Archive for December, 2010

At the dawn of yet another new year and a few weeks away from the start of yet another semester, one timeless collegiate tradition holds steady: student consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Drinking is as much a part of the undergraduate experience as spring break trips, summer internships, and sleeping through 8 a.m. classes.  And so rightfully, most student news media report upon numerous facets of it and editorialize about its positives and ills.

The one thing many student pubs do not do: run advertisements for it. No liquor store or convenience store sale announcements.  No restaurant or bar two-for-one or ladies-drink-free promos.  No homecoming weekend drink-till-you-drop special event teasers.

Whether it’s due to a student outlet’s own policy, an affiliated school’s mandate or even full-blown state law, the ad space within a large majority of student media is kept alcohol-free.  The most common exceptions: ads from campus or national advocacy groups screaming ‘Just Say No’ to activities such as underage drinking, excessive drinking, and drinking and driving.

The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to not hear a challenge to Virginia’s pervasive ban on college newspaper alcohol advertising keeps this intriguing phenomenon in the spotlight.

From my perspective, the main reasons student media should be allowed to run advertisements promoting alcohol, in moderation:

  • Alcohol is a legal product, unlike, say, marijuana.  Why shouldn’t it have the right to be promoted like everything else?

  • Editorial content and advertising are separate species.  A student newspaper that publishes a quarter-page ad about an establishment’s weekday drinks special is not endorsing the drinks special.  It is simply providing the establishment with a spot to tell people about it.

  • Alcohol advertisements, at least explicitly, promote only drinking, not underage drinking.

  • Alcohol ads are moneymakers.  There are a lot of clubs, bars, restaurants, liquor stores, etc. near campuses.  Why?  Because a lot of legal-age students, staff, and faculty drink.  A quality student media outlet is known as the voice of its school.  Why shouldn’t it allow popular places a chance to speak to the people they are obviously already regularly serving?

  • Not all ads apply to everyone.  The under-21 student set simply has to wait until drinking promos apply to them, similar to the broke students who have to wait until they have enough money to afford the advertised spring break cruises.

  • If allowed, alcohol advertising won’t be insane.  There will not be an anarchic explosion of ‘drink until you die’ inserts.

  • Campus pubs already publish pieces about drinking– bar reviews, party scene recaps, special reports on fake IDs, commentaries involving underage drinking, etc.  Student journalists are talking about, at times even advocating, drinking.  What makes an ad any different?

  • Alcohol ads are already EVERYWHERE, across all media.  (The Budweiser frogs and Clydesdales are basically national treasures.)  Children much younger than an incoming freshman see these ads.  Life goes on.

  • And finally, the non-alcohol argument… Above all, student media must be free to make their own decisions on what to run, within editorial content AND advertising.

The main reasons student media do not run alcohol ads:

  • Most undergraduates are under 21, making drinking promos tantalizing but irrelevant to a majority of student media’s core audience.

  • Many student press outlets are school-controlled, making administrators wary of even the slightest semblance of drinking promotion coming from something under their watch.

  • Legality is not an end-all, be-all argument here.  Advertising is also a matter of discretion or taste.  For example, should student media run ads for strip clubs, sex shops, firearms, the KKK or get-rich-quick schemes?  The bottom line: Ads for numerous legal organizations, entities, and activities do not often or ever appear within a campus pub’s pages.

  • And finally, the moral argument… Drinking is a problem for many students. And many students are still coming of age.  An ad for alcohol may pressure them into behavior for which they are not yet ready or able to handle.

What am I missing from either list? And what do you think overall of the sobering lack of drinking ads within the student press?

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One of the stranger news items to cross my path during the previous semester: A college in Maryland temporarily banned a student from setting foot on campus due to an article he wrote that was published in the student newspaper.

Early last month, Charles Whittington, an Iraq war veteran, was suddenly told he was no longer allowed to attend classes at the Community College of Baltimore.  The school was so worried he may be a threat that administrators there put out a “notice of trespass,” making it illegal for him to be on CCB’s grounds.

