2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 4: ‘Poking Fun at an Inherently Funny Topic’

Along with financial woes, technological reboots and excellent editorial work [see parts one, two and three], college media 2014 has been filled with free press and free speech heroes — including Oklahoma University student Joey Stipek and The Oklahoma Daily campus newspaper.

Stipek, the Daily’s special projects editor, filed a lawsuit last year calling for the release of the university’s parking ticket records — which he believed were public. The school stalled, until last month, when the Daily dropped an editorial bombshell across its entire front page: The paper was planning to join Stipek’s suit.

The school almost immediately caved, releasing the records. Administrators at Oklahoma State followed suit soon after. The bottom-line lesson, as the headline of a related Daily special report confirmed, “Students Speak, Change Happens.


In April, The Daily Kent Stater similarly pushed for change. In a front-page editorial, the student newspaper criticized the “secrecy and evasion” surrounding Kent State University’s presidential search. The paper described it as nothing less than a “public transparency crisis.”

The Student Press Law Center agrees, targeting this growing collegiate crisis nationwide in a new special project called “Sack Secrecy.” As the project’s introduction argues, “Hiring a college president shouldn’t be like running a drug ring.”

Speaking of secrecy, this past spring, Georgia State University administrators announced they had arranged a secret $150,000 deal to replace daytime student programming on the campus radio station WRAS with outside content. The move immediately earned the ire of college radio supporters worldwide.

Two months later at Columbia, The Columbia Daily Spectator temporarily closed its newsroom due to the threats of an angry ex-convict. The man, recently released from prison, wanted old articles about his role in a murder case removed from the Spectator website. After sneaking into the building where the paper’s newsroom is housed, he allegedly told a university employee, “I’ve killed someone before and I can do it again.”


When his actions went viral, he claimed it was all a misunderstanding.

Much more lightheartedly, the most viral college media story of 2014 involved sex, not murder.

In February, The Daily Evergreen at Washington State University published a column focused on the prevalence, psychological underpinnings and physical concerns of, ahem, anal sex. It mixed references to an iconic Robert Frost poem (“The Road Not Taken”) and a comic strip joking about “backstage passes” with some basic advice about “safety first” and engaging in Kegel exercises post-anal-sex to help regain “bowel control.”

The piece entered the viral stratosphere, appearing on “The Colbert Report” and serving as the centerpiece of a Huffington Post article headlined, “The Latest Rage on College Campuses Is Apparently Anal Sex.


As Candace Baltz, director of student media at WSU, told me at the time, “Colbert did a great job poking fun at an inherently funny topic. We all laughed pretty hard. The students learned how quickly a story can go from their paper to the national stage, and the experience solidified for them why it’s so important to take their roles seriously and do good work. … There’s never a dull moment when you advise college newspapers, is there?”

One last zeitgeist moment involving college media in 2014 occurred via a separate Comedy Central program.

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” featured The Michigan Daily in a late July episode. During a segment of the show, correspondent Jordan Klepper satirically mocked the University of Michigan student newspaper’s valiant effort to practice serious journalism in the clickbait era.


At the start of the segment, Klepper asked the paper’s top staffers what journalism is all about. Their earnest replies: “Well-researched. … Informative. … Journalism is the ability to tell a story in a way that empowers people.”

Klepper’s take in response: “Is this what they’re teaching you here? Oh, we are so f-cked.”

To read my full 2014 year in review, click here or on the screenshot below.



2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 1: ‘Go to Hell & Take the Print Newspaper with You’

2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 2: ‘Welcome to the Future of the Future’

2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 3: ‘A Complete War Zone’

‘Students Speak, Change Happens’: OU & OSU to Release Parking Ticket Records

Angry Ex-Con Causes Columbia Spectator to Close Newsroom, Issue Staffers a Warning

Washington State Student Newspaper Sex Column Featured on ‘The Colbert Report’

The Daily Show Features Michigan Daily in Fun Segment on Clickbait Journalism

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