Police: Lantern Staffer Who Covered Cow Escape Had Fraudulent Press Credentials

The Ohio State student and Lantern photographer recently detained by police while covering a campus cow escape will *not* be charged with trespassing or criminal misconduct.

Yet, as a new Lantern editorial confirms, law enforcement officials are now bandying about a new charge- this one against the newspaper: fraud.

For those out of the loop, in late April, Alex Kotran, a top-notch Lantern photographer, boldly raced to cover the escape of two “agitated, angry, nervous, and certainly dangerous” cows on OSU’s campus. He snapped shots, but eventually got too close for school officials’ and campus police’s liking. He was temporarily handcuffed, held against his will, and threatened with charges.

One of Kotran's late April cow shots.

Now, an OSU administrator is apparently telling police he does not believe Kotran’s press credentials are valid.  In a new report, police have apparently taken this admin’s word- without checking with the Lantern.

“As if the story wasn’t bizarre enough, police have accused the Lantern of issuing a fraudulent press credential to staff photographer Alex Kotran,” the editorial notes.  It later confirms: “Police never once called any staff member of the Lantern to determine the authenticity of Kotran’s press pass. If they did, we would have answered without hesitation that it is valid. But no one contacted us, and police were left with the word of an administrator who rarely steps foot into the Lantern newsroom and who is not familiar with all our policies.”

This ongoing saga has been strange on many levels, for the animals and people involved.  The larger issue it also raises: Who has the right to oversee the issuing of press credentials for independent student media outlets? According to the OSU admin. involved in this imbroglio, only a faculty adviser should be able to validate a student journalist’s press pass.

My take: Lantern staffers are trusted to talk to sources, tackle tough issues, dig daily for stories large and small, and publish and distribute their publication on campus.  Surely, they can handle determining on their own who can join them and report and edit for the paper officially.

As the newspaper’s editorial argues, “This is the bottom line: The Lantern is a student newspaper. Students produce and edit the content, students manage the newspaper, and students are ultimately held responsible for the newspaper and the actions of its staff.  University administrators don’t have the jurisdiction to tell us how our newspaper operates. . . . [O]nly students should be able to issue credentials for our newspaper.”

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