Another Example of Bad Judgment by ECU Student Newspaper
Back to Forum: Greenville News Board
November 9, 2011 - 9:48am
NOTE: Another example of bad judgment by the editor of the ECU student newspaper...
Reaction mixed to streaker photos
A decision by ECU’s student newspaper to publish full-frontal photographs of a streaker on Tuesday drew condemnation from university administrators and approval from some students.
The series of three front-page photos in The East Carolinian showed John Sieglinger, 21, being chased and taken down by university officials at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during the halftime ceremony.
The photographs also were published Tuesday on The East Carolinian’s website.
Sieglinger, a Raleigh resident who does not attend East Carolina, started streaking in the middle of a military appreciation ceremony that was taking place on the field during halftime.
He was arrested for misdemeanor indecent exposure and first-degree trespassing and taken to the Pitt County Detention Center, where he later was released. Sieglinger also has been banned from all future university events.
Although multiple media outlets have reported on the incident, Tuesday’s photos are the first to show full nudity.
ECU Director of Student Media Paul Isom, who advises the student editorial staff, said that the decision to publish the photos was made by the students.
“I knew that we had the pictures and that a story on the incident was going to run,” Isom said. “But the decision to publish the pictures was made by the editor.”
Isom said that as a state employee, he cannot legally interfere with decisions made by the student staff.
“I would be guilty of prior review if I did that,” Isom said. “Most of the advising I do comes post-production, where we discuss what worked or didn’t work and what mistakes were made.
“However, this incident was not a mistake; it was a decision made by the staff.”
The East Carolinian Editor in Chief Caitlin Hale made the decision along with the news editor and managing editor, Hale said in a statement issued about 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday.
“This decision was made because we felt that our audience, which is primarily the ECU student body, should have access to unedited and factual photos of the streaking incident at last Saturday’s ECU football game. While the photos may be seen as offensive to some, the photos were not meant to be seen as sexually suggestive or insulting, but instead an accurate account of Saturday’s events.”
A number of students, many whom were at the game Saturday and witnessed the incident, were amused at the publication of the photos.
“I found it hilarious,” said Eddie Barnes, 30, a senior majoring in Construction Management. “Hats off to the guy for letting it all hang out there.”
Freshmen Ashley Melvin and Chelsea Searle, both 18, said that the pictures didn’t show anything that students didn’t already see.
“The pictures didn’t bother me,” said Melvin. “I think it was funny. I was there Saturday and it made the game for me.”
“ECU was losing so bad at the half that me and my friends were about to leave,” added Searle. “This gave us a reason to stay for the rest of the game.”
Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a statement that the university did not approve.
“The decision by The East Carolinian to publish a photo of a streaker that showed full frontal nudity was in very poor taste,” Hardy said. “The leadership at East Carolina University does not agree with that decision and does not support it.
“But The East Carolinian is an independent, student-run newspaper. As such, it is a learning environment for student journalists, who make decisions about news content — and ultimately are responsible for those decisions.”
Hardy said that university officials will be meeting with The East Carolinian staff to discuss the incident.
“We will be having conversations with those who were involved in this decision in an effort to make it a learning experience,” Hardy said. “The goal will be to further the students’ understanding that with the freedom of the press comes a certain level of responsibility about what is appropriate and effective in order to get their message across.”