Student Journalists at American University Speak for First Time About Breast-Feeding Story Controversy

The most controversial student press story of 2012 went viral before it was even written.

In early September, American University anthropology professor Adrienne Pine published a 4,000-word essay online alleging The Eagle student newspaper was out to get her. Her allegations quickly received national media attention. They stemmed from a story the paper had been pursuing about Pine breast-feeding her newborn daughter during a class lecture.

Eagle staff writer Heather Mongilio had taken on the assignment, while the paper’s editor-in-chief Zach Cohen and other editors supervised her progress. But Mongilio’s name never appeared in the published article’s byline. Instead, she joined Cohen and the Eagle as a news flavor of the week and trending Twitter topic, while caught in a swirl of nasty debate that briefly seemed to swallow the paper and students whole.

Late last month, Cohen and Mongilio gave their first interview about the story and the sudden super-storm that formed around them while they were working on it. Their reflections offer a fresh, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the multi-headed Minotaur that is the modern media scandal.

The scandals are born online, spread in real-time, pounced on by the press, spit on in status updates, and often built around loud voices, larger agendas, and first impressions, facts or full stories be damned. They are also increasingly ensnaring the campus press, almost always attached to an embedded anti-student sentiment along the lines of, “What have the kids done now?”

To read the rest of the story, click here or on the screenshot below to head to Poynter Online.

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