The University has a new national representative, and it isn’t an athlete, a researcher or a professor who has recently published a book. Instead, it is someone whose national fame is heavily dependent on celebrity and sex-obsessed blog culture and YouTube exposure.
Nisreen Swedberg, a 19-year-old USF student, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight for improper behavior. She became a YouTube and media sensation when she and a friend accused Southwest Airlines of kicking them off for being too pretty.
“They were discriminating against us because we were young, decent-looking girls. I feel I was just discriminated against based on my looks,” Swedberg told the St. Petersburg Times. “We want to know why [we were removed from the flight]. It could have possibly been our appearance, possibly because we’re young and we’re women.”
She also thought age might have been a factor in their removal, saying: “(The flight attendants) were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger.”
So why has the Oracle not reported on an issue that directly involves a member of the USF community – anywhere outside this editorial, that is – and that has received national attention comparable to that of USF alumna Debra LaFave?
Because Swedberg’s saga really has no import on the day-to-day operations of this campus.
Consider that the incident amounts to little more than a he-said/she-said between two young women, Swedberg and best friend Sara Williams, and Southwest Airlines, as no charges were filed against the teens.
But it’s still in the news anyway.
MSNBC, the St. Petersburg Times, and Tampabays10.com reported the story, most likely to lighten the mood when juggling stories about car accidents, pedophiles and Florida’s dire budget crisis. And infotainment programs such as Inside Edition, and countless blogs, debated whether or not the teens were treated unfairly and whether or not the really were “too pretty.” And the equivalent of the Times’ flashier, less serious sibling, the Tampa Bay Times (TBT*) even devoted its front page to the issue.
More importantly, however, is whether seemingly unjustified accusations against Southwest Airlines – and what seems to be a weak inference as to why the teens were targeted – should get all this attention.
TBT*‘s targeted readership is largely college students on the USF campus, and there are certainly issues of greater meaning to them. Questions about whether certain programs and services will be cut in light of budget cuts, for instance, or whether the governor will tussle with University leaders again over much-needed tuition increases.
Swedberg and Williams did not deserve their fifteen minutes of fame, but media outlets shamelessly capitalizing on the issue are just as culpable for pushing empty news as those who create it.