Editor-in-chief, First Amendment get canned?
More than 500 people gathered at Colorado State University Thursday to discuss the use of four words. The words were those of David McSwane, editor-in-chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, who wrote and printed an editorial that read “Taser this: Fuck Bush.” McSwane claimed that he meant for the editorial to spark controversy on the campus, a campus which he perceived as politically apathetic.
Though many members of the Colorado State community (including some members of the newspaper’s staff) are calling for the editor-in-chief’s resignation, McSwane’s choice of words should legally be protected by the First Amendment. Any forced resignation would be a major blow to journalistic freedom of speech.
And though the editor-in-chief’s position should be safe if the Colorado State officials decide to respect First Amendment rights, it’s certainly true that McSwane would have done a better editorial job by providing context for the bold anti-Bush statement. Instead, McSwane chose not to share his political views or implore the student body to take political action. He did not seek to educate the readers of The Collegian, but did succeed in offending a great deal of them.
For the newspaper to be taken seriously and for the editor-in-chief to be regarded as a professional, McSwane should have written an article, not just a headline. He also might have considered that whatever he chooses to print implicitly reflects the values of the newspaper and its staff as a whole.
After the Thursday hearing, officials decided to postpone the decision as to whether or not McSwane should be fired from his position on The Collegian. While we hope that Colorado State University respects McSwane’s right to print controversial articles, we also hope that in the future, McSwane will respect the integrity of college journalism by providing well-argued, intelligent social criticism.