September 25 2007, 3:24 PM
It is often said that we live in an age of 24-hour news cycles where every little story is dissected from every possible angle. When cameramen scooting around in helicopters breathlessly follow the car of Paris Hilton as she leaves jail, it's hard to be surprised that a bad word printed in a college newspaper can become a national story. By now you've probably heard about the editorial in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper at Colorado State University, which was led with the headline "Taser this...FUCK BUSH!" Or maybe you haven't heard about it, because like me, you don't care. In that case, I'll let an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News catch you up to speed:
On Friday, the editorial board of the Fort Collins school's student-run newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, published a four-word editorial - "Taser this . . . F--- BUSH" (with the expletive spelled out) - that gives a whole new meaning to E.B. White and William Strunk's admonition that "concision is power." Because of this "bold statement" (as the Collegian's editorial board put it in its defense of the piece Monday), the paper has reportedly lost $30,000 in ad revenue and Collegian editor in chief J. David McSwane might lose his job after a meeting scheduled tonight of CSU's Board of Student Communications, the entity that publishes and oversees the school's various media. As reprehensible, as childish and as cryptic as the editorial was, we really hope McSwane stays on at the helm of the Collegian - for comic value, if nothing else... ...CSU President Larry Penley is right when he says, "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." Friday's editorial - a violation of clearly stated policy ("Profane and vulgar words are not acceptable for opinion writing") - falls short of that expectation. But the fact remains that it is protected speech, however serious the lapse in judgment and what it says about the sophistication of CSU's leading student journalists. McSwane shouldn't be made a martyr to the First Amendment - he should just be given a binkie to go along with his rattle.The Rocky's editorial, frankly, is almost as silly as anything the Collegian has written, and it helps to underscore my feelings about this whole "controversy" that was mentioned in several national publications and news channels. I don't give a f***. I don't care. Not even a little bit. I don't care about this story because I have absolutely no interest in listening to other people argue over whether or not the Collegian should have printed the word "fuck" in a headline. It's a college newspaper. Who cares? (And please, spare me the argument that CSU is a public university and "my tax dollars shouldn't support a college that lets its newspaper write bad words." It. Doesn't. Matter.) This has become a minor "controversy" for two reasons: 1) Newspapers get to belittle the stupid college journalist while at the same time defending the rights of free speech. 2) Republicans get to congregate and complain on conservative talk radio about the terrible liberal breeding grounds that are universities and newspapers. Case in point: Not long after the Collegian was printed, I received a breathless news release from the President of the College Republicans at CSU going on and on about what a terrible tragedy it was that someone wrote a bad word in their newspaper. The email also made sure to highlight the big rally or signature-gathering something or other that was happening so that people would be sure to know that CSU has a college Republican group and that they are really mad. Sign here if you think the college newspaper should not print the word "FUCK!" I understand - the college Republicans are taking advantage of a good opportunity to get some publicity for themselves. Good for them. But I still don't care. If this story is important to you, then that's great. But I don't undertstand why it's important to you. There are a lot of serious issues in the world and in our state. There are a lot of interesting stories in the world and in our state. This is neither.