editors: scott masselli, sean simons firstname.lastname@example.org/ 540.231.9865
february 23, 2012 COLLEGIATETIMES
The Collegiate Times is an independent student-run newspaper serving the Virginia Tech community since 1903
Our Views [staff editorial]
‘Slacker’ ranking not to be taken too seriously
ollegeHumor recently released a list of the top 10 “slacker schools” in America, pegging Virginia Tech as No. 3 behind Penn State and the University of Florida. While it’s irrelevant to quarrel over the generalization of an entire university, it’s important that we, as a student body, take note of the positives that our position on such an esteemed list brings to light. According to the list, the schools were ranked for “having the maximum amount of fun while putting forth the least amount of effort.” This makes it seem the rankings are, at least to some extent, meant to be complimentary. No engineering and architecture students, CollegeHumor is not calling you out as being “slackers.” Rather, they’re praising you for making the most of your college experience despite having an immense workload. It’s completely certain that CollegeHumor knows Tech boasts the No. 13 engineering school in the nation, according to US News & World Report, and Tech’s School of Architecture
and Design tied for first in the nation in a 10-year ranking with Columbia, Harvard and Yale, according to DesignIntelligence. But it’s also important to remember the school itself is being applauded for its ability to churn out (somewhat) productive members of society who also know how to have a good time. And — as if there weren’t enough indication the list is not meant to be taken too seriously — consider that nine of the 10 schools listed rank in the top 50 among the best public universities in the nation, according to US News & World Report. Tech ranks No. 28, or fourth on the list behind No. 13 Penn State, No. 19 Florida and No. 25 Clemson. So, rather than grumble about being labeled as an attendee of one of the nation’s top slacker schools, revel in the fact that you have more fun while doing less work than almost every other college student in the country. Or angrily remind CollegeHumor that Tech students work hard. Either way works fine, really. The editorial board is composed of the editors of the Collegiate Times.
Making money is key to newspapers’ success W
hen it comes to the realities of life in journalism, no one prepared me more while I was an undergrad at Virginia Commonwealth University than Bill Turpin. He was No. 2 in the department of mass communications when I arrived in the fall of 1979 after three years in the Army. In a previous life he had been a small-town newspaper publisher. And in that small Southern town, he saw every day the impact he had on his community. If readers didn’t like something in his paper, he heard about it. If they didn’t get their paper on time, they let him know. He could be confronted while in line at the grocery store, on the sidelines at a Little League game, or while out with his family. And there was no deflecting responsibility. As a small-town publisher, he was the editor, the advertising director, the circulation manager, and whatever else needed to be done on any given day. Sometimes an apology was in order, and a promise to make things right: for a typo or factual error, for an ad that wasn’t run as promised, for a late paper. Other times he had to stick to his guns: for unflattering coverage of a local politician, for opinions that made someone want to cancel a subscription. No business person in his right mind wants to anger readers, advertisers, neighbors, friends, colleagues. But one of the realities of journalism, Turpin would remind us, is that newspapers aren’t just a business. They come with added burdens and responsibilities. And one of those tasks is to point out the truth, however uncomfortable, as best as it can be determined. I don’t mean truth in some godlike, omniscient way delivered from paragons of virtue. And Turpin never looked at the profession or its practitioners that way either. I mean reporting on the truth as it is determined from the facts at hand, as fairly and accurately and responsibly as possible. Of course, sometimes when you do that, someone is going to be upset. And you’ll hear about it — in Turpin’s case very up close and personally. If you can’t handle that kind of pressure, and in the process stand up for your good name and your publication’s, you don’t belong in the business. Back down, degrade that good name in any way, and you have no business. So why do I keep using the word
business instead of profession or even noble calling? Because of the other reality check Turpin passed along. In our senior year, we took a newspaper-management class from Turpin that went way beyond the ins and outs of herding cats in a newsroom. We spent half our time shadowing a local publisher to learn about all aspects of the business: circulation, advertising, business, production. Then we had to create our own fictional paper, from staffing, to realistic budgets for each department, to designs for everything from the newsroom to the pressroom. It was quite the adjustment from all those reporting and editing classes. A classroom full of Woodward and Bernstein wannabes were being pestered with questions like, Where are the bathrooms for your employees? I can’t say that I became an expert in any of that, but I did take away the message that Turpin repeated over and over: No matter how talented the writers and photographers, the editors and page designers, the advertising and production staffs, they couldn’t put those talents to use if your newspaper wasn’t making money. Thirty years later, the money isn’t being made. And changing economic realities require that newspapers adjust or die. So I applaud attempts to expand the readership and re-create an industry — whether through tweets, Facebook, or apps — in order to retain and create jobs for talented people, and to keep serving the community. At the same time, I confess to being just a bit more worn down and a little more discouraged with each round of layoffs. Regular reports of the company being sold, and allegations about behind-the-scenes games being played, aren’t that great for morale either. But, as with all things, we get a brief blink of an eye to do our best, to add to the debate, to make gentle the life of this world. And in that time, we hope, through our efforts, that we’ve made a contribution, and in the process, have stood up for our good name and our newspaper’s. There is no business without that name.
