Rocky Mountain Collegian editorial crosses line

On Sept. 21, The Rocky Mountain Collegian of Colorado State University printed a four-word editorial in light of the University of Florida student who was Tasered during a Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., speech.

In a large font that encompassed the upper portion of the page, The Collegian said, “Taser this . . . F— Bush,” with the profanity spelled out in its entirety.

The byline for this editorial said, “This column represents the views of the Collegian’s editorial board.”

Publishing this sentiment was inappropriate and distasteful.

There have been grumblings questioning if Editor-In-Chief J. David McSwane should be fired for allowing such an editorial to run.

Clearly such a decision on his part creates questions about his competence as leader of the publication because it was offensive and done with no class.

Even if what was printed truly was the opinion of the entire editorial board, which McSwane has said it was actually a split vote, it could have been done with more tact in a less offensive manner. A well-written piece could have expressed similar sentiments without using shock value to get the point across.

So should McSwane be fired? Yes, but not because of the opinion. He should be removed because he failed as editor-in-chief to uphold the credibility and class of his publication.

There was absolutely nothing professional about the decision he made, and so he should be fired because he was irresponsible.

As a journalist, he showed no talent in allowing the use of a four-letter word to describe certain feelings. Anyone can say that word, but it takes true journalistic ability to craft a piece that expresses an opinion and evokes change without resorting to such idiotic methods.

McSwane wrote a letter to his audience urging them to understand that he and his editorial board were merely trying to preserve and highlight the First Amendment, but that is clearly not the case.

McSwane used his power as leader of the publication to devote space to expressing a shocking message merely because he could.

As editor-in-chief, he should know his audience, and he should have known that the college community and the nation as a whole would not be accepting of the stance.

On The Collegian’s Web site, anyone can read the letters and opinions of the readers, and a majority of them are not in favor of what was printed.

The editorial itself has nearly 1,000 comments on the Web site.

Readers are outraged that their newspaper was alienated them in such a way.

An individual’s political stance should not dictate content in a credible news publication, but by running this editorial, The Collegian has made it quite clear where it and its employees stand politically.

This could destroy credibility and make the student-workers’ jobs of news gathering even more difficult than it already is because those four words may have alienated an entire group of potential sources.

McSwane messed up, and even though ideally everyone should get a second chance, this error is unforgivable.

He crossed a line, and he should be punished for his actions. Some of life’s best-learned lessons are the ones that permanently scar.

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About toddvogts 746 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I am an assistant professor of media. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm a published author and journalist. Visit my website at www.toddvogts.com and follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/toddvogts.

1 Comment

  1. Good post, Todd. You’re absolutely right that it’s not so much about what you CAN do but what you SHOULD do. That’s the job of an editor — to consider the reason for everything you publish and to make decisions based on ethics and taste. Too often student newspapers just publish things because they have the right, but they forget to consider their responsibilities and the publication’s integrity.

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