Daily content critiqued by readers

It’s been a busy two weeks here at the Readers’ Representative desk, with readers commenting on everything from world news to sex.
The world, the nation and the University
An international student wrote to comment on the lack of Daily coverage of events outside the United States.
“You should consider renaming your World and Nation section. It would be more appropriate to title it Nation, or at most, United States-related news,” he wrote.
To expand the Daily’s coverage of world events, he suggested some topics which would be of interest, including nurses in Poland, new currency in Europe, American money for fugitives in Croatia and the destruction in South America caused by El Ni¤o.
While these are all newsworthy topics, the Daily exists to cover the University community. News briefs from the Associated Press wire service are printed in the Daily as a service to readers who might not be getting news from other sources. But as much as the Daily staff wants members of the University community to rely on the Daily for news that affects them, they also hope that it is just one of several news sources used by readers.
The Daily has no plans to expand coverage of world events beyond the World and Nation briefs, except when events occur which have a direct link to the University. When discussing this reader’s comments, however, a number of reporters volunteered to staff a Daily news bureau outside the United States — preferably in Europe or the Caribbean, no doubt.
Profiles pending
Several readers asked whether the Daily will ever run profiles of people from the community.
“Something I find odd is that there are no regular profiles of professors. There’s gaggles of professors at the University, and I’m just desperate for information on them, in a profile format,” a reader wrote.
Profiles can be wonderfully informative and entertaining, and writing them is a skill every journalist needs. Daily editors have discussed including more of these types of stories, and starting next quarter, the Daily will run a series of profiles of a student, staff or faculty member.
The law and the University
The Daily has reported on several discrimination suits filed against the University over the last few months, which prompted a reader to suggest broadening our coverage of this issue to include an examination of the climate which may contribute to such suits.
“Some serious analysis needs to be conducted and raise consciousness in the process. Purely reporting discrimination suits does not delve into the dynamics involved,” he wrote.
I absolutely agree and suggest that reporters take a look at what the University is doing to prevent discrimination and improve the working environment for its staff.
Greeks speak out
A fraternity member wrote to complain about lack of coverage of the greek system at the University.
A search of the Daily archives brings up more than 10 news stories on fraternities alone since the beginning of the academic year. That does not include editorials or letters to the editor. While the Daily’s coverage of fraternities and sororities may not seem complete to members of those organizations, the stories are being written. And while not all stories about the greek system are positive, members of all student organizations should be aware that there is a difference between news and public relations. It would be wrong for the Daily to simply promote an organization’s events without covering valid and potentially unflattering news stories about that organization.
Readers should look for a story on the greek system in this week’s Daily which will, in part, examine local and national media coverage of fraternities and sororities.
How far is too far, Dr. Date?
Dr. Date’s Jan. 29 column in A&E, “Dr. Date’s guide to fellatio,” and the companion column Thursday, “Dr. Date’s guide to cunnilingus” were fairly graphic how-to pieces on these sexual practices.
The columns generated an angry letter to the editor, “Dr. Date goes too far on oral sex,” which was printed in Friday’s Daily. Responses to that letter, some of which are in today’s letters to the editor section, were overwhelmingly in support of Dr. Date’s column.
Dr. Date received one other complaint about these columns from a reader who felt some of the language crossed the line between descriptive and pornographic. A&E editor Lucas Hilderbrand said that while Dr. Date typically is allowed wide latitude in subject matter, slang words are often edited out in favor of more clinical descriptions of anatomy. Dr. Date said sex isn’t always clinical, and believes that college students are mature enough to handle the frank descriptions in the column.
Although the columns were graphic, Dr. Date’s mission is to provide information on sex and dating, which is appropriate subject matter for a university newspaper. The headlines of the two columns served as a warning to readers who prefer not to read about sexual practices.
I’ll let the readers speak for themselves in the letters section this week, but I do want to address one portion of the original complaint letter.
Blaine Dockter objected to the use of students’ quarterly fees to publish what he saw as pornography. A portion of the fees paid by students each quarter goes to support the Daily. The Daily is also primarily funded by advertising revenue.
The Daily editorial staff’s right to control the paper’s content has been challenged before. That challenge was based on the Daily’s acceptance of student fee money while publishing material that was in poor taste, and the Daily won that battle in the courts.
The decision issued by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said, “It is clear that the First Amendment prohibits the Regents from taking adverse action against the Daily because the contents of the paper are occasionally blasphemous or vulgar.”
That said, there are things readers can do when they object to the Daily’s content.
Through letters to the editor, Network and guest opinion columns, the Daily provides a community forum for readers to express their views — whether they agree with the Daily’s editorial policy or not. These public forums exist to present the views of readers, and they should be utilized.
For readers unwilling to make a public statement, complaints are my job. Sometimes I’ll agree with the complaint, sometimes I won’t. But I’ll find out how or why a decision about content was made and maybe help foster a little understanding between Daily readers and staff.
So keep writing and calling, and if you’re interested in writing a guest column contact the opinions page editor, Christine Tomlinson, at [email protected] or 627-4070 x3281.
Melodie Bahan’s column appears on alternate Mondays. She welcomes comments via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 627-4070 x3282.