected, but subtle shifts like shadows and airbrushing often went unnoticed.

This puts a remarkable amount of pressure on journalists to adhere to the highest possible ethical standards. When it is easy to do something, easy to get away with it and nobody seems to know the difference, ethics can take a backseat to expediency. That will continue to erode public confidence in the media at a time in which it most needs quality journalism and truth-telling operations.

“Police said.” Two words that can save your rear end

When it comes to attributions, two complaints often emerge in my classes:

  1. They’re boring and repetitive.
  2. They’re unnecessary, as most people can figure it out for themselves.

The truth is, attributions help readers figure out who is saying what, how much faith they should put in the statements and in some cases offer the reporter protection against potential legal action. This last one is particularly true in covering crime, where reporters who quote police or court officials operate usually operate under “qualified privilege.” This means you can quote these officials without fear, even if they turn out to be wrong or change their story.

On June 9, tennis star Venus Williams was involved in a fatal car wreck in Florida. Initial media reports stated that Williams was at fault even though she hadn’t been charged or arrested. The leads on those stories both contain attributions to the police and the remainder of the stories frequently cite the police sources. Why does this matter, if it’s likely she did it and “everybody says so?” Because things can change:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tennis star Venus Williams legally entered an intersection but was cut off by another car, setting off a chain of events that seconds later resulted in a fatal crash with a third car, police say video released Friday shows.

Even in the above lead, the writer cites the police, who are citing the video, rather than just saying “a video released Friday shows.” This level of attribution is crucial to demonstrate not only who is making the judgment, but also that in this case the source is operating under privilege.

Students often ask me why they should attribute every statement or cite certain sources repeatedly. One conversation I recall even had the student tell me, “The guy obviously did it, so what does it matter?” The truth is, the situation can change and sometimes the only thing that will save your keester is a simple two-word phrase:

“Police said.”

To quote an old police drama, “Let’s be careful out there.”

 

“Allegedly” makes me twitchy

Saw this headline in my daily news feed today:

Allegedly

I’m a convert from the Church of “Allegedly” after I had a conversation with a legal eagle at a student media conference years ago. He explained the concept of privilege as one crime reporters should use, attributing allegations of crime to police, court officers and others who enjoyed absolute privilege in their statements. I asked about the word “allegedly” as a shortcut past that and he responded:

“The word ‘allegedly’ is why libel lawyers can afford a second yacht.”

His point, albeit hyperbolic, was that “allegedly” offers you no legal protection as a writer. It’s a thinly veiled accusation that isn’t bolstered by an official-sounding -ly word. Anyone accused of anything by anybody can be “allegedly” involved in something. If you get mad at a professor when you fail a class and you spread a rumor that he’s running an illegal arms-smuggling operation out of his campus office, he’s now an “alleged arms-smuggler.” It’s WHO is doing the alleging and the amount of factual support behind the allegation that matters.

This is why the lead on the story is a much better way to go:

An argument turned deadly Sunday night on Madison’s North Side, as a man shot his friend to death then turned the gun on himself, police said.

Attribute the information to the police (a privileged source in most places). That way, you protect yourself and support your argument in a much better way.

Why Word Choice Matters

Check out these two Tweets from big-name media outlets:

FYRE2FYRE1

The gist of these is the same, but consider the CBS tweet’s use of “for” and how much trouble could occur as a result of that word. This implies the guy is guilty and has engaged in fraud, something that has yet to be proven in a court of law.

“For” fits a pattern of X results in Y. You get paid for working at your job. The pay results from the work. You get kicked out of class for cheating on a test. The suspension comes as a result of the cheating. One presupposes the other. What happens if this guy isn’t found guilty?

The WaPo tweet is more accurate in what happened. He has been arrested and he has been charged with a crime. Guilt comes later, if at all. (Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of the use of “disastrous” in the tweet, as that sits between opinion and hyperbole, but it’s probably going to be OK once a reader digs into the story and sees what happened with Fyre.)

It’s unlikely that a tiny turn of phrase in this situation will devastate CBS. That said, a multi-million-dollar labor dispute is hinging on a single comma, so it never hurts to be careful.