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College newspaper penis prank leaves nine seniors in graduation limbo

Posted by andreaitis on May 7, 2010

It’s getting harder and harder to make this whole ‘journalist’ gig sound appealing.

Today is graduation day at the University of Utah except for nine seniors from the student newspaper, the  Daily Utah Chronicle.

As a parting gift to the University of Utah, graduating senior writers at the student newspaper decided to leave with a vulgar word, or two.

The starting letters of each of the nine veteran reporters’ and staff members’ editorials, including one written by editor-in-chief Rachel Hanson, spelled out coarse words for male and female reproductive organs in their final printed edition, which hit stands April 28.  Since then, the stunt has gone viral, earning more than 8,400 votes on failblog.org. It has been shared on Facebook and Twitter at least 3,000 times.

“It wasn’t meant to be obscene or pornographic,” Hanson said. “It was in poor taste, I’ll give you that, but it was just supposed to be a silly joke.”

via University of Utah seniors say goodbye with vulgar send off in the Chronicle

It’s more than just a silly joke, though.  It’s a tradition, one that began in the ’80s in fits and starts but has been consistently upheld for the last 12 years.   Since 1999, graduating seniors at the Daily Utah Chronicle write and edit farewell pieces that, with some creative layout and design, reveal unexpected words.  Previous years have included hidden words like “hateu,” “tipsy,” “drunk” and “balls.”   Over the years the words have taken a more graphic turn.  This year, the hidden words were “penis” and “cunt.”

When the Daily Utah Chronicle penis prank landed on failblog.org it received the digital equivalent of a standing ovation.  University of Utah officials, however, were not laughing.  They placed a hold on the academic records and diplomas for the nine graduating seniors.

Editor Rachel Hanson was concerned the administration’s response could impinge on students’ press freedom, as was the paper’s outgoing faculty adviser, Jim Fisher.

“It was childish and stupid, but it’s not a cause for institutional notice,” said Fisher, an associate professor of communication who had long planned to step down as adviser this spring. “It, at the very least, has a chilling effect, and at the most could be censorship. I don’t agree with the behavior at all, but I support their right to be idiots.”

via Outgoing U. columnists in trouble over ‘hidden’ vulgarity – The Salt Lake Tribune

Isn’t that what college is for, to work out your inner idiot so you can successfully mask that part of you when you get a real job?  I remember walking one afternoon  in between classes at Rutgers University, listening to our college radio station WRSU-FM (on my sony walkman, thankyouverymuch).   I was a dj at the radio station, I knew the gang and the drill.  Suddenly, the standard “Some of the music heard on WRSU-FM is provided by Cheap Thrills”  was replaced with “Some of the music heard on WRSU-FM is brought to you by John’s record collection.”

They had stolen the airwaves.  A few of the guys — mostly graduating seniors — stole the airwaves and were broadcasting from their apartment.

I don’t recall why, I just know it was funny.  Then, and still.  It wasn’t so funny, though, when a disciplinary committee was brought in and there was a formal review.  I even had to testify, and while many of the details are now fuzzy I do remember how surreal it all seemed, like the bizarro world.   It was a college prank!  A really funny college prank.  I understand there were some FCC issues but no one was hurt, they switched it all back, let’s laugh, slap a wrist and move on.

Perhaps the University of Utah is using this as a “teaching moment.”  There is a valid point there, one of judgment and lines to be crossed, or not.   How a single decision can have cascading impact.   Match that against the First Amendment and the discussion heats up.  In an email to editor-in-chief Rachel Hanson, Associate Dean of Students Lori McDonald accused the nine graduating seniors of  “[I] intentional disruption or obstruction of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings or other University activities,” stating these offenses could lead to disciplinary action.

Such a charge is without merit, contends the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Student Press Law Center in a joint letter Thursday to U. officials.

“While the content in question might offend members of the campus community, it is unquestionably protected expression under the First Amendment,” the letter states, urging the U. to lift the hold on the students’ records and allow them to graduate today.

via Outgoing U. columnists in trouble over ‘hidden’ vulgarity – The Salt Lake Tribune

Are the students graduating today?  They were told they could participate in the ceremony, but that their diplomas are on hold pending a post-graduation meeting.   I went searching for the latest update on the Daily Utah Chronicle’s website but — surprise — there’s no coverage of their very own breaking story. Not on their newspaper site, and not on their @thechrony twitter feed.   Is that the result of all this?  That student journalists are intimidated into hiding?  They’re not covering their very own story for fear of recriminations from the University.  Journalists need to be fearless.  They need to learn to make good decisions, to chase stories, to follow their instincts, to not back down when the story is out there.   I understand it’s scary, taking on the administration.  Did you make a mistake?  Was it a bad judgment call?   Most will say okay on “penis,” but  “cunt” went too far.   So, you learn from your mistakes.  Trust me, every journalist has at least one big mistake they never ever forget.   Thanks to this mishap, future employers will have their eyes on all nine of you now.  Forget resumes, writing samples, cover letters.     What are you going to show them, right now, right this minute?  Turn #peniscuntgate into an opportunity.   And for Pulitzer’s sake, cover your own story.

courtesy of Salt Lake's cityweekly.net/utah

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Posted in Strange, technology, U.S. | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

15 words banned in the US

Posted by andreaitis on December 31, 2009

Not-so-pocket dictionary v. 2.0

Image by autumn_bliss via Flickr

Happy New Year, everyone.  The first 2010 list is out already and it’s a good thing.  According to the Lake Superior State University 2010 List of Banished Words, you have just hours left to use 15 words that will be vaporized when the clock strikes midnight.

