Freedom of press stirs campus conversation

Rob Burkett / Washburn Review

Last week the first edition of The Review hit the racks with a new look and a little bit of controversy. 

Part of the curiosity of readers had to do with an image that appeared on our opinion page illustrating a recent incident with a former member of the Washburn football team.

This image depicted in a straightforward manner the crux of the situation revolving around Vershon Moore and his run in with authorities over his actions involved in the armed robbery of a community bank earlier this month.

The response we as a publication received covered the spectrum from amused to disgusted. Some have asked us to issue an apology.

While some might refer to the graphic as “tacky and rude,” I feel that the graphic did a few things.

First, it obviously provoked some conversation around campus. Anyone unaware of what occurred with Moore prior to the school year starting were certainly informed of the situation after seeing the graphic.

While some might think poorly of the taste of the image, I find that in publishing the piece, The Review served one of the facets that a media organization has a duty to carry out.

We spurred a conversation around campus about a legitimate story that involved a member of the Washburn community involved in a newsworthy event.

A story that neither the university administration nor the university athletics department wanted to comment on.

The right to decline comment is certainly within their prerogative. That fact however will not keep us from commenting on what we see as a story worthy of our attention as it will have an effect on the level of conversation occurring on campus.

Another aspect of the feedback is that The Review somehow besmirched the reputation of Washburn. I found this an interesting conclusion that some have arrived at considering the subject of the controversy

In fact, what I find puzzling is that no one seemed to be upset that a member of the football team committed armed robbery, was arrested–booked into jail wearing a Washburn football shirt–and ultimately pleaded guilty to what he did in order to avoid another lesser charge.

If anything, I find that the very incident did more to reflect poorly on Washburn than anything that we might print in this newspaper.

In making his choice Moore’s decision will affect him profoundly for years to come. However, he chose his path. As a member of the Washburn community, he is subject like anyone else to the social commentary that any of us can make in a case such as this.

In publishing the image, The Review also proved another important fact. Washburn University’s current administration has always protected freedom of the press with regard to student media.

We have at times, written articles that have attempted to make sense of topics ranging from why the “W” at Washburn was changed to the unexplained and sudden departure of members of the administration to where you can go to get the best bite for your buck.

Through all of those issues the administration at this university has never attempted to stop us in any way from covering the news and speaking our mind. As a journalist, I thank them for doing the right thing by continuing to support free speech on campus.

While members of the administration might disagree with our stances from time-to-time, we have never been infringed upon in our first amendment rights. Everything that has appeared in our newspaper is completely our own content created from our own decisions. As a result, we take this responsibility seriously as we strive to be the organization that we want to be.

Finally to those who feel we should apologize for what we published, I will simply say that when there is a reason to apologize we will.

We invite anyone who disagrees with our views to submit a letter to the editor at our website, www.washburnreview.org.

We welcome discourse and differing opinions as we seek to shed light on all viewpoints of any issue that we may cover or comment on.