'The Famuan' Student Paper Confronts Libel Accusations

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Tallahassee, FL - FAMU's student newspaper has been hit with a lawsuit. It's accused of making false accusations in the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

Marching 100 drum major Keon Hollis has filed a libel lawsuit against The FAMUAN.

FAMU Student Ketayvia Smith says, "I don't think that lawsuit right now is going to help our university. I feel like maybe they should look into it more."

The civil suit says on December 2, 2011, the FAMUAN inaccurately implicated Hollis in the November 19, 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

The paper published an on-line correction. It said, "On Dec. 2, 2011, Keon Hollis of Atlanta was incorrectly identified on thefamuanonline.com as one of four drum majors for the "Marching 100" band dismissed from Florida A&M University following the hazing death of Drum major Robert Champion. Hollis was not suspended, dismissed, expelled or reprimanded in connection to the hazing of Robert Champion. We deeply regret the error."

The Dean of FAMU's School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, Ann Wead Kimbrough, says, "We made sure that that type of information was removed from our website so that that gentleman would have an opportunity to continue to live his life without the information that was adverse being on the website."

The university says the lawsuit is part of the reason why administrators have decided to delay the publication of the student newspaper, The FAMUAN.

Dean Kimbrough says the delay will allow for intensive training for student writers. "So that we can make sure that we all know what we should know to be the best prepared future journalists." She says.

Dean Kimbrough adds, "The only thing that's going to become better in this situation, is that we're going to become better overall."

The Spring publication debut has been postponed two weeks to January 30th.

Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida A&M University's student newspaper has delayed publication of its first spring semester edition due in part to a libel suit over a hazing story.

University officials on Wednesday acknowledged The Famuan newspaper's on-line edition erroneously implicated a band member in the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

They said the university has not yet been served with the lawsuit filed by Keon Hollis, also then a drum major, but pointed out the newspaper published a correction.

The two-week delay of the first edition until Jan. 30 will provide time for staffers to receive intensive training.

Another factor that led to the delay was the discovery by the journalism school's dean that some editors prior to August 2012 had been ineligible to participate in student media activities.

FAMU Release: FAMU Dean Delays Publication of Student Newspaper

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This week, the staff of the Florida A&M University (FAMU) student newspaper, The Famuan, will receive the first of several intensive training workshops in preparation for their first issue of the spring 2013 semester. The publication date of the first issue will be delayed two weeks, until Jan. 30, 2013.

This training comes in the wake of discovery by Dean Ann Wead Kimbrough of the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication that some editors prior to August 2012 were ineligible to participate with student media. This action is part of Kimbrough’s school-wide review of all student organizations and student media, including FAMUTV 20, WANM-FM, The Famuan and Journey magazine. It also stems from a lawsuit filed last month accusing the student paper of libel.

“We are working to balance students’ rights to a free press through this process while also ensuring that The Famuan has the proper support from the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication as it serves as a training unit for up and coming journalists,” Kimbrough said.

Keon Hollis, a drum major in the 2011 marching band, filed the claim due to inaccurate information published in The Famuan in a December 2, 2011 on-line news article. The actual complaint for defamation was filed electronically by Hollis’ attorney in Leon County Circuit Court on December 3, 2012.

FAMU officials, however, have not been officially served with the complaint which seeks damages for the on-line Famuan article which inaccurately implicated Hollis in the Robert Champion incident. On February 14, 2012, The Famuan, however, did print a correction.

The Famuan has also removed all accounts of the article from its online website.

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