Monday, March 26, 2007

You be the editor....

Last week, The Daily Collegian broke a story that one of my editors so brilliantly pointed out was “ESPN ticker-worthy.”

I’m not sure if the story ever did actually grace’s ticker, but anytime the word “hazing” pops up in the context of collegiate athletics it’s pretty much a guarantee that the national media will pay attention.

The decision to run a story about Penn State wrestlers and hockey players allegedly involved in two hazing rituals was an easy one.

The decision of whether or not to run the photos allegedly depicting the hazing was not nearly as easy.

Here’s the facts:

The “whistleblower” of this story was an anti-hazing activist from Georgia who found the photos on Webshots and sent them to The Daily Collegian, wrestling head coach Troy Sunderland and

Sunderland responded immediately to Collegian reporters and said he was “very upset” and intended to look into the incident.

Meanwhile, at least three student athletes have denied the allegations that the incidents were hazing.

Then, Penn State released a statement saying that an investigation into the wrestling allegations has been launched and that the hockey investigation was completed last year.

The dilemma of the situation is this: Should The Daily Collegian publish the photographs in question?

If you were the editor in chief, what would you do?

Run the photos in the interest of disclosing all information available so that readers can reach their own conclusion?

Or do you choose not to run the photos so as not to further embarrass fellow students?

I chose not to run the photos.

My rationale?

In my understanding of hazing, the practice inherently creates victims. Just like someone wouldn’t want to be beaten or raped, someone would not want to be hazed and forced to do things they would otherwise not do.

It’s possible that these events were not hazing at all, and that the photos depict nothing more than a crazy party and some bad decisions.

In that case, what’s the potential public good in publishing the photos?

And finally, if this is really a case of hazing, how is it fair to further victimize people who are already victims of hazing by publishing and distributing evidence of the incident?

That’s why I chose not to publish the photographs.

What would you have done?