Tuesday, May 4, 2010

OSU Student Photog Involved in 1st Amendment Buckeye Bovine Dust-up

ASHBURTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 18:  Dairy c...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Runaway cows roaming the athletic fields of Ohio State University on April 21 may sound like a frat house prank, but to shutterbug Alex Kotran of The Lantern, OSU's student newspaper, it was utterly newsworthy.

Kotran started photographing the bovine fugitives, much to the dismay of agriculture dept. employees trying to corral the hoofed hoodlums and campus police who thought the situation was fraught with peril. Kotran soon found himself manacled by OSU  campus police Off. William Linton, who went through Kotran's pockets looking for id so he could complete his report (perhaps he suspected Kotran had hidden files and lock picks in a cow pie facilitating the Guernsey getaway).

Possibly facing a criminal trespass charge (notwithstanding that the incident occurred on a public field of a public research university), Kotran looked to The Lantern and OSU for legal assistance. A University spokesperson said OSU doesn't provide counsel for employees facing criminal charges, let alone photojournalism students, and made other noises about a "conflict of interest." No help was forthcoming from
The Lantern's Publications Committee or the School of Communication either.

The cow flap has drawn the attention of prominent journalist Len Downie, Jr., former managing editor of The Washington Post, current Arizona State Univ. journalism prof., and more important, one-time managing editor of The Lantern. Downie condemned the treatment received by Kotran.

For now, Kotran's parents are likely to foot the legal bill (like a steroidal student activities fee).  At some point, common sense may enter into the equation and an OSU administrator someplace may apologize for the misundertanding that resulted in Kotran's handcuffing. Until then, unlike the on-the-lam Jerseys, the news media will "milk" the Kotran story for all it's worth.

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