To whom it may concern,
Through a Facebook friend I came across your editor’s response to your article titled “Learn, Laugh About Sexual Assault.” What concerned me upon reading the response was not as much the central issue of your article’s title as your newspaper’s grave mishandling of the situation. A title such as this only needs an apologetic response and a description of how your newspaper will move forward to prevent such inappropriate titles in the future. What I read instead was a defensive article that pointed fingers at circumstances and professionals in your school community to avoid personal responsibility for the incident.
The editor’s letter describes that the Muleskinner’s “first priority…is to report the news.” This has nothing to do with the title “Learn, Laugh About Sexual Assault.” I read this press release and the content of this article was supportive of preventing campus assault and it was certainly newsworthy, but your original title was completely unnecessary for news (the new title “Sex Signals Shocks Students” is much more news appropriate). The article shed light on a helpful program your campus was presenting; the title was the article’s only issue. Second, you say that your newspaper’s second priority is to gain readership. While eye-grabbing titles are key to any news source, inappropriate headlines mocking a topic such as sexual assault are not necessary to create an interesting title.
Your editor then turns to the staff and faculty at the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department for questioning your title. While the situation could have been handled better by the department initially, you as a newspaper need not go on for several paragraphs about your personal grievances with the faculty. You are, after all, reporting the news.
The final section of the article then blamed promiscuity, alcohol, and exaggerated accusations for sexual assault. Not only is this inaccurate (sexual assault is not the fault of the survivor and false rape accusations are incredibly rare), it sidesteps the point of the whole situation. The issue at hand is an inappropriate title that disregards the seriousness of sexual assault, not the origins of sexual assault itself.
What was originally an easily correctable issue of a questionable title has now been grossly blown out of proportion by your mishandling of the situation. A sincere apology and plan for corrective action was all that was needed for this issue, and instead you resorted to defensiveness and “setting the record straight.” I may not be a student at UCM, but as a student within the Missouri school system I was appalled to see this representation of our state’s student newspapers. This is not a matter of “hurting feelings” or “hand-holding,” this is an issue of your obligation to report student news in a professional and ethical manner. With each article you publish, please keep in mind that you are representatives of your school for the rest of the state, country and world to see.
I hope you will take this response into consideration as you are working on future articles and responses to your readers.
Student at Missouri University of Science