Posts Tagged ‘University of Missouri’

Allegations of Ivy League hazing. Alice in Wonderland on LSD. A Biblical studies professor busted in a child predator sting. A student squirrel whisperer. A 280-pound black bear falling from a tree. And something called milking.

These buzzwords and teaser descriptions factor into a few of the many viral creations published or posted by college media over the past year. The student press was responsible for an especially high number of viral reports, columns, videos, photos, headlines, and tweets in 2012.

Some were deliberate attempts for clicks, shares, and attention. Others were scandals featuring student journalists at the center. And still others were quiet bits of content that became sudden sideshows within the Internet circus, for better and worse.

Collectively, their moments in the digital spotlight offer a fascinating foundation for a student press year in review– a glimpse at what was especially popular, controversial, funny, unexpected, and out of control.

In that spirit, here is a chronological rundown of top college media moments and content that blew up online in 2012.


Near the start of the year, Onward State killed Joe Paterno, the night before he actually died. On a Saturday evening in late January, the online student news outlet at Penn State University reported Paterno– the school’s legendary football coach who had become increasingly ensnared within the Sandusky sex abuse scandal– had succumbed to lung cancer.

In a series of tweets and a story on its site, Onward State offered the first apparent confirmation of Paterno’s death. CBS Sports and other outlets worldwide quickly cited and linked to them. The media pick-ups were a sign of both the immense anticipation surrounding word of Paterno’s condition and Onward State’s social media prowess. (The outlet’s Facebook and Twitter followings are among the highest in college media.)

Unfortunately, the scoop was mistaken. Subsequent conflicting reports and statements from a family spokesman and one of Paterno’s sons spurred a retraction and apology. It also led to a ferocious, real-time digital drubbing from Happy Valley faithful, the general public, and the press. By night’s end, Onward State managing editor Devon Edwards had resigned.

Onward State.jpg

As Edwards wrote at the time, “I never, in a million years, would have thought that Onward State would be cited by the national media, and today, I sincerely wish it never had been. . . . To the Penn State community and to the Paterno family most of all, I could not be more sorry for the emotional anguish I am sure we caused. There are no excuses for what we did. We all make mistakes, but it’s impossible to brush off one of this magnitude.”

Paterno passed away the next morning.


Soon after Onward State’s faux pas, a column by a Dartmouth University student earned national attention for its extremely candid glimpse at hazing. In late January, The Dartmouth student newspaper published a personal piece by senior Andrew Lohse outlining the many degrading acts he had allegedly endured in 2010 while pledging a fraternity at the Ivy League school.

In the column, headlined “Telling the Truth,” he wrote, “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen, and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beers poured down fellow pledges’ ass cracks; and vomit on other pledges, among other abuses. Certainly, pledges could have refused these orders. However, under extreme peer pressure and the desire to ‘be a brother,’ most acquiesced.”


The frankness of the piece– and the misdeeds it describes occurring behind Ivy-covered walls– led to a bevy of rapid shares and shocked responses from online readers. It also triggered a ton of press coverage, including a prominent feature in Rolling Stone, and a book deal for Lohse.

The book’s working title: “Party at the End of the World.”


In late January and early February, a column in The Spectrum student newspaper at the University of Buffalo went massively viral due to its criticisms of women who get tattoos. Along with a rash of well-reasoned retorts, the piece prompted endless hate-filled rants and personal attacks aimed at its student writer.

In the column, Lisa Khoury, UB sophomore and Spectrum assistant news editor, argued women are beautiful without permanent body markings. She compared a tattoo on a woman to a “bumper sticker on a Ferrari” and degraded the practice among females as a sadly superficial way to score male attention.


In her words, “An elegant woman does not vandalize the temple she has been blessed with as her body. She appreciates it. She flaunts it. She’s not happy with it? She goes to the gym. She dresses it up in lavish, fun, trendy clothes, enjoying trips to the mall with her girlfriends. She accentuates her legs with high heels. She gets her nails done. She enjoys the finer things in life, all with the body she was blessed with. But marking it up with ink? That’s just not necessary.”

