Archive for November, 2010

Update, December 1st: The paper’s EIC apparently smuggled a Vodka bottle into the president’s box, in violation of the stadium’s alcohol policy.  According to one witness, he was also “stumbling around,” sporting a slightly unkempt appearance, and engaging in periodic “sloppy rambling” while speaking with others in the box. Read more here.

The editor in chief of The Red & Black, the student newspaper at the University of Georgia, has resigned after allegedly violating the alcohol policy at UGA’s football stadium during Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

According to a Red & Black report, the EIC was asked to leave the university president’s box at Sanford Stadium for behavior described by one school official as “disruptive.”  The EIC, 22, confirmed he had been drinking alcohol at a tailgating event prior to the game, but did not feel he was being a nuisance to the president, Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, governor-elect Nathan Deal or others in the box.

In his words, “I think someone smelled the vodka [on his breath].  I was talking to people, I don’t believe I was being disruptive. But they have the right to escort anybody out. I don’t have a problem with that.

A letter of apology, from the Red & Black publisher to UGA’s president: “It is disappointing enough when young adults make bad choices, but when those actions then impact the integrity of the institution they represent, it makes an already bad decision that much worse.  I can only hope [the EIC] and the rest of our staff take away a valuable learning experience from this unfortunate incident- one that will surely haunt [the EIC] and the Red & Black for many years to come.”

My take: I’m sad about this.  This is a promising journo who has worked his way up the hierarchy of a top student paper and obviously earned enough respect from students and the editor selection committee to accrue a major leadership position. The murkiness of the details available at this point about his moment of indiscretion makes it difficult to judge.

On spec, it comes across like a case of a young man simply being a bit too animated while intoxicated.  Given the setting and assemblage, it is embarrassing certainly.  But should it really prompt resignation?  As the EIC said, “I apologized. I made a mistake.  But I never would have thought it would blow up to this.”

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There is a classic battle brewing in Bend, Ore.: student newspaper versus student government.  The Broadside, the student-run weekly at Central Oregon Community College, has been at odds with the Associated Students of Central Community College (ASCOCC) over an “investigative series on student government corruption” it launched this semester.

Among its findings, according to a Student Press Law Center report, “[S]tudent government publicist Brenda Pierce’s boyfriend made over $19,000 in student fee money for maintaining a Facebook page [see screenshot of story below]- over twice what any member of the actual student government made. A second story alleges that Pierce maintained her post as publicist despite having dropped so many classes that she was no longer considered a COCC student. Pierce later re-enrolled.”

The articles, and the acrimony they stirred, led to official chatter at an ASCOCC meeting earlier this month about possibly cutting student fees going to the paper. No action has yet been taken.

But there is now a new bizarre twist: the sudden resignation of Broadside‘s editor in chief.  He says he felt forced to resign after an anonymous comment was posted on the paper’s website referring to an incident last summer in which he was apparently caught stealing from a former employer.

In his words, “This personal issue has been brought to the light and it has had a substantial effect on the newspaper. . . . It is very suspect that things happened in this manner, however, the coverage in the paper will continue on ASCOCC, even without me.”

The ASCOCC is denying any involvement with the posting of the comment. Regardless, even the ASCOCC’s own finance coordinator is disappointed with the group’s treatment of the paper: “The truth is student government hasn’t been very fair with people.  At least not with the Broadside.”

 

A letter from Broadside's editor in chief prior to his resignation addressed the controversy the paper's investigative series had caused. He writes in the letter, "If misleading and aggressive tactics are used or encouraged by ASCOCC members, they need to stop. I understand how messy politics can get, however that does not mean professionalism should be lost."

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The latest issue of the Toike Oike, a student humor magazine at the University of Toronto, has been removed from campus newsstands amid complaints about a pair of images perceived by some to advocate or trivialize domestic abuse.

As the president of the school’s Engineering Society, the Toike‘s chief financial sponsor, told The Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper, “Understandably, everyone is extremely in outrage about this.”  The humor mag’s editor, meanwhile, said he “almost had to be pulled out of a mid-term” to attend a hastily-called meeting to discuss the controversy.

The photo illustrations (see below) present a controversial spin on the popular Dos Equis commercials.  Those spots feature the “most interesting man in the world,” typically accompanied by a woman or two, saying into the camera with bearded confidence, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

The Toike satire shows the same man, seated next to a woman sporting what appears to be a black eye.  One of the two statements attributed to him in the cutlines, “I don’t always drunkenly beat my wife, but when I do, I prefer being whiskey drunk.”

Along with pulling print issues, the Engineering Society requested that the image captions be changed in the online edition.  One now reads, “I don’t always beat my wife, but when I do I prefer beating her at Scrabble.”  According to Toike‘s editor, “[I]f we could make everyone happy by changing the joke, that’s the easiest solution. It’s not worthwhile to stubbornly stick it out.”

A second controversy over the use of the word “f-ggot” prompted yet another online change, yet not without much more protesting from the editor and a debate on the nature of satire and offensiveness.

My take: Humor magazine scandals are cultural road markers of sorts.  In an issue filled with potentially offensive content about various aspects of religion, sex, race, and the homeless, the target of people’s Toike ire is domestic abuse and homosexuality.  What does that mean?  What does it say about us?

In response to this flare-up, the student head of the Engineering Society said, “I think they [the editors] strongly believe the purpose of the Toike is to provoke a reaction. . . . [T]hey feel that the more over the line they are, the more of their job that they’re doing.”

