ECU firing causes media uproar
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 00:01
Two months after East Carolina University's student-run newspaper, The East Carolinian, featured a full-frontal nude picture of a streaker at the Nov. 5 football game against Southern Mississippi, student media director Paul Isom was fired. At the time that the picture was published, the university stated that the newspaper's decision to run the picture was "in very poor taste." Now, in January, ECU has decided to underhandedly let the public know that the picture was viewed as more than just a one-time error in judgment.
When Isom was fired, university directors made a point not to bring up the picture. Isom told Greenville's Daily Reflector that the university told him they "wanted to go in a different direction." That direction is obviously a path steering the newspaper staff away from printing any controversial images.
Isom's firing has caused much outrage not only at ECU but also around the nation. Student-run newspapers can publish anything if they are willing to deal with the criticism and consequences of losing advertisers and readers. The job of the student media director is to advise the newspaper and help to guide them, but the director can't tell the students what and what not to publish. The East Carolinian newspaper is protected by the First Amendment, and if the students who run it wish to insert a picture of a nude streaker into the paper, then they can do it. Sure, the paper's editorial staff could have censored out the streaker's private parts or done away with a picture all together, but odds are the majority of the student body already saw the streaker's genitals either first-hand at the football game or second-hand through a friend's picture posted on Facebook or Twitter.
No matter what ECU directors wish to say, it's pretty clear that Isom's firing was a direct result of the nude picture. Free-speech groups around the nation are retaliating and writing the university in hopes that Isom will be re-hired as student media director, but the university still refuses to admit that they fired Isom because of the photo.
In 2009, The Seahawk published nude photos of women and children as part of a feature on photographer Frank Cordelle's project entitled The Century Project. The Century Project features nude portraits of women and is meant to show images of women through the ages and tell their stories. Although this feature may have been done in better taste than the nude streaker's picture, the paper still featured nude pictures, nonetheless, and no actions were made against The Seahawk or its staff.
Until ECU can provide the public with a concrete reason behind Isom's firing, the issue will remain unsettling. The only thing that seems to have been done "in very poor taste" is Paul Isom's firing, and The East Carolinian staff should speak out about this issue.