Yesterday, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent Eliza Collins explored how certain college newspapers have balanced publishing controversial articles – especially opinion pieces – with maintaining a more traditional version of journalistic integrity. Noting that discussing “generally private topics in college newspapers” has become more commonplace, Collins found that, when it comes to saucy op-eds and scandalous headlines, student opinion was mixed. While one online commentator at the University of Florida’s Independent Alligator bemoaned that “joke articles are taking the place of informative ones,” other students praised their peers’ willingness to address controversial subjects in print.
Nadia Cho, a Daily Californian columnist and student at the University of California – Berkeley, found herself a lightning rod for criticism when she published a detailed account describing a day’s worth of on-campus sexual dalliances. Though the piece raised its share of collective eyebrows – one commentator deemed it “not educational” and “not journalism” – Cho isn’t the only college columnist to come under fire for controversial opinion journalism. The year of 2012, after all, saw its fair share of controversial opinion pieces published in campus newspapers nationwide. Nadia Cho aside, here’s a rundown of some of the most, if online commentators are to believed, scandalous.
Looking to graduate with a double major in chemistry and holy matrimony? Amber Estes has got you covered. Her July column – initially dubbed “cray-cray” by Jezebel’s Lindy West – urged its female readers to “stay focused and go get that MRS degree.” But was Estes serious? Readers weren’t sure – that is, until Estes published a follow-up column clarifying her satirical intent. “To all who do not understand satire,” she wrote several weeks later. “Reading between the lines is a useful skill.”
Amber Estes wasn’t the only college columnist who found herself on Jezebel this year. Sarah Siskind, a Harvard University student who wrote an opinion piece arguing that affirmative action “imbeds racism in future generations,” also found herself criticized on the popular Gawker Media blog, where Jezebel writer Laura Beck branded Siskind “one of the most dangerous types of rich white people” and a “snide, rude little baby.”
“You go, girl,” Beck deadpanned of the author.
Oliver Hudson, a junior at Brown University, believes that universal suffrage is immoral. The sentiment is, after all, the title of his controversial Daily Herald column, which garnered, as of this piece’s publication, a whopping 280 comments. Though many students and commentators took issue with Hudson’s remarks, the controversy continued in Hudson’s next piece, which the author addressed to his “outraged readers.” That piece alone saw 59 comments, a fairly high total for the Daily Herald.
Beyond the Daily Herald comment boards, Hudson also found himself lampooned on IvyGate, a blog that covers “news,” “gossip” and “more” in and around the Ancient Eight. Peter Jacobs, writing for IvyGate, is no Hudson fan.
“Sounds like someone really dug that Ayn Rand seminar they took last semester,” Jacobs wrote of the columnist, his tongue ostensibly planted firm in cheek.
Every 28 days, Temple University relationship columnist Jonathan Corrigan prays for jury duty. Why? When your “agonizing” girlfriend is on her monthly period, Corrigan warned readers, “you have to remain cautious.”
“They call it a period, but an exclamation point is more appropriate,” Corrigan quipped.
Online reviews of the article were mixed; one user found the piece “very funny,” while another dubbed it a “narrow-minded, misogynist excuse for journalism.” And the folks over at Huffington Post College did the dirty work of aggregating Twitter responses to Corrigan’s column, which range from “what even” to “holy hell.”
Though many college columnists have addressed controversial topics this year, these four stand out as representative pieces – authors unafraid to address controversial topics that span the breadth of campus life-related issues. With 2013 fast approaching, the future of collegiate opinion journalism likely promises a similar year full of controversy and columns.
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