In response, readers worldwide pounced, a majority condemning Khoury and her perspectives. As she wrote at one point, “I woke up today and had 938 hate mails, 646 nasty Facebook comments, and dozens of mean-spirited tweets. I’m a 19-year-old college sophomore, I help run my family’s restaurant, I’m a writer and editor at my school’s newspaper, and a woman from Australia says I’m ‘sexist.’ A professor from the University of Illinois wonders about my mental stability. A man double my age is calling me ‘ugly.’ In the past 48 hours, authors, war veterans, mothers of small children have told me I’m ignorant, worthless, brainwashed, classless, disgusting, hypocritical, and judgmental.”


At around the same time as the tattoo hullaballoo, college memes were invading the Facebook streams of students at schools throughout the U.S., Canada, and parts of Europe. Specifically, students were racing to start meme-focused Facebook pages for their schools before someone else claimed them.

The pages were generally not affiliated with student media or other recognized campus groups. Instead, they were the efforts of individual students or small groups of friends who have no ambition other than sharing a laugh and getting their peers’ attention.

A rash of reports and social media chatter confirmed undergraduates’ online experiences were suddenly hovering between “meme madness” and full-blown “meme mania.” As University of Iowa student outlet The Hook Up noted, “It’s not often that such a phenomenon takes off running with such fury and so little impetus. . . . Students are now meme-ing like they’ve never memed before.”

For example, in early February, a pair of University of Oregon freshmen launched a memes page dedicated to “images lampooning college life” at the Pac-12 school. It took off, within minutes, and continued to spread, non-stop. On its first day in action, the page roped in roughly 2,500 likes. On day two, University of Oregon Memes was on the front page of The Daily Emerald student newspaper.


The start of the related story succinctly summarized the phenomenon at-large, noting, “When University freshmen Jack Hunter and Darin Shelstad created a Facebook page late Wednesday night to share inside jokes, they never expected it would become so popular. But it did. Overnight. Literally.”


The student press April Fools’ editions were especially brutal this past year– both their content and the fallout surrounding some of their publications. The bloodiest receptions were reserved for The Daily Free Press at Boston University and The Maneater at the University of Missouri.

In early April, the editor in chief of the Daily Free Press was forced to resign following the distribution of a callous, poorly received satirical issue featuring drug use, sexual assault, and Disney characters. Spoof stories in the issue focused on Cinderella’s alleged involvement in a prostitution ring, BU frat brothers slipping Alice in Wonderland LSD, and the dwarfs from Snow White participating in a group rape of a female BU student.

Readers and outside media condemned the content for perpetuating a campus rape culture and mocking victims of sexual assault. As a Boston community news site story asked, “It’s just not April Fools’ Day without some Disney rape, murder, and prostitution jokes, eh?”

Soon after, both the editor in chief and managing editor of The Maneater resigned after publication of a similarly controversial April Fools’ issue named The Carpeteater. The issue contained a range of content that some readers deemed offensive to women and the LGBTQ community.


As a Mizzou student wrote in a letter to the editor signed by more than 200 students, alumni, and employees at the school, “[T]his edition offers overtly offensive language including sections entitled ‘Camp*ssy’ and ‘Whore ‘Um’. . . . Derogatory profanity toward women isn’t funny. It isn’t satirical. It certainly isn’t journalism.”

To Be Continued…

To read the full review on PBS MediaShift, click here or on the screenshot below.


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Strippers. Shootings. The Oscars. Osama bin Laden. One-night stands. Natural disasters. Asians in the library. And skinny jeans. These are a few of the most prominent buzzwords at the center of the student news stories, columns, online creations, and video rants that went viral in a major way over the past year.

