University President’s Son Arrested on Pot Charge: How to Cover It?

The son of Indiana University President Michael McRobbie was arrested over the weekend for allegedly smoking up– marijuana and drug paraphernalia charges are pending.

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The Indiana Daily Student rightfully ran a short piece yesterday on the arrest and the incidents leading to it.  The article is brief and well-written, noting the connection to the IU prez, explaining the normal procedures and possible punishments, and including a response from an IU spokesman on behalf of the prez.  It’s an ethical judgment call certainly, considering its involvement with the school leader and a young guy who obviously only slightly screwed up, but the story (and related follow-ups) must be run.

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Reasons for running the story:

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  • McRobbie’s son is a freshman student at IU and was caught with marijuana in an IU dorm, making the story newsworthy in its own right regardless of the last name and DNA he shares with his father.  Of course, in general, this type of incident would  normally be explained in a brief or police log posting, but the son had to know what he was getting himself into.  By deciding to enroll at IU, he and hi family must accept that his connection to his father will be fodder for news pieces (and the reason for the piece to be news at all).

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  • He is 18 years old.  He’s a legal adult.  He screwed up.

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  • Related stories were picked up and run in other media, making a blackout within IDS unreasonable.

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  • The college press plays a watchdog role.  It will be interesting to see IDS’s follow-up reporting on what university disciplinary action and legal punishment the son receives, in part to ensure family connections don’t lead to favoritism.

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  • The story’s newsworthiness extends beyond the arrest.  For example, has the IU prez ever made strong statements or implemented notable anti-drug policies on campus?

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What do you think?

Comments
2 Responses to “University President’s Son Arrested on Pot Charge: How to Cover It?”
  1. Obviously this was a very justified news article. The president of a college campus is similar to a high-ranking public official. Not only are taxes going to his salary but also the students’ tuition is paying for his job. Therefore, that in itself means the student newspaper must report on the president’s life and any connections with criminal activities. In addition, all criminal cases on campus are allowed to be reported as long as it follows all journalistic prose. If the IU press did not claim that the president’s son was guilty but instead merely stated that he was arrested on drug charges, then the press had every right to run that story.

  2. Some Chick says:

    I think it is totally justified. A College Pres is a public figure. Not they, or politicians, can jut sweep all of their dirt under the rug. Just don’t try to convince evryne that it is the parent’s falut. (Like most of the press did with Sara Palin and Bristol Palin.) The son has his own mind, and contrary to what some may believe, parents do not have mond control over them. They can try and teach them and bring them up right, but it is still the individuals own choice as to whether or not they make good or bad choices. The press has all the right to tell the public what is going on, as long as they don’t point fingers and start going on a witch hunt. Besides, if they did’t publish the facts, tere would have many, many rumors circulating about what appened and when and to whom, and why.