If the editors of the Daily Free Press published their controversial issue to gain attention, they succeeded, but not in the way they hoped.
The Daily Free Press is a 42-year-old independent student newspaper associated with Boston University. Each year the paper publishes an April Fools Day issue filled with satirical stories, but this year their issue hit a sour note resulting in harsh and unified reprimand from the university and student body.
The FreeP, like many college newspapers faces modest readership and sometimes resort to irregular strategies—but at what cost?
The mock-issue satirized current controversial issues with a twist: it depicted violent and graphic sexual assault towards Disney characters. Members of the local Boston internet community immediately expressed outrage, stating that the articles trivialize real issues and perpetuates rape culture.
The backlash was especially present on twitter, quickly leading to an apology by the editors.
“Our decisions were juvenile and insensitive. We deeply regret our heartless behavior and did not mean to personally offend anyone.”
However, thanks to social media the controversial issue had already gone viral.
The article that has caused the most outrage, “BROken egos: Fraternity suspended for assaulting female student,” features seven frat dwarves who drug and gangbang a female BU student.
The victim is female, attractive, and just asking for it with her “raven black hair and bright red lips.” The assailants are “BRO dwarves” who host parties where the “cocktails flow freely and the bitches are easy.”
Editor-in-Chief Chelsea Diana posted an apology tweet which she has since removed and replaced with a “last word” published on Boston.com stating again her sincere apology as well as the following:
…As my journalism professor told me, “pretty sophomoric.”
But, guess what? I’m a sophomore.
College is the time to learn and make mistakes before we enter the workforce, and from this horrible situation I’m gaining experience that most student journalists cannot put on a resume.”
Yet aside from Diana’s personal hopes to bounce back, the article reflects a scary reality. In December, BU hockey player, Corey Trivino was charged with three counts of indecent assault and batter, and one count of assault with attempt to rape. In February another BU hockey player, Max Nicastro was charged with two counts of rape. Just last week, a 18- year old female BU student was sexually assaulted on the Esplanade.
It is easy to see why so many are outraged.
The April Fools fiasco is just another example of how rape culture is alive and well in our society. What some may see as a harmless joke is actually quite dangerous because it is perceived as harmless. By perpetuating stereotypes, participating in victim shaming, and making light of rape we, as a society, take a step backwards.
Although they are “campus newspapers,” journalists are still expected to uphold certain standards. Groups such as the Independent Press Association encourage socially engaged journalism on college campuses, asserting that campus newspapers must illuminate the connections between campus cultures and their surrounding communities.
The editors of the Daily Free Press, as well as the Board of Directors have official apologies, that some feel is too little too late.