The spread of some content was linked to its quality, especially when it involved reporting on an issue or event of national importance. Other content garnered web attention for its eye-opening sexual candor or controversial views. One involved an angry A-list celebrity. And another garnered interest for a focus on journalism itself.

Below is a chronological review of student media that blew up on the web in 2011.


In late February, Chris Spurlock, a senior majoring in convergence journalism at the University of Missouri, became the Bono of the blogosphere and Twitterverse. In preparation for his graduation, Spurlock created a résumé awash in design awesomeness, meshing a visual timeline of his experience with a bubble chart breaking down his digital skills.

J-School Buzz, a blog focused on Mizzou’s journalism school, posted a screenshot of the résumé on its own site and The Huffington Post with the header, “Is This the Coolest Student Journalist Résumé Ever?” It quickly spread across the interwebs with a virility that would make Antoine Dodson and that David After Dentist kid proud, “amassing thousands of Facebook ‘Likes,’ hundreds of tweets, and tens of thousands of pageviews,” according to TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.


For a brief moment, it seemed like Spurlock was everywhere online. As one Mizzou student jokingly tweeted at the time, “I knew @ChrisSpurlock before he was famous.” He was subsequently featured in a follow-up post in which he offered five snippets of wisdom about résumé-building and personal branding. And in the end, the résumé worked. Spurlock, the most famous journalism job candidate of 2011, accepted a position as a Huffington Post infographic design editor. As Arianna Huffington said, “We couldn’t resist hiring him after seeing his amazing infographic resume, which became a viral sensation.”


In March, a student’s YouTube video diatribe against Asians uploaded in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami became the “rant heard around the world” and caused huge headaches for the University of California, Los Angeles. As World Monitor TV confirmed, “A UCLA student equipped with a dorm room, a pushup bra, a webcam, and two minutes fifty-two seconds too much free time managed to ignite a ‘Kill the Beast’-caliber Internet mob in a matter of hours.”

In the video, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace complains about the “hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year.” She advises Asian students to learn and start using “American manners” while attending the university. And at one point, she imitates Asian students talking on their mobile phones in the library with the phrase, “Ohhhh. Ching chong ling long ting tong.”


The anti-Asian rant vaulted Wallace into the national consciousness primarily as a face of ignorant bias and as the main character in yet another cautionary tale about online sharing. She said the massive feedback was overrun with “harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community.” A few days after posting the video, she left UCLA.


In March, Madeline Huerta, a Boston University student majoring in marine science, quietly began College Problems on Tumblr. Her motivation was to provide people with a platform to share the many, varied, and often-hilarious difficulties associated with the undergraduate experience. The site’s tagline: “Everyone’s got them. Tell me yours.”

Among the quick complaints posted by Huerta and her followers in the past year: “Your roommate never leaves the room … So much homework that you don’t know where to start … The only thing lower than your GPA is your bank account balance … Laptop dies [so] forced to pay attention during class … Study abroad where you’re legal to drink. Come back home and you’re still not 21 … Professor says the test is easy. Lies.”


Upon its launch, College Problems’ popularity skyrocketed, quickly becoming Tumblr’s top humor blog. According to Huerta, CP currently boasts more than 15,000 page views per day and roughly 95,000 Tumblr followers. It also sports more than 15,000 Twitter followers and 7,000 Facebook likes.

“I think the main reason people are drawn to the site is that they can relate to almost everything I post,” she said in May. “Some College Problems are funny things that everyone goes through, and some are more serious issues that students have to deal with. It’s a site that people visit and go, ‘Wow, I thought I was the only person with this problem.’ Students read College Problems and submissions from other students and realize they’re not alone.”


In March, just after his Oscars hosting debacle, actor-writer-soap star-graduate student James Franco did not publicly acknowledge any of the scathing reviews. Instead, he felt compelled to only respond to a Yale University student’s snarky critique of his tweets. In a 3 a.m. blogging session prior to the Academy Awards, Cokey Cohen wrote a 300-word review-of-sorts for The Yale Daily News focused on “the lame-ness of James Franco’s Twitter.” The nut graf of the post that Franco, and his fans, found offensive: “James Franco, your Twitter sort of sucks.”