What I’m left to wonder: Is that truly a terrible thing?  Or is there maybe, just maybe, some value for some student media, or all student media sometimes, to cross the line, provoke reactions, and get a sense of where we are?  Frankly, it is fascinating to occasionally see what pisses people off and what satire we are unable or unwilling to yet digest.

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How much nudity should appear in the student newspaper? The Varsity, an independent student weekly at Britain’s Cambridge University, pushes the envelope in its latest issue with a fashion-themed photo spread featuring an undergraduate female topless and bottomless-from-the-back.

The print-and-online spread, “Days of Heaven,” spotlights a lone student, a 20-year-old Japanese major, posing in fields around Cambridge on a chilly, rainy winter’s afternoon.  In the pics, she sports various items- sweaters, scarves, and caps- from a niche knitwear label created by a fellow student fashion designer.  The pieces are, ahem, strategically placed- either just barely covering certain anatomical parts or purposefully revealing them.

According to a report in UK’s Daily Mail, the attire, as it is arranged on the student model, “wouldn’t be enough to keep her warm during the cold winter term at Cambridge University- but it might raise the temperatures of a few fellows. . . . [One] shot shows her sporting a fur hat and stretching a dark jumper over the tops of her thighs to narrowly preserve her modesty, while elsewhere she reveals her bare derriere as she stands in a meadow wearing only boots and a jacket.”

The student model: “It was good fun and I thought the pictures had real artistic integrity. I had no qualms about doing it. I am happy with my body although I would change a lot of things if I had the power.”

In the most-talked-and-Tweeted-about shot, the student is topless, head down, sporting a black fur vintage hat.  It is the first topless photo the newspaper has run in its 63-year history.

What do you think? Empowering?  Tasteful?  Too explicit without warning? Gratuitous nudity for nudity’s sake?

My take: Overall, there is an elegant simplicity to the photos’ revealing.  The spread seems to embody the spirit of artistically-adventurous fashion shoots seen often in the professional press.  There is nothing overtly sexualized about the poses.  The student model is a willing, even eager, participant.  And the shots certainly must be pleasing to the student designer.  They show off her work in buzzworthy fashion, although admittedly my eyes did not always focus first on the clothing.

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A video parody produced by a prominent student comedy team at Harvard mocking various parts of its Ivy League rival Yale has stirred controversy for its reference to last year’s murder of a Yale graduate student.

The video, “Why Did I Choose Yale?”, a spoof on a similarly-named vid produced by the Yale Admissions Office, “takes shots at Yale’s academics, facilities and neighborhood crime.”  It was put together by students involved with “On Harvard Time,” a prominent comedy news troupe best known for its highly-regarded ‘Daily Show’-ish look at current events and Harvard life.

According to a Yale Daily News editorial, most of the video’s comedy is sound and “[t]he spirit of this parody was entirely in keeping with the . . . exchange of pithy barbs that make our rivalry so fun. Indeed, many students on our campus even appreciated the clever satirization of a video that has now, for better or worse, become a part of Yale’s image.”

The line-crosser in the original version, in the eyes of many Yalies, is a question asked in scene one by a faux prospective student: “What happened to that girl who got murdered and stuffed in a wall?” The query, quickly brushed aside by the admissions rep at the room’s front, refers to the fall 2009 killing of Annie Le, a pharmacology doctoral student.

The Daily News: “By making light of one of the most horrific tragedies to strike our campus in recent memory . . . the video’s authors exhibited a gross insensitivity that they may not have intended, but elicited a response that they should have expected. . . . [F]or many in our community, last year’s sorrow is still fresh. . . . Our first reaction was to take offense. But then we were just disappointed.

The reference has been removed from the current version of the vid, with the prospective student now in dubbed voiceover asking, “What happened to the original line in this video?”

The OHT team issued a statement confirming, “The humor rested in the glossing over of a significant event, and not in the event itself.  The line was not meant to make light of the incident or those involved, but rather to mock the university. [Certain] students and faculty members have voiced concern that the line makes light of this student’s murder and goes beyond parody. This was certainly not our intention in writing it, but we understand this response and sincerely apologize for any offense it may have caused.”

My take: OHT is a fantastic new(s) media organization started a few years back by Derek Flanzraich, a guy I personally greatly admire.  The video is high quality, and its spoof of the original is basically spot-on.  One tiny snippet hit a raw nerve, YDN rightfully complained, and the OHT crew rightfully apologized and dubbed over it. That’s the way it goes sometimes.  Satire does not mean never having to say you’re sorry.

Check out the video.  It’s truly hilarious.

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Florida Atlantic University police have arrested a philosophy graduate student in connection with the recent theft and trashing of The University Press. According to a UP report, Yona Rabinowitz, 25, has been charged with grand theft, trespassing, and resisting arrest.  Bail has been set at $3,000.

FAU police say one other suspect remains at large in the still-open investigation.  As I previously posted, earlier this month, roughly 2,000 copies of a UP issue were removed from their newsstand bins across campus and dumped in the garbage.

Immediately after the theft, UP editor in chief Karla Bowsher said she suspected a tie-in with the issue’s content, a prediction that appears spot-on.  As she wrote me at the time, “We suspect- but have no evidence that- the (apparent) thefts are tied to the issue’s cover story.  We broke the news before any other outlet about a lawsuit against the dean of our College of Arts and Letters and then about the philosophy department chair . . . resigning following our coverage of the lawsuit.”

A screenshot of the cover of the November 9th issue.

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Below is a sampling of recent tweets in some way related to college media.  A few are funny.  Several are serious.  The rest are just far out.  Enjoy!

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