By: Zach Wilson and Justin Brewster
We are writing today to address an issue at the core of the Captain’s Log, which is its professionalism, or lack thereof. Any student newspaper, especially a paper that advertises itself as “The Voice of CNU Students,” has a big role to fill on this or any campus. Included in this role is 1) a timely reporting of issues that are of great importance to students, 2) a high quality of reporting/editing, and 3) representing “The Voice of CNU Students” on campus in print.
The Captain’s Log does not fulfill this role of a student newspaper, and has, as of late, become irrelevant, unprofessional, and offensive.
First, it fails to provide timely reporting of issues that are of great importance to students. There is a time lapse on important issues, leading to the printing of outdated articles that were important 2 weeks ago. Many articles that are printed are unimportant. In the past there has been a focus on dining hall food, student “personals,” and sexual/prepubescent humor columns. There is a serious lack of reporting on important issues– the Captains’ Log does not even report on CNU’s own Board of Visitors meetings, important meetings dealing with the direction and policy of our university. It fails to report on pressing issues such as the Housing Lottery, construction of new residence halls/Greek housing, rumors about making parts of campus ‘wet,’ the recent rash of robberies in areas around campus, or even important speakers/conferences/symposiums coming to campus.
Secondly, it fails to provide a high quality of reporting and editing. It prints “shock value,” controversial articles and columns week-after-week in an attempt to gain readership. It has a poor quality of editing– there are frequent grammatical/spelling errors. It also utilizes second and thirdhand reporting– they rely on/summarize national or local news sources such as the Daily Press that discuss university issues without doing their own personal legwork. We can read these sources on our own without a student newspaper.
Third and finally, it fails to reflect the voice of the students of this campus. We highly doubt that the printing of obscene/offensive columns using words such as “jizzed,” “whiskey dick,” and “retard” would be popular if students on campus actually read this newspaper and cared enough to voice their opinion. This apathy is a direct result of the paper’s lack of readers, which is due to its lack of professionalism. Currently there are little controls against groupthink in the Captain’s Log organization–a group of 15-or-so student writers claims that it is the voice of ALL of the students, receives roughly $50,000 worth club funding per year, according to Dean Hughes, from ALL OF OUR tuition payments to print offensive and outdated material, and sees this as a mandate to speak on our behalf. It relies on being controversial and trashy in order to maintain/increase its reader base (the only reason we, the authors of this opinion piece, personally pick it up is to see how bad it is this week).
We have made a petition for students like us to sign in order to make their voice heard, that we do not tolerate the low-brow, obscenity of the particularly raunchy “Comedy Column,” stating that this is not the voice of the students on campus, and that the column should not be printed in the Captain’s Log. The petition can be found at this URL address: http://bit.ly/14p3kqH. You can also contact the Editor-in-Chief, Darryl Fetz at email@example.com, to voice your opinion on this matter.
The question that many of our fellow students have asked us is: WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Here’s the answer: because a tiny club claims to be the voice of ALL of the students without consulting us as a whole, utilizes obscenity and shoddy reporting, speaking in OUR name/voice, and repeatedly tarnishes OUR collective reputation week after week. Even if you don’t personally read it regularly/at all, this ‘newspaper’ is distributed to prospective employers of Captain’s Log writers past and present, parents/alumni who purchase it as a fundraiser, potential new students and their parents/siblings, potential donors to the university, the internet for all to read, in addition to just our students. Remember, the newspaper claims to be “the Voice of CNU Students” and, as such, claims that your words, actions, and ideals reflect that which is published in the papers, and takes YOUR tuition dollars. Furthermore, it could significantly hurt job prospects of its writers in the future, application numbers to our university, funding to our university, not to mention the reputation of our fine university as a whole.
The responses to our petition against last week’s column thus far have been united, and have been spread across varying demographics of this university:
“I am an alumnus, but I still try to stay involved in campus. I was shocked and disgusted by the article that I read. It is a disgrace to an upstanding, respectable university to have such vulgar trash in print under CNU’s approval. The Captain’s Log is above that and CNU is certainly above that.”
“As a former writer for the Captain’s Log, I can understand the argument for free speech, but this article borders on pornography. It could arguably be considered racially insensitive (and sexist) and has absolutely no merit. More importantly, it was published in a paper that is attributed to the CNU community as a whole. I have the Captain’s Log on my resume and I’m in the middle of trying to land a job. One of, if not the first thing that a potential employer would see is this article, thereby associating me with this garbage. This should never have even been considered as news and it does not reflect the beliefs and integrity associated with our Honor Code.”
“As a university that promotes personal values, the writer of this column is attempting to turn CNU into a joke. In previous columns, he has insulted his editor, the president, and Greek Life, and I feel that not only is he setting a terrible example to incoming freshmen and visitors, but he is insulting the entire CNU community. There is a limit to freedom of speech and he has exceeded it multiple times. I’m ashamed to have his column in our paper every week.”
As for Mr. Bolles, he has made it his trademark to utilize explicit language, obscenity, and trashy content. All that is fine, but only outside of a paper that reports that it is “The Voice of CNU Students.” This is the wrong forum for that type of content, and it is the wrong strategy for the student newspaper to employ as a whole. Readers should be compelled to read the student newspaper because it is a relevant source of current information with stories that are both pressing and important, not because it is trashy. Mr. Bolles’ apology and this week’s “Comedy Column” can be found in this same issue of the C-Log, and they are both quite predictable. He will probably attack those who see his obscenity as offensive as prudish or childish. He will probably utilize explicit language. He will perhaps make a sarcastic, misinformed appeal to his First Amendment right to free speech (which, in fact, doesn’t cover obscenity, see Miller v. California). He could unsurprisingly rail against Greek Life, perhaps because that is the network on campus with which the authors of this particular dissenting editorial identify, or perhaps for whatever other reason he has a personal vendetta against Greeks. He may even personally attack us individually, because that’s the “edgy” thing to do.
The point is that there is nothing off-limits, nothing too offensive, nothing too low-brow, and nothing too obscene for the Captain’s Log to print, because it is fighting to stay alive and talked-about. It resorts to misusing its power and authority to speak as “The Voice of CNU Students.” There needs to be a culture shift at the Captain’s Log: from obscenity, vulgarity, and tabloidism to respect, honor, and professionalism.