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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

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

How True/Slant is celebrating the holidays

Posted by andreaitis on December 16, 2009

Image representing DonorsChoose.org as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

I finally figured out why I like DonorsChoose.org so much.  It’s a cross between an online dating service, craigslist and a charity.   Immediate proof here on our True/Slant Giving Page;  deductive reasoning below.

A couple of days ago True/Slant contributor Michael Salmonowicz wrote about DonorsChoose.org, an online charity connecting individual donors to classrooms in need. Michael made a donation to help a fourth grade class get a subscription to an educational magazine.  He posted part of the note he received from one of the fourth graders:

Did you know a reticulated python is 35 feet long? Did you know that French people sleep longer than people from other countries? These are a few of the interesting facts I learned from reading Time For Kids.”

A couple of months ago, I made a donation to help an all-girl inner city public high school class attend a student performance of “Lincoln, Armstrong to Obama: American History through Jazz.”   Below is the thank-you note I received from the “fun, spunky, outgoing Spanish teacher looking to take her students on a musical journey through history.”

Yay! We did it! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to funding our class trip. It is quite inspiring to see so many people getting involved to help improve and enrich education for our children.

The students cannot wait to go to the performance. Some students are not too familiar with jazz but love music, so this will be a great opportunity for them to extend their musical repertoire while learning about American history.

Thanks again for all your support! Stay tuned for the pictures (coming after 01/08/10 since that is the date of the performance).

With gratitude,
Ms. P.

donorschoose1On DonorsChoose.org, the teachers post their requests themselves.  You get a sense of their personality and teaching style, and they often include pictures of their students.  That’s the online dating service part.  You get to scroll through the projects, listings from all over the country.  That’s the craigslist part.  Then you can select a project to support to help them reach their goal.  That’s the charity part.

donorschoose2The average public school teacher spends $500 – $700 on classroom supplies out of his or her own pocket, and students still go without critical supplies they need to learn.  We’ve created a True/Slant Giving Page at DonorsChoose.org to help support these low-income classrooms. On our Giving Page you’ll see requests that range from the necessary to the imaginative, including pencil sharpeners, paper, books, art supplies, a rug to sit on for story time and a basketball hoop.   You can select a project, help fund it, and make a real difference to the kids and the teachers.   One day they’re sitting on the cold floor.  The next day they could be sitting on a map-of-the-world rug.

This is how we’re celebrating the holidays at True/Slant.  We all have teachers we remember, that one teacher who made such a strong impression it’s stayed with us forever.  We want other kids to experience that, to have an a-ha moment or two in the classroom, to embrace and enjoy learning.  After all, that’s what we do every day here at True/Slant.  We learn from one another, from our contributors and from our readers (who also contribute through comments).

We ‘d like to invite all of you to join us by visiting our Giving Page  to make a donation or purchasing a Giving Card so your friends and family can participate.  If you’d like to support this effort, please include the following at the end of  your blog posts, emails, in Twitter and Facebook updates, smoke signals and skywriting:

* * True/Slant is encouraging readers to donate at DonorsChoose.org this holiday season.  Read more about it here if you’d like to help a classroom  in need. * *

A bright and happy holiday to all, from all of us at True/Slant.

Posted in Education, Parenting, technology, U.S. | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Charles Manson disciple Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme to be released from prison

Posted by andreaitis on August 5, 2009

Lynette Fromme

Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme; Image via Wikipedia

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme will be released on parole on August 16 after 34 years behind bars.

Fromme was not just a devoted follower of cult leader Charles Manson, she also attempted to assassinate  President Ford in 1975.

For those who need a crimes-of-the-century refresher, members of the ‘Manson Family’ burst into a Beverly Hills home and  killed actress Sharon Tate and four others on August 9th, 1969.  Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski,  was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time.

I remember writing to Lynette Fromme when I worked at Fox Television’s news magazine A Current Affair, trying to secure a prison interview.  And yes, those were the days when you typed a letter on paper, before you had to distinguish the kind of mail you were sending.   She never agreed but we did get an interview  with another Manson disciple, Fromme’s friend and former roommate Sandra Good.

Legendary tabloid reporter Steve Dunleavy told the story with one-of-a-kind style and flair.

Sandra Good, 1989, Part 1

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Sandra Good, 1989, Part 2

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Good served a 15 year prison term for death threats against more than 170 business executives.  She remained a loyal Charles Manson supporter during her prison term and for years after, even creating a pro-Manson website.  The website went offline in 2001, and so did Sandra Good.  With Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme’s imminent release, we’ll see if Sandra Good can stay hidden for long.

Posted in U.S. | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Walter Cronkite as viral video

Posted by andreaitis on July 17, 2009

Would Walter Cronkite have imagined an afterlife on YouTube?  For those too old to forget and those too young to remember, this is how Walter Cronkite lives on:

Announcing JFK’s death

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Reporting on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King

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Reflecting on the Lunar Landing

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Finally, Walter Cronkite on What’s My Line

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A news conscience, ever present.  He will be missed.

Posted in Cronkite, U.S. | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »