Saturday, September 22, 2007

Profane editorial sparks free speech debate

The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper at Colorado State University, is drawing fire for a profane four-word editorial published in Friday's edition:

In a letter to readers published on the newspaper's Web site, Editor-in-chief J. David McSwane explained that the seven-member editorial board decided to print the statement "in an effort to highlight the importance of free speech on a college campus. In doing so, the editorial board and I realized the statement was controversial and unpopular among some students and community members."

"As local and national media will inevitably jump on this controversy, I strongly urge the university community to try and understand that the intentions of the students on staff, including me, were not to cause harm, but rather to reinforce the importance of free speech at our great institution. My staff and I are extremely proud to be CSU students and members of this amazing community, and it is my sincere hope that our readers understand our intentions were not malicious."

Colorado State University President Larry Edward Penley issued a statement in response to the editorial in the student newspaper, which is self-funded and not supported by student fees:

"While student journalists enjoy all the privileges and protections of the First Amendment, they must also accept full responsibility for the choices they make. Members of a university community ought to be expected to communicate civilly and rationally and to make thoughtful arguments in support of even unpopular viewpoints. I am disappointed that the Collegian's recent editorial choices do not reflect the expectations we have of our student journalists nor the standards that are clearly articulated by student media policies. I also have every expectation that the readers of the Collegian will make their viewpoints known to the editor and the Board of Student Communications, which serves as the newspaper's publisher, and that ultimately, the newspaper will answer to its readers."

The university's press release notes that "Colorado State, as a state institution, is prohibited by law from censoring or regulating the content of its student media publication." It invites readers to "express their concerns to the student editor, J. David McSwane - - who has editorial control over the newspaper’s content, and the Board of Student Communications, which hires and, if necessary, removes student editors from office."

According to an article in The Coloradoan, advertisers pulled $30,000 worth of advertising in response to the editorial, prompting the newsroom to slash student employee pay and other budgets by 10 percent.

The incident was also covered by The Rocky Mountain News, Fox News, Channel 7 News and other media outlets.

What do you think of The Collegian's actions? Would your newspaper print an editorial like that or do you think the paper went too far? Is this free speech or just profanity?

1 comment:

Rachele Kanigel said...

Check out the CNN coverage of this story, including a brief interview with Editor-in-chief J. David McSwane at