The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper, found themselves in a bit of hot water for a column written by a student late last month.
According to Alex Knepper’s opinion column, “any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry ‘date rape’ after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.”
Knepper gained a lot of attention on campus and from national media outlets for his views. However, The Eagle came under fire for their decision to run the article. The discussion about The Eagle’s decision resulted in a great learning opportunity for the student journalists at American University.
The paper’s staff published an editorial on March 31. The editorial said the editors “focused on whether or not this newspaper should censor Knepper’s opinions because they were controversial.” Ultimately, they decided that they should not censor a person’s opinions “based solely on the controversy they would cause.”
I am not going to say whether the editors were right or wrong to print the column. What I will say is that what an editor chooses to put in their product reflects on them. Can they walk away from their broadcast, paper, or magazine and be happy with what they put out for the world to consume? Also, it is common knowledge that people need to be exposed to a variety of views and opinions; however, that does not mean an editor should put in every editorial or column they are handed. Editors need to know where the line is, and what crosses it.
The Eagle’s staff editorial was sincere, and I feel that the paper’s decision to run Knepper’s column was in no way malicious.
Above all, this incident shows what a college media outlet is all about – preparing student journalists for the situations they will face in a professional setting. While the staff may have wished this incident never happened, I bet they will always stop and think before putting content into their product.
Andrew M. Seaman is a senior communication studies student at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He is one of SPJ’s student representatives on the national board and you can follow him on Twitter @aseaman06.