From the AP, via Editor and Publisher:
Colorado State University’s student newspaper has lost $30,000 in advertising and had to cut pay and other budgets by 10 percent because of fallout from the use of a four-letter word in an editorial about President Bush, the Coloradoan reported Saturday.
In large type, the editorial included the words “Taser this (expletive) Bush.” The editorial said it had the support of the Collegian’s editorial board.
“As local and national media will inevitably jump on this controversy, I strongly urge the university community to try and understand that the intentions of the students on staff, including me, were not to cause harm, but rather to reinforce the importance of free speech at our great institution,” Editor-in-Chief J. David
McSwane said in a posting on the paper’s Web site Friday.
McSwane wrote. “My staff and I are extremely proud to be CSU students and members of this amazing community, and it is my sincere hope that our readers understand our intentions were not malicious.”
Hold on a second — the headline says the paper was “punished.” What really happened was that businesses withdrew their ads and readers complained, but the headline suggests the students are being censored. In fact, the editor might be fired, but according to the article, that will happen only if a student body does the firing.
A statement from the president’s office sums things up nicely:
“While student journalists enjoy all the privileges
and protections of the First Amendment, they must also accept full
responsibility for the choices they make,” said CSU President Larry
Penley in a prepared statement.
“Members of a university community ought to be
expected to communicate civilly and rationally and to make thoughtful
arguments in support of even unpopular viewpoints. I am disappointed
that the Collegian’s recent editorial choices do not reflect the
expectations we have of our student journalists nor the standards that
are clearly articulated by student media policies. I also have every
expectation that the readers of the Collegian will make their
viewpoints known to the editor and the Board of Student Communications,
which serves as the newspaper’s publisher, and that ultimately, the
newspaper will answer to its readers.” he said.
Using shock journalism to attract attention to an unoriginal idea that can fit on a bumper sticker — no matter how passionately the author feels about the issue — is pandering to the lowest common denominators, like fear and sleaze. There will always be an audience for stuff like that, so perhaps the Collegian’s editor can rest easy knowing his job prospects are secure.