The Corner

Self-Serving Puffery

The Daily Collegian is defending its decision to run the “Pat Tillman got what he deserved” piece by hiding behind the skirt of the First Amendment:

Rene Gonzalez is a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts who occasionally submits columns to The Collegian. While his views in no way reflect the opinion of our editorial board or staff, we base our decisions not on whether we agree with the opinion of students submitting opinion pieces, but on the backbone of journalism: The First Amendment.

As a news organization, The Collegian lists the First Amendment as its most important value and asset. We do not hold back from printing news stories, columns or editorials that may upset our readership – instead, we seek to both inform and stir debate through our publication. Our decision to publish Gonzalez’s column – an opinion piece written by a member of our campus community – is the only way for us to live up to this ideal.

What a bunch of heroes.

There’s only one problem, the First Amendment has, mmmm, let me see: Nothing to do with this. The First Amendment protects against government censorship. This is a question about editorial judgement. Be men (or women) for pete’s sake. If you want to defend your decision to run the piece on the merits, great. But don’t pretend that the constitution made you do it.

Indeed, if The Collegian “doesn’t hold back” from running controversial pieces that will upset their readers — good for them. I assume they would stand resolute after running a piece which said “Martin Luther King got what he deserved.” Or maybe, just maybe, somebody in the newsroom would have said, “Hey you know what? This piece adds almost nothing to the discussion and is needlessly inflamatory.”

But I am sure the Titans of the First Amendment would gird their loins and say “Forsooth No! We must not cave into the sensitivities of our readers!”

Or, as it says in the editorial, “We cannot, however, compromise the mission of our publication for the sake of ensuring the constant happiness of our readership.”

Either defend the piece on the merits or don’t run it you chumps. But please stop trying to sound like you aren’t personally responsible for the decisions you make. That’s why you’re editors.

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