Stetson University in Florida had its student newspaper removed from campus for an extremely offensive April Fool’s Day edition. The Reporter, renamed The Distorter every April Fool’s, featured profanity, racism and a sex column abdicating rape. Needless to say, campus officials weren’t pleased and the paper was shut down for a year.
The Reporter was the first campus newspaper in the state of Florida, and since Stetson University is a private college, it is within its rights to remove the paper. Should action have been taken? Absolutely. Should the paper have been shut down? No.
A newspaper carries the duty to inform its constituency. It has an obligation to do so, and shutting it down prevents any such thing from happening. The Reporter should carry on publication with a brand new staff at the helm. Anyone involved with the tasteless exploits of The Distorter should be fired and prevented from ever working for the campus publication again.
Even if The Reporter didn’t step so far out of line, its credibility would have still been questionable with the publication of The Distorter. College publications receive enough criticism for being vain attempts at real journalism, and fully embracing April Fool’s Day is not the way to go about building credibility. Satire is a respectable art, but not in the manner of The Distorter.
College publications are designed to help journalism students learn their craft, but they are not simple teaching tools. A college newspaper holds an awesome amount of responsibility and power, both of which the students at Stetson University abused. If The Reporter is not returned to campus, however, future journalism students will not receive an effective education.
A publication is a living, breathing entity, and when managed and composed of nothing but students, is the most effective form of journalism education, surpassing the knowledge instilled in the classroom.
The Reporter has lost all facets of being a respectable news source, but the work of future students can revamp credibility, if they’re given the chance.
University Wire — U. Mississippi