Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worthless Print

Once again, a Colorado State school is making the headlines due to profanities used is an editorial headline putting a microscope over the author and CSU as a whole. Judging by the media coverage, I'm lead to believe that it wasn't the anti-Bush tirade that created the controversy, but rather the language used (if anti-Bush editorials warranted this kind of coverage it would dominate the news).

It's interesting to me that someone like J. David McSwane, editor of the The Rocky Mountain Collegian would choose to publish that editorial. Not necessarily for the language, but the message. With so many challenges and so much to write about, why is there any value of publishing the same broken record message we get on a near daily basis? Bush is bad. I get it.

Judging by McSwane's defense (free speech), you get the sense that it was completely intentional, to "stir the debate on free speech." But for what? McSwane isn't contending his right to free speech is being violated in some sense so why generate the controversy? Why defecate on your publication and the school? Why take this risk for zero reward? And the costs are already hitting the school...

"Jeff Browne, director of student media, said that if all of the advertisers who threatened to pull their business do, the school could lose $50,000 of advertising. The newspaper's staff has taken a 10 percent pay cut because of lost revenue."

If I had the opportunity to put anything in bold print, I would have to think really hard about what would bring value to my readers. It doesn't have to be "feel good" journalism, but would it be so hard to publish something that is actually worth reading? It seems there is culture in Academia that not only says otherwise but demands it to attain equality...

"Journalism instructor Pam Jackson said the use of the F-word in the school newspaper was no different from anti-abortion groups using shocking images in their protests. Both, Jackson said, are protected forms of free speech."

Why is a school paper competing with an anti-abortion protestor's sign? And is there really a deference?

Well actually, yes. A protestor's sign isn't journalism. If Jackson really wants to compare a sign to the school's paper, it doesn't bode well for her profession; anyone with a sign in the street is now a journalist, or the school's paper is now on par with the sign in the street (I just can't decide).

I wouldn't expect someone like Jackson to draw a distinction that calls out behavior she obviously supports (likely for political reasons), but how could she lack the common sense, as a journalism professor, to not understand there is a time and a place for certain types of speech? Or is Jackson maintaining that the message overrides any standards a publication should have? Certainly she wouldn't support publishing any of the following editorials...

"F*** Osama"
"F*** the Weather"(would have been very appropriate last winter)
Or even "F*** Anyone Who Doesn't Like the Word F***!"

If that were the case, wouldn't these editorials have been published some time ago? Obviously the message does matter and it is worth sacrificing professionalism, good will in the community, and even the bottom-line ad dollars, to bring that profane message to the community.

This story, much like the Churchill story, should make us start questioning what is happening in State higher ed. Shouldn't our students be making the news for making positive contributions to our world instead of creating needless controversy? Shouldn't our educators be supporting and encouraging personal growth not profane rants void of any real intellectual content?

With this culture, what kind of education are our kids getting? I have to admit, given the last three/four years, I'm starting to think very differently about our State schools and it isn't about politics, it's about standards!

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