Do student journalists understand the difference between free speech and common sense? If they are at Colorado State University, the answer appears to be a resounding no. According to the Associated Press, the editorial staff of the student-run Colorado State University newspaper The Rocky Mountain Collegian published an editorial which in its entirety read'Taser This... F*** Bush'. Then the student staff claimed that it was all about free speech,
Collegian Editor David McSwane said a group of seven student editors discussed the statement for several hours before agreeing to publish it. "We felt it illustrated our point about freedom of speech," McSwane told 7NEWS. "I think we could write 250 words and ramble on and I don't think anyone would pay attention."
So what exactly was their point? Writing 'F*** Bush' makes no point about free speech that I can see- it rather shows the lack of erudition in the Colorado State University Journalism Department, since the students apparently could not create an actual reasoned argument. It shows no courage since it seems to the be the majority viewpoint among reporters and college faculty. Instead, it simply shows the appalling level to which so many so called journalists and journalists in training have sunk. They appear to believe that by running this 'editorial' it somehow makes a statement about free speech. And it also shows the lack of maturity in most journalism departments that apparently no faculty advisor stepped in to talk to these oh-so-brave students about consequences of speech that is designed to offend.
And speech does have consequences- something that apparently these students have never learned. Apparently after they ran the editorial, advertisers responded by pulling advertisements. The AP article states that the Rocky Mountain Collegian lost approximately $30,000 dollars in adverstising on the heels of the editorial board's decision to attack a sitting President with foul language. The students were apparently 'extremely disheartened' by the reaction. Perhaps if the students had learned a little about speech and consequences, they would have understood that their viewpoint might not be popular outside their little cocoon and that others might not aggree with their decision- others might see their 'free speech' as a tasteless and pointless attack on an elected President, especially since the students were unable to make a reasoned argument and apparently missed that Bush has not Tasered anyone- it was a Kerry event at which the Tasering occurred.
What the students apparently do not understand is that yes, they have the right to say what they wish, as long as it is protected speech, which their appalling editorial was. However, others also have the right to respond as they see fit, and those who disagreed with the students have every right to refuse to be associated with them or with their newspaper. I am sure that the students think the loss of advertisising constitutes censorship, but to me it shows that common sense in Colorado is not entirely missing. The advertisers have every right to react to the newspaper by pulling their ads if the newspaper does not reflect their views.
Ultimately, this event reflects the entire media world. Newspapers and news organizaations have bad ratings, are losing their subscribers, and do not enjoy much public confidence. Yet they seem oblivious to the possibility that their skewed and biased coverage, coupled with their significant slant leftward- a slant not shared by the public, might actually have something to do with their dropping revenues. If I were to recommend a remedy, it would be to spend less time genuflecting in front of dictators and more time studying basic economics- starting with how to supply a quality product.