Franco’s odd Photoshopped reply: placing sloppy red letters spelling out “F*ck The Yale Daily News” over a photo of himself in a car, seatbelt buckled, sporting a Terminator-as-a-teenager look. With Franco’s post-Oscars buzz still fresh, the image triggered a ton of attention for Cohen and the newspaper, including a string of mentions in the blogosphere and mainstream media and endless repostings of the infamous FU image.

As Perez Hilton noted, “No, New York Times. James Franco has no qualms with you. Relax, Hollywood Reporter, you’re safe from his wrath. Turns out, James has beef with only one publication in the free-speaking world: The Yale Daily News.”


In a follow-up post, Cohen sarcastically called the incident “the pinnacle of my career as a writer, at least based on the fact that [the original] blog post officially has the most comments of anything I’ve ever written, even if they are all defending James Franco against my typos and general meanness.”


The legend of Vinny Vella is built atop strippers, censorship, and a partially blank front page. This past spring, an embarrassing story began leaking at Philadelphia’s La Salle University about a professor hiring exotic dancers to participate in an extra-credit student seminar.

The La Salle University Collegian, run by Vella (since graduated), had the scoop but was forced to hold off on publishing due to a temporary embargo imposed by school officials. After the news broke elsewhere, administrators finally gave the Collegian the green light, but only if the piece was first vetted by a university lawyer and run below the fold of the front page.


At that point, Vella decided enough was enough. So he beat the school at its own game, by following its edict literally. In the subsequent issue, the paper ran nothing above the fold except a teaser to check out what was beneath it — the story its staffers had been waiting weeks to print. The four-word message, surrounded by white space, stated simply: “See below the fold.” As Vella said at the time, “You need to stand up for yourself every once in awhile. You can’t let authorities intimidate you.”

The pushback prompted nationwide press attention and strong statements of support from the journalism community. In August, Philadelphia Magazine included Vella on a “Best of Philly” list under the heading, “Flouter of Authority.”


The Crimson White, the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, earned major kudos from the journalism community and shout-outs from celebrities for its coverage of the late April tornado that tore through UA’s hometown of Tuscaloosa and the death, destruction, and emotional devastation it wrought.

In the storm’s wake, as the rest of the student body went home, current and outgoing staff reported from Tuscaloosa for 20 hours a day. They temporarily added a three-word phrase to the CW’s online masthead that summed up their singular mission: “Providing Disaster Updates.”

Under the direction of editor-in-chief Victor Luckerson, the paper delivered frequent related stories, photo series, and video reports — and a slew of tweets. The Crimson White‘s web traffic surged to historically high levels, and its Twitter followers increased by roughly 1,000 a day.


As the paper’s editorial adviser, Mark Mayfield, wrote, by the end of the paper’s initial coverage phase, “MSNBC, The New York Times, Dateline NBC, and other national media outlets would link to stories in the Crimson White, or use images from the newspaper’s photographers. National TV personalities, including CBS News anchor Katie Couric and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (a UA graduate), ‘tweeted’ links to CW articles … Video interviews with NBC News anchor Brian Williams and celebrity Charlie Sheen drew tens of thousands of viewers nationally.”

Among its most viral efforts was a Google map providing a geographic breakdown of everything tornado-related, including the path it took, the lives it claimed, the communities it affected, the buildings it leveled, and the volunteer opportunities available to help locals lessen its impact.  Brandee Easter, the CW staffer who created the map, even received recognition from a United Nations representative.


