Oklahoma State’s Muff-Gate: Why the Media Professors Are Wrong (#OKState @OColly)
As all of Oklahoma and much of the web is now aware, The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University recently ran a prominent headline that many have criticized as sexist and unprofessional. As I previously posted, the student newspaper topped a front page centerpiece about a new strip club opening near campus with the header: “Diamond in the Muff.“
The hed, a play off the name of the new club (the Blue Diamond Cabaret), has triggered a spate of angry letters to the editor from students, staff, and alumni. Even faculty within the university’s School of Media and Strategic Communications signed a public letter of condemnation sent to the paper. It was published Friday in the opinion section.
As a portion of it reads, “This sophomoric attempt at humor by using a slang term for a part of a woman’s anatomy undermines the credibility of everyone associated with the Daily O’Collegian. Journalists must work every day to earn this credibility. Once it’s lost, it’s hard to recover.“
My Take: The letter is odd, and beneath its faculty senders. However well-intentioned the missive may have been, there is absolutely no reason why it should have been sent to the paper for public consumption. O’Colly staff are already learning their lesson, taking flak from critics everywhere, and most likely reexamining their editing practices (or at least their use of puns). They don’t need their own professors, advisers, and mentors piling on.
Yes, the O’Colly is independent, but I will intellectually arm wrestle any OK State prof. who denies the paper’s connection to the media school. Some of its staffers are the school’s students. Bits of its content undoubtedly first come to life in the school’s classes. And the school and paper certainly exist together in the minds of most OK State individuals when the words ‘university journalism’ are spoken.
In the journalism universe I inhabit, you stand by your students. You PRAISE in public and criticize in private. You also very carefully decide when to stand aside, stage a battle or wage a full war. This letter, with its highfalutin tone, public airing, and long list of names, is a full war. Dear lord, people, it was a single shoddy header.
As the paper’s opinion editor C.J. Cavin very rightfully asked, “Since when did it become the role of our faculty and mentors to demand an apology for making a mistake? In my opinion, mentors and professionals take time to explain mistakes and instead of calling you out they pull you aside to explain the issue.”