City Paper is not for tourists
Perhaps even more interesting than the controversy over a recent Georgetown Heckler article that invoked a cross burning and the KKK in an attempt to make fun of the Hoya newspaper’s own troubles on the issue of race is the coverage the Hoya gave it.
The student paperpublished one six-paragraph article—216 words—that did not mention itself or the April Fools’ “humor” issue that prompted the satire (“The Hoya Holds Annual Cross-Lighting Ceremony in Dahlgren Quad”) in the first place. The Hoya‘s story, “Online Satire Magazine Draws Criticism,” focused on a community forum held on campus on Tuesday night to discuss the Heckler article, and several others that drew complaints.
From the Hoya:
Heckler Editor in Chief Jack Stuef (COL ’10) addressed concerns about the offensive nature of articles published in the most recent issue of the publication, and explained that the satirical articles are meant to draw attention to latent racism on campus.
Students and faculty raised questions about the intention of three articles in particular that dealt with self-segregation, sex crimes and racism.
At the end of the forum, which lasted about two hours, the focus of the conversation shifted to broader institutional questions. Students and faculty at the forum discussed steps that could be taken to create an inclusive campus community.
Asked why the Hoya didn’t mention itself in its coverage, its editor, Marissa Amendolia, told City Desk that the campus community was upset by more than just the one article in which her newspaper was “referenced.” (Meaning: No context needed. The story was way bigger than the Hoya!) “Because of this,” she wrote in an email, “in our initial article that is currently available online, we did not focus on any one of these articles but rather on the general student and faculty response.”
Did the Heckler‘s cross burning article succeed as satire?
Said Amendolia: “According to Jack Stuef’s definition of satire that he offered at the community forum on Tuesday evening, the primary goal of satire is to be humorous. When such a significant faction of his readership—and of the campus as a whole—did not find the articles to be humorous, I do not think it would be accurate to say that the article succeeded as satire.”
Will there be any more Hoya coverage?
“We will absolutely be following this situation closely as it progresses into next semester. We will be examining it within the context of trends on campus that have been occurring for years, as well as following up with the proposals that were expressed at the community forum regarding actions toward a campus-wide solution.”
The Voice, another student publication, already has published three articles (2,590 words) and an op-ed from a Heckler alum.
Quick update on other things Heckler: The magazine’s staff sat down yesterday with the university’s vice president of student affairs, Todd Olson, who had condemned “these attempts at humor” for being “deeply hurtful” and “potentially destructive.”
Stuef, who has turned over the editor-in-chief job to Dan Thoennessen because he is graduating, and Heckler writers Ankit Goyal and Sam Sweeney met for about half an hour in Olson’s office with Olson and two other university officials, according to Goyal (Thoennessen had an exam.)
Goyal said he and the others were basically told: Be careful what you write.
“They were just like, ‘Consider the context of what’s contentious on campus. You have to be aware of how it could be interpreted,'” Goyal said, adding that the university officials brought up the infamous New Yorker cover that depicted Barack Obama as a Muslim and his wife Michelle as a militant with an AK and an ammo belt. Incendiary or satire?
Olson did not respond to a request for comment.
According to Goyal, the Heckler staff was not asked at the meeting to remove the cross burning article (or anything else) from its Web site; the publication is not affiliated with the university. Goyal said he was asked what he would do differently if he had to do the whole thing over again. He said he might not have run the picture, which showed what appeared to be Ku Klux Klan members in white hoods burning a cross. The caption said: “Jubilant Hoya staffers taking part in the annual tradition.”
Stuef has defended the article as is. He didn’t respond to City Desk’s request for comment yesterday, but he reported via Twitter that “Todd Olson shook my hand today and let us know he and his staff do read the Heckler.“
UPDATE: The Hoya today posted online a “Viewpoint” by a former Heckler editor in chief, Jonathan Rapoport, which can be read here (678 words).