In early May, amid the conversations — and celebrations — that erupted immediately after Osama bin Laden’s killing, the national student newsmagazine NextGen Journal published more stories on more angles than any other student media outlet. NextGen earned the attention of the wider web for its dispatches on student reactions at roughly two dozen schools — from West Point cadets running around in “crazy patriotic costumes and underwear” to Stanford University students who “roasted s’mores, drank beer (mostly the American variety), and chanted ‘U-S-A U-S-A!'”


NextGen staff simultaneously debated the merits of the country’s celebratory mood, including a Michigan State University student who decried the “Osama circus” atmosphere and a Tulane University student who separately described the national party as “perhaps the only time that I’ve felt proud to call myself a young college student.” NextGen also reflected on the meaning of the terror kingpin’s death for current students who were in grade school when 9/11 occurred. It ran a reminder op-ed that “terrorism does not die with Osama bin Laden.” And it discussed the growing skepticism surrounding Pakistan’s alleged ignorance of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Similar stories were run throughout the professional press, but hardly any on a national level from the student perspective. As NextGen editor in chief Connor Toohill, a student at Notre Dame University, said, “Our best pieces, our most popular pieces — whether it’s Egypt or the State of the Union or health care reform or the Super Bowl — really look at, what is the impact here for students? What is the significance for our generation? We’ve seen there is really a demand for that. Huffington Post College is sort of established as a section to cover what’s going on at college. Basically, what we’re saying is that college students deserve their own Huffington Post.”


Over the spring and summer, Grace Oberhofer was a web sensation on the Harvard waitlist. In late April, the high school senior from Tacoma, Wash., went viral with a song she wrote and placed on YouTube aimed at convincing Harvard University admissions officials to change her enrollment status from waitlist to fully accepted.

In the video, while sporting a maroon Harvard winter cap with oversized Harry Potter-inspired spectacles, Oberhofer plays the piano and sings with satirical earnestness about Harvard’s many virtues. Imploring the school to let her in, she closes the original anthem, “Dear Harvard,” by crooning, “H-A-R-V-A-R-D College, so scholarly. H-A-R-V-A-R-D be my universe-ity. Harvard, you mean the world to me. On John Harvard’s statue I’d never pee … Let me into your community. Harvard, please admit me!”


The video has since received more than 93,000 hits on YouTube, garnering especially high kudos from tech geeks, Harvard students and alums, and Oberhofer’s fellow Ivy League wannabes. As one student commented in late May, “Hi Grace, I’m a fellow waitlistee … I really hope you got in. I think you deserve Harvard! I didn’t do anything half as cool as this to get into Harvard!”

Ultimately, Oberhofer was not admitted to Harvard’s incoming freshmen class. Instead, she enrolled at nearby Tufts University, a school that has earned plaudits for its web-friendly admissions practices. To share the news, she wrote a follow-up song titled, appropriately, “Dearest Tufts.”

To Be Continued…

To see the full review, click here or on the screenshot below.

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It is Mizzou meme maniaColumbia Missourian staffers at the University of Missouri recently provided an overflow of word-image combos aimed at capturing the backstage stresses and excitement of the student press experience.

As the greatest blog in all the land J-School Buzz confirmed, “[T]hey are shining light on particular events that reporters feel obligated to complain about in a humorous, yet charming way.  Not only are they very endearing, but rumor has it that [Mizzou] J-Schoolers are very intrigued and even addicted to these amusing little memes.”

Below are three samples culled from the nearly 40 offerings currently viewable on the “Meme-sourian” post, part of a blog kept by Missourian reporter Alicia Stice.  Collectively, they are quite possibly the funniest things I’ve read this year.  (Note to Ms. Stice and colleagues: Please make more.)  Happy Holidays!

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Spurlock.  Just Spurlock.  The convergence journalism major at the University of Missouri no longer needs to use his first name.  In the past 24 hours, he has become the Bono or Bieber of the journalism blogosphere and Twitterverse.

