A penguin and a polar bear are sitting on an iceberg. The penguin yells, "No Soap Radio!" They both jump in the water.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fallout from the F-bomb - Colorado style

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- The editor of the Colorado State University newspaper says he has no plans to resign amid criticism about an obscenity used in an editorial about President Bush.

The four-word editorial, published Friday in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, said in large type, "Taser this. (Expletive) Bush."

J. David McSwane, the Collegian's editor-in-chief and a CSU junior, said the newspaper's governing board may fire him but he won't voluntarily step down.

"I think that'd be an insult to the staff who supported the editorial," McSwane told the Fort Collins Coloradoan in Monday's editions.

The newspaper's business manager has said the operation lost $30,000 in advertising in the hours after the editorial was published, and that the pay of student staffers would be cut 10 percent to compensate.

McSwane said the newspaper's student editors decided to use the obscenity because they believe CSU students are apathetic about their freedom of speech and other rights.

"We thought the best way to illustrate that point was to use our freedoms," he said.
Full article here

Those who read The Carolinian may remember my opinion on cursing.

In a college paper there are times you can defend "adult language." We are, after all, printing our paper for adults. But that decision has to be defensible just like every decision has to be, from whether you run an article to hiring or firing a writer to changing the color of your skybox.

Oddly enough, my column on cursing also included the phrase "Fuck Bush."

And, like all words, curse words carry meanings and can be used for a purpose. During the course of any political discussion with friends, I will never say "I disapprove of President Bush's stances and I dislike him very much as a person." I will say, probably a number of times, "Fuck Bush." Those two words won't be the crux of my argument, of course, but it's a perfect description of how I feel about our president.

Of course, it wasn't a full 50 percent of what I had to say, and I went on to tie that usage in with the 60s Supreme Court case Cohen v. California that defended a man who had the phrase "Fuck the Draft" posted on the back of his jacket. The difference there being that the back of a jacket is only so big. With a newspaper you'd have to come up with a reason not to include seven or eight hundred words explaining your opinion. The problem with the Colorado editorial is that there isn't one.

Running a four-word editorial like that seems to be the equivalent of having an opportunity to speak with a person in great detail about your political beliefs, and instead screaming "FUCK [political group here]!" over and over. Doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact, it's a pretty stupid decision on their part, and they deserve the flak they're catching for it.

Seeing the difference between a situation where something is defensible and when it isn't is what you call editorial judgment. And, like McSwane, before writing that column I asked the rest of the editorial board what they thought about it. A couple were a little surprised that I even asked. Yes, is the obvious answer. Yes, that column is defensible.

But the same word isn't always the same word, and just yesterday I cut the word "bullshit" out of someone's column because I couldn't think of a single reason for it to be there. Being an editor sometimes means being a dick and not giving someone their way. It also means thinking long and hard about a decision and then making the right one, even if you really don't want to. On a college paper you have to realize that can include anything up to and including firing a friend. Or, more importantly, realizing when you have messed up so badly that you can't defend keeping your own job.

You shouldn't think: can I get away with this one decision?

You think: can I defend myself to the inevitable litany of questions and accusations to come? There's no defense like making consistently ethical, based on the rules decisions. No chance of a "what about that time you did this?"

In the end, it's not about you. It's about defending the newspaper that was around before you and, assuming you don't screw up too badly, will continue on in the future.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ron Franscell said...

Would I hire him in my newsroom? Not a chance. Not because he's an inarticulate freak. Not because his vocabulary seems woefully limited. Not because he's apparently incapable of original thought. Not because he's a heckler who prefers to stand at the back of the crowd and shout profanity instead of leading a crowd to a positive conclusion. Not because he's heckling Bush (I'd feel the same if it was Hillary or Obama.) Not because he showed disrespect for his publisher and his community. Not because he can't seem to surrender his knee-jerk politics to the greater purpose of writing wisdom.

But because he seems to have no ability to step back from his narcissism and say something that's worth the price of ink and dead trees. This masturbatory little punk put himself first, not his readers.

I won't consume any more of your bandwidth. I blooged more fully about his at Under The News

9/25/2007 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger cherokee said...

excellent article

9/26/2007 12:02:00 AM  

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