Newsroom Debates: Hazing, Cursing & Camel Toe

As the new faculty adviser for The Minaret, the fantastic student newspaper at the University of Tampa, I am once again happily enmeshed within the student press production process.  This occasional CMM series outlines some of the more interesting newsroom debates we have while putting each issue to bed.

Hazing

Last spring, a number of pledges rushing a UT sorority accused three of the sorority’s members of hazing activities.  Apparently, the pledges were “yelled at, made to run, do push-ups, squats, eat garlic wrapped in Big Red gum and drink hot sauce, hold a match between their fingers while reciting a pledge, had rocks and grass thrown at them and . . . were paddled.”  The university intervened at the time and punished the members it found at fault.  Over the summer, those members filed a public complaint against the university in local court, saying they were unfairly targeted due to their race.  The university was declared innocent in the case.  Taken altogether, these events added up to a prime story for our back-from-summer issue.

The question: Do we identify the individuals found at fault by the university for hazing? Relevant details: They are identified in the criminal complaint they filed by two-letter acronyms standing in for their first and last names.  The university has not publicly identified them.  We have not previously run a story on the situation (it became public after the last issue of spring semester came out).

Cursing

The complaint filed by the fallen sorority sisters includes a quote involving the f-word.  We initially viewed it as relevant enough to include in the story.  The question: How do we cite the f-bomb in print? Spell it out?  Dash it out?  Take the a*terisk approach?  Use “f-word” or another descriptive designation?  Or blot it out [ ] entirely?

Camel Toe

The draft of a fashion column set for publication in the first issue included a reference to the infamous clothing misfire called “camel toe.”  Referring to denim leggings, the writer advises, “please pair these with a shirt that’s a bit longer than your waistline . . . they are not jeans, don’t treat them as such, unless you’re a fan of camel toe.”  The question: Do we cite this culturally-known but potentially offensive (or just plain gross) term?

Ultimate decisions: We cited the sorority hazers by acronym, sparing them the Google prints embarrassment, but of course enabling those armed with a yearbook to find out who they are- a recognition of their adult status, culpability in the case, and their proactive decision to make the incident public in court. For the f-word, we decided to run f—.  Ultimately though, the quote was cut prior to publication (a decision unrelated to the term itself).  And as for camel toe, the phrase remains in all its icky glory in the published fashion column, a decision we based in part on its regular usage within media and pop culture circles.

What would you have done?

Comments
3 Responses to “Newsroom Debates: Hazing, Cursing & Camel Toe”
  1. Davis says:

    I’d love for you to do a post on what it’s like to be involved directly with production again!

  2. Kay says:

    wow. i miss working as a journalist. lucky kids.

  3. Dave says:

    Identify the defendants in the hazing case may be subject to various state laws, but as I understand you’re under no obligation to protect their identities, especially once they’ve been found guilty of a crime.

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