The cause for their concern: “War is a Drug,” an essay Whittington wrote for an English class that he later submitted to the Connection, the school’s monthly 5,000-circ. student paper.  According to a CNN report, the piece “details what [Whittington] calls his addiction to killing.”

A portion of the essay: “I got used to killing and after a while it became something I really had to do.  Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. . . . I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body.  When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it’s a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me.”

Whittington told CNN the essay was simply a means to cope and describe an emotion experienced to different degrees by some veterans- not hint at any machinations for civilian violence.  CCB administrators were unswayed, allowing him back on campus only after he passed a psychiatric evaluation.

A college spokeswoman: “When you look in the era of post-Virginia Tech and the content and the nature that he wrote about in the article, it caused us concerns.  We had to take some action against Mr. Whittington to ensure the safety of the college.”

My take: Yikes.  I’m much more afraid of the school than the student.  I suppose it’s a backward compliment about the power of the campus paper that something published within it was taken so seriously.  But my goodness, if a guy who has fought and killed for his country can’t wrestle with “Hurt Locker”-style feelings in print, what’s the point of having a platform for student news and views?

To be clear, I personally find his almost-manic killing fixation disgusting.  In letters to the editor published in the subsequent issue of Connection, others seem to agree with me.  There are also separate issues with the validity of his descriptions of *how* he killed enemy soldiers and the unfortunate usage of the phrase “rag heads.”

But the larger value of the work holds steady even amid those concerns: He writes powerfully about a very real condition that was triggered by his participation in a conflict that is defining modern times.  The guy earned an “A” for the essay in class.  His teacher was the one who told him to have it published!  To then not only punish him for his apparently good work, but also go so far as to equate him with the Virginia Tech psycho, is the unkindest cut of all.

Community College of Baltimore officials, this is your notice of trespass: Please do not set foot in my sights until you pass a free press evaluation.

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Q is coming out!” This exclamatory greeting kicks off the press release announcing college media’s latest creation: Q, a lifestyle magazine produced by students at Yale University.

It premiered at Yale earlier this month, in the wake of a marketing blitz that included the distribution of 1,000 condoms on campus.  According to its publisher Alice Song and editor Jake Conway, both Yale seniors, “Its mission is to serve as a lifestyle guide to students on campus through the celebration of the queer experience. . . . It exalts, but does not sensationalize, sex. Q pushes notions of journalistic propriety, but is very relatable to college students. Sex makes us human. We want to convey that in our pages.”

Q follows in the pioneering footsteps of a number of modern student sex and lifestyle magazines, including X at Washington University in St. Louis, Vita Excolatur at the University of Chicago, and Squirm at Vassar College. (Self-promotion alert: The stories of these magazines and others are told for the first time in my book!).

Q‘s contribution to this emerging student press sub-genre: It is solely LGBTQ-oriented.  The magazine’s inaugural edition features an array of content and art– from a personal essay on Yale’s “cruising” culture to a historical report “discussing bed sharing between Yale men in the nineteenth century.”

Even the wonderfully snarky blog IvyGate calls Q “surprisingly tactful and awesome.” As a related post notes, “[W]e have to admit, it’s pretty f*cking great. The issue contains testimonies from ten gay, lesbian, and transgender Yale students, including one by former West Point cadet Katie Miller, who came out on the Rachel Maddow show in front of a national audience.  Sure, the mag has plenty of juicy details, but it’s also got its share of insights. . . . Also of note in the issue: a picture of Dr. Strangelove holding a giant pink dildo. Very apropos.”

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In mid-March, more than 1,200 student journalists and their advisers will gather at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan’s Times Square for a convention with the savviest slogan this side of “Got milk?” and “Where’s the beef?”

The 2011 CMA-CBI Spring College Media Convention has a six-word command for its participants: “Don’t Just Sit There. Do Something.” Organized by its director Michael Koretzky and assistant director Michele Boyet, CMA in NYC ’11 will sport everything from chicken salad to “real, live Muppets.”


Koretzky and Boyet organized the convention in part via a Post-It wall.

Among the planned highlights: a legal advice consultation booth manned by SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte; a “Weird Careers in Media” session; on-site publication critiques;  the Apple Awards for top-notch student press work in a variety of categories; and me!  (I’ll be taking part in a few sessions, including leading a talk on successfully launching a student newspaper sex column.)

