Thursday, September 27, 2007

Student Editor Should Be Fired For "Fuck Bush," In Spite of First Amendment

Yesterday, Editor & Publisher's Joe Strupp wrote that Colorado State student David McSwane shouldn't receive a lashing for his widely-panned (as inappropriate) "Fuck Bush" editorial. Today, McSwane didn't apologize.

And you know what? He should have. And while we might want to consider easing up our outrage a little, being a "college student" is no excuse for not taking responsibility.

The editorial was inappropriate, Strupp wrote, "but to simply fire this editor and treat him like a seasoned reporter who has been around a while, and should know better, is also inappropriate. ...He is a college student. And it would seem he should be treated as such, someone in school to learn, and therefore, be taught that what he did was wrong and why."

And today, he decided to not bother to apologize, all while noting that he didn't think the fallout would be as bad as it was.

Freedom of speech and the First Amendment? I'm all about it. To me, this is protected speech, no matter how much it pisses off the next guy. The bottom line is whether his editorial was relevant to the news, and that's left for you, the reader, to decide.

But in my opinion, this guy shouldn't be fired for what he said -- he should be fired for writing such an obtuse, blockheaded editorial. A great op/ed is one of strength with finesse, one where nuance and evidence makes a powerful argument. This editorial, however, can't approach that when the headline is so blatantly heavy-handed.

E&P's Strupp put it wonderfully at the bottom of his column: "But because it did not express its message clearly and went so far in offending readers that it overshadowed its apparent point."

And that, my friends, is the reason he should be fired. Not for the use of expletives, not for apparently welcoming discourse about it beforehand -- but for poor editorial judgment. Yes, he discussed it ahead of time, but anyone with a brain will know the line between provoking the readers -- every college paper's hope and dream -- and starting a witchhunt. This isn't a journalist under fire for pushing the social boundaries of free speech, this is a journalist with a lot to learn. And the witchhunt has begun.

So here's The Editorialiste's take: Fire him from his editor position, but let him work for the paper. Let someone else teach
him what's right and wrong. In the real-world, that chance wouldn't happen. But that's the only allowance I'm willing to give in to under the premise of being a "college student."


Travis Mitchell said...

[T]his guy shouldn't be fired for what he said -- he should be fired for writing such an obtuse, blockheaded editorial.

If that is the grounds you are claiming in which to call for this writer's termination -- or demotion, however you'd prefer -- nearly every student newspaper in the country would lose 2/3rds of its staff.

And I can't say I disagree.

Thanks for writing,

Travis Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Was the point of the editorial to get us to pay attention and comment?

He won...

Doug Mitchell

The Editorialiste said...


You make a good point. Should we ask so much of our collegiate editors, though? I, like many, have been faced with a 'green' set of staff writers. But teaching them, instead of pushing the crap through, is what makes for a better paper and a better set of writers in the end. Nevertheless -- Touché.

@doug: Exactly.

Thanks for reading and commenting,
The Editorialiste.