Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spoof edition fallout

Well, there's been some feedback on the spoof edition that I posted about - which is interesting.

Lance spoof issue 'disgraceful' from the Windsor Star.
U of W president fires back
Frances Willick, The Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, March 16


A spoof issue of the University of Windsor's student newspaper landed the Lance staff in hot water after the school received complaints from the public about "extremely offensive" statements attributed to university president Alan Wildeman.

A fabricated article printed in the Feb. 29 issue announced the school will begin admitting students based on their physical attractiveness. The article said students won't gain admission to the school unless they rank seven or higher on the "Hot or Not-o-meter" or unless they're international students.

A fake quote attributed to Wildeman questioned international students' adherence to "Western standards of appearance and hygiene" and said those students would be allowed to attend the school only if they won grant money or if they had "extensive plastic surgery."

Wildeman published a statement on the university's website Friday calling the spoof issue "a communication vehicle for racist and sexist remarks.

"Mainstream news reporters have found this issue online and have called to inquire about the disgraceful subject matter and especially the extremely offensive, false statements that were attributed to me," Wildeman's statement reads. "As outrageous as it is, this issue could be perceived as fact, a prospect that is damaging to the university's reputation, and more seriously, is damaging to racialized and international students, staff, faculty and our community."

Lance editor-in-chief D'Arcy Bresson said the spoof edition was intended to be humorous -not offensive. "We screwed up," he said. "There's no other way we can say it. It was a colossal screw-up."

Bresson said the article about the fake admissions standards was intended to illustrate the view that international students are viewed as "cash cows" by the university. "We missed the mark entirely," Bresson said.

Another story in the spoof issue reports a make-believe assassination attempt on a professor. The fake article blames the CIA for the gunman's actions and suggests the same man was responsible for the peeping Tom incidents at the Electa Hall residence.

In late 2009 and early 2010, students who lived at the residence were alarmed by reports of a man who was spying on women while they showered in the building. The school boosted security in Electa Hall following those reports.

Ironically, a third fake story reported that the Lance was going out of business because of rumours of homophobia, misogyny and racism at the publication.

Though the print version of the paper -which contains a full-page advertisement from the Government of Canada -was labelled "spoof issue" on top of most pages, there was nothing on The Lance's website to indicate the stories were fabricated.

"That was just a huge oversight," Bresson said.

As soon as staff at the paper got word of Wildeman's response to the story, they removed the spoof edition from the website and issued a public apology. "On behalf of The Lance I would like to apologize to the UWindsor President Alan Wildeman and the UWindsor community for the content of our annual spoof edition," the statement read. "It was never our intention to offend anybody in the UWindsor community and we feel terrible about this situation."

The Lance staff also met Tuesday with the school's office of human rights, equity and accessibility, who will meet with staff three more times over the coming month to provide education about those issues.

followed up with Mock edition of Lance 'damaging' to University of Windsor:


WINDSOR, Ont. -- A spoof issue of the University of Windsor’s student newspaper landed the Lance staff in hot water after the school received complaints from the public about “extremely offensive” statements attributed to university president Alan Wildeman.

A fabricated article printed in the Feb. 29 issue announced the school will begin admitting students based on their physical attractiveness. The article said students won’t gain admission to the school unless they rank seven or higher on the “Hot or Not-o-meter” or unless they’re international students.

A fake quote attributed to Wildeman questioned international students’ adherence to “Western standards of appearance and hygiene” and said those students would be allowed to attend the school only if they won grant money or if they had “extensive plastic surgery.”

Wildeman published a statement on the university’s website Friday calling the spoof issue “a communication vehicle for racist and sexist remarks.

“Mainstream news reporters have found this issue online and have called to inquire about the disgraceful subject matter and especially the extremely offensive, false statements that were attributed to me,” Wildeman’s statement reads. “As outrageous as it is, this issue could be perceived as fact, a prospect that is damaging to the university’s reputation, and more seriously, is damaging to racialized and international students, staff, faculty and our community.”

Lance editor-in-chief D’Arcy Bresson said the spoof edition was intended to be humorous — not offensive. “We screwed up,” he said. “There’s no other way we can say it. It was a colossal screw-up.”

Bresson said the article about the fake admissions standards was intended to illustrate the view that international students are viewed as “cash cows” by the university. “We missed the mark entirely,” Bresson said.

Another story in the spoof issue reports a make-believe assassination attempt on a professor. The fake article blames the CIA for the gunman’s actions and suggests the same man was responsible for the peeping Tom incidents at the Electa Hall residence.

In late 2009 and early 2010, students who lived at the residence were alarmed by reports of a man who was spying on women while they showered in the building. The school boosted security in Electa Hall following those reports.

Ironically, a third fake story reported that the Lance was going out of business because of rumours of homophobia, misogyny and racism at the publication.

Though the print version of the paper — which contains a full-page advertisement from the Government of Canada — was labelled “spoof issue” on top of most pages, there was nothing on The Lance’s website to indicate the stories were fabricated.

“That was just a huge oversight,” Bresson said.

As soon as staff at the paper got word of Wildeman’s response to the story, they removed the spoof edition from the website and issued a public apology. “On behalf of The Lance I would like to apologize to the UWindsor President Alan Wildeman and the UWindsor community for the content of our annual spoof edition,” the statement read. “It was never our intention to offend anybody in the UWindsor community and we feel terrible about this situation.”

The Lance staff also met Tuesday with the school’s office of human rights, equity and accessibility, who will meet with staff three more times over the coming month to provide education about those issues.

The office’s director, Kaye Johnson, called the spoof issue “hurtful” and “harmful.”

“You could sense that people were trying to be funny in some instances and that it was over the line in terms of not just sensitivity to other people, but in terms of its appropriateness,” she said.

After meeting with the staff Tuesday, Johnson said it’s clear their intentions weren’t malicious. “As long as we take the opportunity to work toward a paper that is a better paper for all people that are on campus, then I think that we can turn this into something that can help us move forward,” she said.

The Lance receives 30 per cent of its budget from student fees. Full-time undergraduates each pay $4.91 per year for the Lance. The remainder of the paper’s budget comes from advertisements.

Bresson said the Lance is considering spiking its spoof edition after this controversy. “It’s an idea that’s being circulated,” he said. “It’s the most popular edition of the year according to web hits, but we’re starting to ask if it’s really worth it.”

There are some great comments at the end of this article - I'd like to go through them and post some highlights, but there just isn't time this morning before work. Maybe another time soon.

Other than that, it's St. Patrick's Day, eh? ... hmmm

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