Colorado State University's student newspaper has officially lost $30,000 in advertising and has had to cut pay and other budgets by a full 10% due to fallout from the use of a four-letter word in an editorial about the decider guy.
If you missed the quote; it was a classic, and it took a lot of guts to publish it in a state that’s voted overwhelmingly Republican in the last two presidential elections.
In large typeset, The Rocky Mountain Collegian included the words, "Taser This... F---- Bush" spelling out the expletive along with an explanation that "this column represents the views of the Collegian’s editorial board." The second two words of the editorial’s title are printed in extremely large print, about twice the size of a headline.
In an act of defiance, the editor, David McSwane, says he will not step down from his position even amidst vociferous calls for his resignation. So, where’d this Colorado college boy muster the courage for both acts of defiance?
Ah, but, David McSwane is no stranger to controversy.
Two-years ago, high-school student, David McSwane, drew national attention when he carried out an elaborate "sting" operation to expose how the U.S. Army lowered its wartime standards in an attempt to reach recruitment goals.
This from Editor & Publisher:
Here is a profile of McSwane written by Graham Webster for E&P on July 1, 2005.
McSwane pretended he had a marijuana habit and secretly taped the conversations with recruiters. The two recruiters were later suspended and Army recruitment shut down temporarily across the country.
David McSwane had seen the military recruiters around town. He had seen them at the high school. And he knew that with recruitment rates down due to the Iraq war, they were working hard to attract new cadets. And it gave him an idea.
"I wanted to see how far they'd go to get another soldier," says McSwane, a reporter for the Westwind at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colo. So he set up a sting investigation, posing as a high school dropout with a marijuana habit and went down to his local Colorado Army recruitment station to enlist. It would lead to a national shutdown of such recruitment and fame for him in The New York Times and other national news outlets.
McSwane, 17, knew he would have to document his conversations with the recruiters, so he taped the telephone conversations, enlisted his sister to pose as a proud sibling so she could photograph parts of the process, and asked a friend to operate a video camera across from a local head shop.
So, how did McSwane actually convince a recruiter to visit a head shop with him?
McSwane says it was easy.
An honor student at the time, McSwane pretended to have a ganja habit that he couldn’t kick and went there to buy a detox kit that the Army office had claimed helped two previous recruits pass the drug tests. This according to a taped phone call broadcast on local TV news. The honor student told his recruiter that he didn’t know what the detox formula looked like, and then convinced the recruiter to go to the head shop with him.
Apparently, McSwane also told the recruiter that he had no high school diploma, which at that time was literally true because he wouldn’t graduate for another two-months. He also told him that he had dropped out of high school. What was the recruiter’s reply?
"No problem," the recruiter replied. "There are websites where anyone can order a diploma from a school they make up. It can be like, Faith Hill Baptist School or whatever you choose," one recruiter can be heard saying on one of the taped exchanges.
After the fruits of his investigation ran in the Westwind, there was a brief lull.
Then a Denver TV station picked up the story and ran with it, first airing McSwane's findings on April 28. Within a few days the boy's sting had made national headlines, and the U.S. Army froze recruiting operations nationwide for a day. (His two would-be recruiters were suspended.)
"It's been kind of cool to see a reaction from the Pentagon on a story done in a high school paper," the teen reporter says. He has appeared on local and national TV, and articles on his investigation have appeared in the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and The New York Times. One could understand if the school was a bit unaccustomed to all the media attention.
Rick Kaufman, a spokesman for Jefferson County Public Schools, said that after the initial report ran in Westwind, "the principal was very clear with David that the articles could not go any further into his undercover actions." Because the school paper is produced as part of a class, the principal reviews the paper prior to publication and has the power to spike any story.
McSwane says his scrupulous documentation has for the most part prevented naysayers from calling his investigation false. Still, he says, some have questioned the ethics involved in a deceptive operation like the one he orchestrated: "Any undercover investigation, you're going in there as a lie. And a lot of people don't like it."
McSwane plans to start on a journalism degree at Colorado State University in Fort Collins this fall. On off days, he interns at the Arvada, Colorado Press.
"I work retail graveyard shifts right now, because I've got to make money for college," he says, upon waking in the mid-afternoon.
McSwane's love of journalism started with something of an accident. "I guess I've always had a knack for writing," he says. "One day one of my English teachers just put me in newspaper class without my permission."
Here’s a local article focusing more on the current controversy.
Listen, kossacks; this young man is making us look bad. In my humble opinion, he performed two heroic acts of courage that risked his chosen livelihood to stand up for what he believe in.
Were these acts of political defiance simply the supercilious pranks of a precocious teenager? I doubt it but it really doesn’t matter. He actually did those things and that’s what counts. He made a real difference in the way the U.S. Military carried out its recruitment drives. Actions peak louder than words and while blogging has become an essential part of democracy, nothing beats significant acts of civil defiance.
I believe David McSwane has proven that important things can be achieved by a single human being.
Send him a verbal pat on the back.
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Or, a written one.
I hope he continues to "act" as an activist for a long time to come. We need more firebrands like David.
Impede [Bush], impeach [Cheney] and imprison [Both].