Spurlock’s sudden fame is partly his own making.  In preparation for his upcoming graduation, he has created a résumé with some serious infographics game.  But the real engine behind his rocket-trip to j-student stardom: J-School Buzz, the hip and happening blog focused with hyperlocal intensity on the Mizzou journalism school.

On Friday, the Buzz posted a screenshot of Spurlock’s work on its own site and The Huffington Post with the header, “Is This the Coolest Student Journalist Resume Ever?” The post quickly went viral with a virility that would make Antoine Dodson and that David After Dentist kid blush.

Spurlock’s name is EVERYWHERE online.  As one Mizzou j-student tweeted, “I knew @ChrisSpurlock before he was famous.”  (She did not get the memo: He’s dropped the Chris.)

Now beyond the debate about actual quality (my vote is for innovative while a bit colorful/cluttered), what’s most fascinating is how enthralled the student and professional journalism populace has become with Spurlock’s CV concoction.

Is it a reflection of the sad reality that, by comparison, most j-student résumés continue to look like tax forms with typos? (One HuffPost commenter: “People are so easily impressed with visuals.”)

Is it a trumpeting of the next stage in j-students’ self-promotion in which not just their work but their SUMMARY of their work must be highlighted online in a manner that screams Journalism 3.0?  (He’s already been featured in a follow-up post in which he offers five Spurlockian snippets of wisdom about all-things-résumé-building/branding.)

Is it actually a top-secret communique about journalism or humanity released WikiLeaks style?  (Numerous commenters have used the term “decipher” to describe how they are taking it in.  A Florida comm. student who saw it told me she thinks a hidden message is embedded in its timeline-and-bubbly code, “like something out of Magic Eye.”)

Or was it simply a slow Friday in the student journalism sphere?

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My review of the Princeton Review’s latest ranking of the best college newspapers: solid, but incomplete.  Among the student papers I hereby nominate for inclusion in the 2010 ‘best’ list, in alphabetical order:

The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech

The Daily Californian, University of California, Berkeley

The Daily Kent Stater, Kent State University

The Ithacan, Ithaca College

The Flat Hat, College of William and Mary

The Lantern, Ohio State University

The Maneater, University of Missouri

The Minnesota Daily, University of Minnesota

The Nevada Sagebrush, University of Nevada, Reno

The Northern Light, University of Alaska, Anchorage

The Optimist, Abilene Christian University

The Post, Ohio University

The Red and Black, University of Georgia

The Suffolk Journal, Suffolk University

The University Daily Kansan, Kansas University

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The Saturday and Monday editions of The Columbia Missourian are being dropped to help reduce the newspaper’s heavy operating budget deficit, but the newspaper will continue in print. (A brief write-up and related podcast can be found here.)


The start of an open letter to readers from the paper’s exec ed:


The Columbia Missourian will reduce its print publications from seven days a week to five by the end of February. The Weekend Missourian, distributed free on Saturday to about 40,000 homes, will be canceled, as will the Monday editions. What won’t change: The Missourian will continue to be a general distribution print publication for the Columbia area, with home delivery as well as in newspaper racks. Journalists will publish news seven days a week on Missourian personnel will serve advertisers; Missourian circulation staff will deliver your newspaper. Vox, the Missourian’s city magazine, will publish in print each Thursday, as it has for a decade. Its content can also be found at


One option on the table had been a shift to an online-only news operation. Is this a small victory for print? Or simply an acknowledgment it’s not quite dead yet?

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One consequence of America’s historic election: The public has been gobbling up newspapers like collectors’ items.  CNN reported that post-election print newspaper editions nationwide sold out uber-fast, prompting some papers to even restart their presses(!).


College print newspapers also witnessed emptier-than-usual newsstands and stacks.  For example, the EIC of The Maneater at the University of Missouri blogged yesterday that spare copies of the paper were scarce.  “The news is hard to find today,” he wrote.  “Campus readership bins across campus are bare after last night’s elections.”  A screenshot of a portion of the paper’s front page is below.


The Maneater

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