My First ‘Almost Law Suit’

Alright, so I didn’t technically almost get sued, but I finally had my first “stepping on the wrong people’s toes” moment in my journey to journalism (yikes!).

It all started with a normal feature page idea for my school’s newspaper – coming up with our own secret menu for our on-campus coffee spot, Java City. One of the editors had halfheartedly suggested it and somehow, we decided to run with it and see where it took us. Everyone in the office had a lot of fun looking at all the syrups, flavor shots, and add-ins, creating their own unique drink, naming it, and taste-testing their new concoction. By the time the feature was finished, we had created six Houston Baptist University/Collegian themed drinks.

Then, publication day came, and well, to put it lightly, the head of food services at my university was a little surprised. Although we intended to notify him ahead of time, there was some miscommunication and, long story short, he had no idea we were making these new drinks until he saw it in the paper. Not to mention, he was not too happy about our use of the Java City logo on the front page. Thankfully, when it all came down to it, he just was caught off guard and understandably wished we had filled him in ahead of time.

The infamous "secret menu" feature.

The infamous “secret menu” feature.

All in all, it wasn’t really bad; I wouldn’t even say it was a “close call,” but it definitely had the potential to turn into a big mess. What started as a fun project could have ended up as a huge problem for the newspaper. I’m glad we at least took the precautions to make sure that all our “secret menu” drinks wouldn’t interfere with the way Java City normally charges for drinks and flavor shots. In fact, it might have increased their revenue here on campus.

In the end, the workers at our Java City have the feature page behind their counter and even refer to the new drinks by the names we came up with! It was kind of cool to see journalism, even on a small scale, having an impact like that and actually creating something that became adopted and implemented (that’s the power of the media for you). So, two lessons learned, or rather, relearned.

  1. It is terrifyingly easy to get into trouble that could have been prevented by better communication or verification. Although it can be tedious and time-consuming, being extra careful in ensuring you have permission and rights before publishing something can be the very thing that prevents your fun, innovative idea from becoming a legal issue.
  2. Media is powerful. There’s somewhat of an adrenaline rush that comes from the realization that through something like a student newspaper, one can create (or destroy) something. *insert evil laugh here* Which is why, going back to the first lesson, it can not be emphasized enough how important it is to be careful. Whether publishing on a personal blog or a renown publication, you never know what will be the one thing that makes an impact on the world you live in, for better or for worse.



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