How far is too far?

By Keeley Sheehan

When you’re a journalist, people aren’t always going to like you. I’ve heard that plenty of times over the past few years, but I never really stopped to consider that those people could be fellow staff members.

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How much trouble can one little camera cause...?

The Spectrum ran a special Sex Issue on Monday. The staff had been formulating article ideas for at least a month, and while I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of a sex issue in the first place, the article ideas people were throwing out there seemed pretty typical for the topic (pole dancing, PDA, sex toys), so I put my concerns aside and went with it.

But then the issue actually came out on Monday. The entire front page is a picture of… well… this.

Ren and I were out of town while they were putting together the sex issue. I’m not sure when the idea came about to make the front page one giant picture of sex in a lecture hall, but we were traveling all day Sunday and didn’t know anything about it until we got home late that evening.

I’m disgusted at that front page. I think it’s unprofessional and unnecessary. The picture doesn’t provide any substance and I think it was a severe error in judgment.

Some people on staff don’t like this – some have suggested that we all need to stand behind the decision to run this cover – and I’m really at a loss as to how to deal with it. I’m all for camaraderie among our staff, but should I really be expected to throw aside my own sense of ethics and professionalism for the sake of everyone liking each other?

And I keep thinking that there are so many other ways this issue could have played out. If sex is that big of an issue for college students and we want to break barriers and destroy taboos, aren’t there better ways to do it? What about a deeper look into what students really think? What about actually examining the taboo instead of writing about things you can easily google? Why didn’t I think of these things a month ago? What does it say about me as a journalist, and a supposed leader at the paper that I’m thinking of these things now, after the fact?

I guess I could chalk it up to a lesson learned, but I’m honestly not sure what that lesson is.

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4 responses to “How far is too far?

  1. I disagree with you. I thought it worked perfectly. Perhaps the articles could have been done a bit better, but you can say that about any publication, any news cast, anything.

    bravo, people who pushed behind this. you had more people reading the issue than ever before.

  2. More people reading it, or more people respecting it?

    I agree with you when you say “it’s unprofessional and unnecessary. The picture doesn’t provide any substance and … it was a severe error in judgment.”

    Though I agree more people may have picked up the paper on Monday, I don’t believe that was carried over to today. Shock value is what that can be chocked up to. And that is why people read tabloids, not a newspaper.

  3. I agree with you too! I am certainly no prude but just seeing the front cover made me not even open the paper. I was uncomfortable just carrying it around, let alone seeing it strewn about the campus. On occasion I will bring the Spectrum home with me to read, not this one. I have a 13-year-old boy! I wouldn’t even want my mom to see it. While the topic may have been relevant to students, certainly the cover could have been more tasteful.

  4. Content: 4
    Links: 3
    Grammar: 3

    Keeley,
    As I have said, I, too, disagree with running a cover for shock value. If the articles had offered pertinent info on sex habits (or on sex habits in classrooms), I would have found the cover less offensive. I believe in shocking readers – particularly apathetic ones like UB students — but not gratuitously. You showed integrity and professionalism asking to have your name removed from the masthead.

    Journalists are allowed to disagree with the publication they work for. They often do. Look at the NYT during the Judith Miller/Valerie Plame case.

    I think this incident has taught everyone involved huge journalistic lessons. If you can’t spot them, let’s talk.

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