The convention website already sports a full schedule breakdown by day and track (advertising, ethics, newspaper, magazine, etc.), info on the Marquis, and a list of pre-convention workshops.


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The Oregon Daily Emerald is entering the book publishing business.  Staffers at University of Oregon’s top-notch student newspaper are currently writing, editing, and laying out a commemorative book on UO’s magical football season.  The title: “Duck Season: Oregon’s Improbable Flight to the National Title Game.”

According to ODE EIC Nora Simon, the book will be out two weeks after the BCS battle royale with Auburn.  It will include feature stories, full recaps of each game in separate chapters, a foreword by the university president, and photos taken by staff and submitted by the UO faithful.  Simon: “It will be the first student newspaper-produced hard-bound commemorative book.”

Emerald publisher Mike Thoele: “Through the serendipity of this magical football year, we have students dealing with a publishing firm of national stature, meeting pressure-cooker deadlines and putting a finished book on store shelves within days of the championship game. . . . Readers are going to be treated to the viewpoint of student journalists covering their contemporaries.  No other set of writers and photographers is so uniquely positioned to depict the campus impact of a historic season.”

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Facebook is funny within collegemediatopia.  It is an active and interactive networking tool for some student news outlets and an absolute dead zone for others.

In the first surveying of the student press Facebook landscape, Drake University multimedia journalism instructor Chris Snider was surprised by the small-ish followings for campus newspapers, especially when compared to their professional counterparts. As he wrote earlier this month, “I currently track the top newspapers on Facebook . . . This made me wonder which college newspapers were doing the best job growing a following on Facebook.  I mean, Facebook is firmly entrenched into the college lifestyle, so surely these college newspapers have tens of thousands of followers on Facebook.  Apparently not.  But they are getting there.”

The best of the best, among student papers, simply in terms of its following: The Daily Tar Heel.  Proof of its popularity: The paper added at least nine new fans to its Facebook page while I wrote this post.

Below is a list of the ten student papers currently sporting the most Facebook fans, the numbers accurate as of Sunday afternoon.  [Note: Snider’s sampling is not all-inclusive- focusing only on student papers and only those published at BCS schools- but it does provide a glimpse of where the social networking giant is being utilized most effectively by Facebook-generation journalists.]

1. The Daily Tar Heel, UNC, 5,984 fans

2. The Daily Collegian, PSU, 4,988 fans

3. The Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University, 4,905 fans

4. The Lantern, Ohio State University, 3,752 fans

5. The Crimson White, University of Alabama, 3,739 fans

6. The Daily Reveille, Louisiana State University, 3,183 fans

7. The Daily Californian, University of California-Berkeley, 3,137 fans

8. The Iowa State Daily, Iowa State University, 2,864 fans

9. The Michigan Daily, University of Michigan, 2,489 fans

10. The Daily Gamecock, University of South Carolina, 2,374 fans

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A slice of the j-geek crowd on Twitter has been buzzing about a funny new video making the rounds.  It is titled simply, “So You Want to Be a Journalist?”

The roughly two-and-a-half-minute vid– created via xtranormal– features a pair of cartoon bears discussing one bear’s journalism career options.

The naive aspiring journo bear wants a glamour gig with the Gray Lady and to forever feel the reporting rush he once received covering an all-night campus protest for his college newspaper.  The cynical journo bear warns him that right now reality is far from fantasy within the field.

A snippet from the chat’s start:

Bear 1: I would like to make a difference.  I would like to meet the president.  I want to work for the New York Times.

Bear 2: Would you like to write about pork belly futures for a trade magazine based in Topeka, Kansas?

Bear 1: No.  I want to write for the New York Times.  I want to live in a big apartment in Greenwich Village and go to cool restaurants every night with my exciting friends, like on TV.

Bear 2: Would you like to live in your parents’ basement and work for the local weekly on a contract basis without health benefits?

It does not quite hold up to “His Girl Friday,” but the back-and-forth is fairly quick and frequently humorous.  Enjoy.

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