KEVIN FERRIS -mcclatchy newspapers
Technology hurts social bonds O
ver the past decade, social media has developed into a type of communication fit for our generation. People are able to present themselves in unimaginable ways, allowing them to express interests and dislikes. But most importantly, Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites serve as tools for procrastination. While chatting with friends, reading statuses and skimming Tweets, I wonder what happened to traditional communication in the current tech-savvy era. People’s lives seemingly revolve around receiving digital messages, as they spend countless hours staring at screens and communicating with people online even though they are geographically close. I understand social media is a beautiful thing, providing people an opportunity to stay instantly in touch with others locally, nationally and internationally. Still, these advances come with costs. Rather than speaking face-toface with others, people articulate their thoughts and feelings though short messages — smiley faces and shortened phrases like “lol” are used to express emotions. Reality check. The newfound ease that comes with social media may be causing anxiety among people who are afraid of in-person conversations — people fear natural discourse is not cool enough anymore. Think
about being at a party but having no one to talk to. What is the first thing you do? You look at your phone. Your inbox has become a blanket — a solution to your uneasiness. The constant use of social media stems from people’s fear of being misunderstood. People can edit and re-edit digital messages as much as they like until they decide they’ve perfectly conveyed their thoughts. People can make themselves sound intelligent, meaningful or witty. Cell phones have become the faces of their users, and messages have become direct reflections of people’s personalities. People can sound like whomever they choose. However, there are rules regarding messaging. Guys should only text girls three days after they first meet, or else they will come across as desperate. If people respond to a text message within a minute, they will be perceived as overly anxious. But what about making real, genuine conversation these days? That seems scarier than anything. Have you ever been on a date with someone who you have spent so much time messaging online and using a phone, but you had nothing to say to them in person? Somehow, you felt more comfortable speaking to them through texts and Facebook messages than in a face-to-face conversation. The described experience is more
common than people think and can only be described as awkward. I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if it was similar to that of “Friends” or “Seinfeld,” where people only use telephones and answering machines. People’s lives would reflect who they truly are, not what is on your Facebook profile or how many “likes” you received on your latest status update. Digital communication has taken away from what makes humans thrive — the ability to express thought through in-person discussion. The more people use social media, the more self-conscious they become, like guarded shells of their former selves. My call to action is not for people to stop texting or deactivate their Facebooks, but rather to measure their lives by the days they lead. Texting and typing are tools that have only given a bigger role to the thumb — they are not the only way to communicate. A group of people were referred to as Gen X. The way this generation is socializing, it ought to be known as Generation teXt. SHAWN GHUMAN -regular columnist -junior -communication major
Houston’s red flags were missed W
hitney Houston often has been a magnet for envy. As a teenager, young Whitney grew up with a home swimming pool, the only child in her East Orange, N.J., neighborhood with one. Her friends learned to swim with the athletic “Nippy,” as they affectionately referred to her. Then, there’s “The Voice.” We’re talking envy here, remember. Just listen to her powerful and radiant rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Fla. We’ve heard nothing like it, before or since. However, there’s one aspect that few could envy: The Post-Mortem Polarization of Whitney Houston. On one side, we have this view: When actor Kevin Costner, Houston’s co-star from the hit movie “The Bodyguard,” eloquently spoke at her funeral on Saturday in Newark, he referenced Houston’s uniqueness. “I thought she was perfect for what we were trying to do,” an emotional Costner said of her first leading role. “You made the picture what it was. A lot of guys could have played my part, but I believe you were the only one who could have played Rachel Marron at that time. You were as beautiful as a woman could be.” On the other side, we have this episode: Los Angeles talk-radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampiou were suspended for calling Houston a “crack ho.” They took it further, saying she’s been “cracked out for 20 years” and “It’s like, ‘Ah Jesus ... here comes the crack ho again, what’s she gonna do? Ah, look at that — she’s doin’ handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho ...’ After a while, everybody’s exhausted. And then you find out she’s dead. It’s like, ‘Really? Took this long?’” And there’s the governor with the flag: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered flags at government buildings lowered to half-staff to honor Houston, despite her checkered past. Christie admitted that he received numerous
emails and messages angrily denouncing his executive order with the flag. But the governor said he wasn’t lauding Houston as a role model, explaining that she deserved the gesture because of her major cultural influence in the entertainment genre and that she was a “a daughter of New Jersey.” Now, let’s explore this in more depth: Christie is a staunch Republican. It wouldn’t be surprising if he has aspirations for the White House at some juncture of his fast-rising political career. The flag gesture is one that will be remembered because of the controversy. And when Christie is courting the presidential vote — read as in the black vote in 2016 or 2020 — many people of color would view him more favorably for such a defiant stance in support of Houston. Call it the Politicization of Whitney Houston. If there’s a positive emanating from this tragic discussion, it’s the increased focus on the murky underworld of prescription drug use/abuse. It’s widely known that Houston had been treated for substance abuse, and Los Angeles authorities have been examining prescription medicines found in her hotel room. Last week on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” singer Kelly Price, a friend of Whitney Houston, naively spoke of Houston’s drinking during the days before the Grammy Awards: “Well, no, I wasn’t worried about it. I didn’t see where it was excessive. I didn’t see — I saw her with a couple of glasses of champagne. And then our interactions were normal. There was nothing that seemed that it was over the top. She didn’t seem to be intoxicated to me. Again, I know intoxicated when I see it. And so I wasn’t worried about it at all.” Addiction specialist and television personality Dr. Drew (also known as Drew Pinsky) almost went into a lecturing tirade when he heard Price’s alarming comments, saying, “Oh, Anderson, it is — no disrespect but this is the highest level of ignorance. The fact is that just because somebody
isn’t doing hard drugs does not mean their addiction is not active. “Please, everybody, I’m trying to get this message across to the world and — it seems to be falling on deaf ears. If you have addiction today, you are not going to die of hard drugs, you’re going to die a prescription death. That is how addicts die today. Period. ... “Seeing Whitney with champagne in her hand should have been an alarm sounding for all of her friends. They should have pulled her aside and said, Whitney, you were in treatment just last May, my God, what’s going on. You seem to be not doing so well, let’s get you to a meeting right away where the goal is abstinence for a reason. Not because it’s mean or mean-spirited. But because it’s what saves lives.” The bottom line is that many people were in denial about Houston. They saw what appeared to be a healthy-looking Houston and decided that everything must be A-OK — at least outwardly. So therefore, no more addiction and thus no more issues. It’s only natural to think the best is in store for a close friend, regardless of circumstances. Furthermore, most everyday people probably don’t think having a drink every now and then isn’t so bad for anyone — even for a recovering addict. Much of this laissez-faire attitude toward Houston’s drinking can be attributed to a lack of awareness of the warning signs, as Dr. Drew attests. However, there’s also the issue of plain and simple denial. All you have to do is personalize it: How many of us truly want to believe that a friend always will be haunted by the demons of substance abuse? That’s what treatment is for in the rehabilitation facilities. With that, there’s a visceral, if not sentimental, expectation of a cure-all to end-all. As Whitney Houston’s death shows, if only it were that simple. That’s something no one can envy.
GREGORY CLAY -mcclatchy newspapers
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