Word “czars” at Lake Superior State University “unfriended” 15 words and phrases and declared them “shovel-ready” for inclusion on the university’s 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

“The list this year is a ‘teachable moment’; conducted free of ‘tweets'” said a Word Banishment spokesman who was ‘chillaxin’ for the holidays.

via Lake Superior State University :: Banished Words List

The annual banned words list got its start at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975, when former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and friends came up with the concept of “word banishment.”   What makes them the overlords of word overuse?  First, they thought of it.  And second, when you go to Lake Superior I guess you’re entitled to work your superiority.  ::: snap :::

Every year they get tens of thousands of nominations.   A couple of my unfavorites actually made it on the list this year.

The first one I can barely type, as it’s cringe-inducing every time.   T-W-E-E-T.   I don’t mind the Twitter-combinations as much, but uttering t-w-e-e-t in any form makes me feel like @ev and @biz are having a good laugh at the expense of humankind, as a golden bell rings with each tweet-age.   Here’s the explanation from the experts:

TWEET

And all of its variations…tweetaholic, retweet, twitterhea, twitterature, twittersphere…

“People tweet and retweet and I just heard the word ‘tweet’ so many times it lost all meaning.” – Ricardo, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

Mikhail Swift of Hillman, Mich. says the tweeting is “pointless…yet has somehow managed to take the nation by storm. I’m tired of hearing about celebrity X’s new tweet, and how great of a tweeter he or she is.”

“I don’t know a single non-celebrity who actually uses it,” says Alex Thompson of Sault St. Marie, Mich.

Jay Brazier of Williamston, Mich. says she supposes that tweeters might be “twits.”

Twit-wits, indeed.   Which is actually what I think every time I hear the next word:  chillaxin’.  Now, some new words deserve to be created, like snarktastic.  It takes two different concepts and rolls them into one.  Chillaxin’ does none of that.   Chill and Relax mean the same thing, you can use them interchangeably.

Example:

“Chillax is the most ridiculously stupid non-word ever.  EVER.  Argh, I need to chill.”

“Chillax is the most ridiculously stupid non-word ever.  EVER.  Argh, I need to relax.”

See?  No diff.  So what’s the point? The Lake Superiors concur:

CHILLAXIN’

Nominated for several years. We couldn’t chill about it anymore.

“Heard everywhere from MTV to ESPN to CNN. A bothersome term that seeks to combine chillin’ with relaxin’ makes me want to be ‘axin’ this word.” – Tammy, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“A made-up word used by annoying Gen-Yers.” – Chris Jensen, Fond du Lac, Wisc.

“Horrifying overuse, even in face-to-face conversation… It should receive bonus points for its ability to exhort the opposite reaction from the receiver.” – Bret Bledsoe, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Totally agree, Bret Bledsoe.  It’s not even the overuse that bugs me.  It’s the existence and acknowledgement of ‘chillaxin’ as a word.   It is not a real word;  it’s a faux phrase created by someone too lazy to even really try creating a new word.

Here’s  the list of what else you can’t say after the Happy New Year ball drops:

1. Shovel-ready

2. Transparent/Transparency

3. Czar

4. App

5. Sexting

6. Friend as a Verb

7. Teachable Moment

8. In These Economic Times

9. Stimulus

10. Toxic Assets

11. Too Big to Fail

12. Bromance

13. Obama prefix or roots

and, of course

14. Tweet

15. Chillaxin’

You can see the Word Superiority Selection Commitee’s reasoning here.

In an effort to cram them all in one last time before the calendar changes from 2009 to 2010, how many can you use in a sentence?

My shot:

I’m almost done tweeting about how, in these economic times, we need to friend a stimulus czar to regulate transparency of teachable moments that will surely occur during  the Obamafication of a sexting app targeted at too big to fail bromances illustrating how  shovel-ready we are to bury the toxic assets and grab some chillaxin’ time with new episodes of Jersey Shore.

C’mon.  Sentences, haiku, rap lyrics.  Showmewhatchoogot.

Posted in Entertainment, Strange, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Forget Black Friday, turkey fryer fire means Charred Thursday

Posted by andreaitis on November 26, 2009

Turkey Fryer fire leads to charred Thursday

Turkey Fryer fire leads to charred Thursday

Already found 3 stories about Thanksgiving Day fires caused by turkey fryer fiascos.  Why was I googling ‘turkey fires,’ you ask?  I was simply following T/S’er Elie Mystal’s wise advice by creating a post-dinner structured activity for the Thanksgiving guests.  So, he didn’t specifically suggest googling for T-day disasters, but he did say “anything to keep people’s minds off of each other’s faults.”  Other people’s tragedies certainly do that.

Anyway, turkey fryers are the Thanksgiving version of July 4th fireworks.  All you need is a spark, a little wind or a bobbling hand and you’ve got Charred Thursday before you even get to Black Friday.  This year, early reports detail incidents in Fargo, North Dakota ($20,ooo in damage); North Babylon, New York  (35 firefighters responded); and Columbus, Ohio.

Fire crews were able to contain the blaze in about 15 minutes, but the fire had already ripped through most of the home and destroyed a pickup truck.

The homeowner told NBC 4 oil was heating in the fryer, which was placed at the back of the house, when the fryer fell over from the wind.

Four people were home at the time. All escaped the fire without injuries.

via Turkey Fryer Causes Fire, Home Severely Damaged | NBC4i.com

Damage is estimated at $15,000 for the Ohio fryer fire.

Just one  more reason to avoid fried foods.

Posted in Food, Strange, Thanksgiving | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »