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Posted to The Newsroom by Abby Spudich on April 6, 2012 at 3:49 a.m.

Letter from the editor

Correction appended

The Maneater committed a grievous error in judgement regarding the content of the April Fool’s edition published Tuesday. I take responsibility for that error. This edition of The Maneater was incredibly offensive and potentially damaging to the social climate at MU, and I want to take this opportunity to express our sincere apologies.

Before I get to the bulk of my apology, I want to say that next year’s executive editors, Kelly Olejnik and Pat Iversen, have decided to cancel next year’s April Fool’s edition, and this has received the full support of the current editorial board. This isn’t the first time our April Fool’s content has been upsetting for the MU community, and we’ve decided that it’s not worth offending members of our community for an attempt at a few laughs. We hold our readers, advertisers and sources in high regard, and we don’t want this to overshadow the journalistic work we do throughout the year. By definition, this edition was supposed to step outside our usual role, but we took it way too far.

Although many parts of this edition were vulgar and offensive, I want to first take the time to explain the masthead. I truly did not know that “carpet eater” is a derogatory term used for a lesbian. Had I known, I would never have even considered using it. I chose the masthead because I thought the pairing of the play on words of “The Maneater” with the sexual innuendo of that term could be funny. I realized there was a sexual connotation in this term, but I did not realize it was derogatory toward the LGBTQ community. Not knowing is not an excuse, however, and I’m sure that if I had brought this to every member of the 24-person editorial board, and made sure that every single person had read it, someone would have known this was a slur. Unfortunately, I did not do this, and my ignorance has harmed other people. I could not be more sorry about this. I’d also like to note that the negative connotation that masthead carries does not reflect the opinion of the editorial board.

Other derogatory words toward women were also printed in this edition, such as “cunt,” “slut” and “whore.” This was a massive oversight on our part. I allowed these to be printed because my thinking was that, as they were used in a satirical way and mostly as plays on words, the context in which they were used did not speak to women and the treatment of women. My poorly thought out rationale, which I realize now was wrong and potentially dangerous, was that since they were not used in a way that glorifies the mistreatment or objectification of women, they were not offensive. I realize now that these words in and of themselves can contribute to further prejudice, no matter the context. In addition to offending people on a personal level, the April Fool’s issue could detract from the work campus organizations and individuals have done to create a more inclusive campus. These words communicate beliefs that neither The Maneater editorial board nor I believe. Language and context is a false dichotomy, and the language in this edition was not at all acceptable.

The biggest failure on our part is that this edition has spread negativity and hurt toward marginalized groups. A second major failure is that this edition is contradictory to The Maneater’s point of view toward diversity issues. In our editorial pages, we’ve advocated for updating the M-Book’s nondiscrimination policy to include gender expression (see “Editorial: M-Book update more than necessary”), updating the FBI’s definition of rape (see: “Editorial: Tell the FBI rape is rape”) and being active in preventing relationship violence (see: “Editorial: Don’t repeat Topeka, be proactive in preventing relationship violence”), to name a few. These are the sincere opinions of The Maneater, not what you read in Tuesday’s April Fool’s edition. It’s a shame that my twisted logic and oversight has undone so much of the progress this publication has made toward supporting the diversity at MU. I am extremely apologetic about this.

This was a huge learning experience for me, and I think for many of our editors. Even though I regret what happened, this is a learning paper. I learned I cannot assume what others might find to be offensive based solely on my own background, as my own personal background isn’t good enough, and ignorance is not an excuse when using offensive language. There are so many quality resources on campus that I, and the rest of the student body, can take advantage of when it comes to learning about diversity issues. Neglecting these resources is not just a personal failure; it’s a failure to my publication and my community.

This isn’t any less offensive just because it provided a learning experience to a group of people. However, this is an opportunity to better this publication and make sure no harmful incidents like this ever happen again. As per the suggestion of many of our readers, The Maneater is seeking training from the Language and Creating Safer Spaces program offered by the Women’s Center as well as Safe Space training offered LGBTQ Resource center. We are open to other suggestions in educating ourselves as well. We would also like to host an open forum to talk about the effects of derogatory terms on society, which was another suggestion from members of the MU community. We will set a date for that and announce it shortly.

I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to any individuals, advertisers, groups and readers who were offended by the content in the April Fool’s edition. I could not be more sorry or regret this any more than I already do. The Maneater is open to any other suggestions regarding sensitivity or diversity training from community members like the ones mentioned above.

This isn’t just an apology. It’s a promise. Although I wish I hadn’t done this, I have to live with my poor decisions. However, that doesn’t mean something positive can’t come out of this. Our April Fool’s issue serves as a cautionary warning about the consequences of ignorance, but I hope the actions we will take in the near future will serve as an example of how to take steps forward to promote an inclusive campus for all.

Abby Spudich

Managing Editor

aspudich@themaneater.com

forum@themaneater.com

Correction: An earlier edition of this article stated "As per the suggestion of many of our readers, The Maneater is seeking Safe Space Training, a program offered by the Women’s Center." Safe Space training is offered through the LGBTQ Resource Center, not the Women's Center. The Maneater regrets this error.

Reader comments
April 6, 2012
at 10:44 a.m.

Chris: No one has had a problem w/ "Man-eater" but a play on "women eater" and people sound off? I thought it was hilarious, I laughed out loud when I notice the cover. Everyone needs to relax and learn to realize when something is a joke, and when something is not.

April 6, 2012
at 11:44 a.m.

Suzy Day: As point of interest for those who are wanting to learn more, the Safe Space Program is run out of the LGBTQ Resource Center, not the Women's Center as noted above. Please get involved with the Pride Month events this year and Safe Space training!

April 6, 2012
at 12:07 p.m.

Brent Pearson: It takes a lot of courage to write this. Nice

April 6, 2012
at 12:34 p.m.

Casey Berner: This is completely unacceptable. While I do believe The Maneater staff are truly sorry, I do not believe they were so oblivious to the fact these words would offend people. The thought that nobody on The Maneater staff thought to question the masthead is an insult to our intelligence. It is offense to the LGPTQ community as well as the student body that we would find this humorous. The first thing we are exposed to in Cross Cultural Journalism, is that words have meaning, no matter the context. That basic principle has been overlooked here. I understand this is a satirical issue for the publication, but what has been done here is not satire...it is simply a flexing of the first amendment rights without due cause beyond the simple application of, "hey look what we can do." I agree this is a learning newspaper and The Maneater is discontinuing the April Fools issue, but the consequence of writing an apology letter is not enough. These egregious errors are a determent to The Maneater's reputation and I am asking that Abby Spudich step down as Managing Editor.

April 6, 2012
at 12:35 p.m.

Taylor: Since you're promising to be more thorough in your writing and fact-checking, you should know that the Safe Space Training is offered through the LGBTQ Resource Center, not the Women's Center. Again, it is five feet across the hall. Not a very promising start.

April 6, 2012
at 1:24 p.m.

Jim: You made a mistake and owned up to it. This is a great learning experience for you, even if it is through the school of hard knocks. Anyone asking for the head of this girl need to take a step back and calm down. It's a student newspaper, some of the first journalistic experience these students get. They will make mistakes. That happens. If one of you can honestly say you've never accidently offended anyone in your life, then I commend you for being one of few. She made a mistake and she owned right up to it, which takes more guts than people asking for her to step down over the anonymity of the internet. Let it go.

April 6, 2012
at 1:27 p.m.

kristen: I'm sorry but "cunt" "slut" and "whore" are words that are NEVER ok to be printed in a student publication and its a shame that you thought they were. There was nothing funny about this and this was some of the worst satire I have ever encountered in my life. You guys aren't "The Onion" (an American news satire organization) so stop trying to be funny. You guys really dropped the ball on this one.

April 6, 2012
at 1:54 p.m.

Abby Spudich: Ms. Day and Taylor, We have put in a request for the language and creating safe spaces program, and will also seek Safe Space training. Thank you for pointing this out and I will correct this to clarify.

April 6, 2012
at 2:03 p.m.

Jill: How many times are we expected to accept apologies from this newspaper? This is at least the third egregiously offensive Maneater publishing that's taken place this semester. (The first two being "Grindr lovin', had me aghast" by Emma Woodhouse, and 'Jane Eyre: Prude 'n' proud" by Claire Landsbaum.) As an MU student I cannot stress enough how sick and tired I am of hearing about what the Maneater's done now. Do you realize that every offensive, insensitive, disgusting thing you print negatively affects the image of our entire university? And our journalism school? If any of you expect to be taken seriously in the world of journalism, I'd advise that you think cautiously about what exactly you've permanently tagged your names to, and remember that future employers, and professors, and classmates, won't forget your names or this garbage you've written. Like a previous comment stated you are not the Onion. You are not the New Yorker, you are not even the Missourian. You are the Maneater. Trying to 'shock' people into reading your paper, writing 'humor' that does not translate, or having to release a letter of apology once a month doesn't bode well to increase the credibility of your product, or of you as individuals. So grow up, knock it off, and remember that you represent our university.

April 6, 2012
at 3:03 p.m.

Matt: I have never respected the Maneater, even as a "learning paper". You consistently choose to print offensive and demeaning articles and have yet to learn from your mistakes. After the flack for the "Jane Eyre" and "Grindr" articles you printed, why would you ever think it would be a good idea to make fun of these issues again? It just proves that how insincere this "news" source is. The Maneater clearly needs to reconsider their selection process for managing editor.

April 6, 2012
at 3:04 p.m.

Francie: As a Maneater alum, I find the fact that you are discontinuing a long tradition of April Fool's editions sad and unnecessary. If you didn't know what Carpet Eater meant, what did you think you were lampooning? Carpet stores? I think you knew and now you're covering your ass.

April 6, 2012
at 3:25 p.m.

gustav: There is no real reason to cancel the edition of the paper for the week of April Fool's Day of next year. Pretend you are a real news media outlet and just do your jobs. Report the news. Saturday Night Live has the comedy thing covered....so let them deal with being funny.

April 6, 2012
at 3:39 p.m.

Mark: The fact that this apology needs to be written is offensive to me. Not because I was displeased by any article in the April Fool's edition, but because no one seems to have a sense of humor or skin thicker than tissue paper. The offense that people have taken to this issue is more disgusting to me than every profanity, slur, vulgarity in the English language. Since I am so outrageously offended by other people's offense, I demand the immediate apology from everyone who claimed to be harmed, because overly-sensitive, self-righteous, sanctimonious umbrage is repulsive to me. Oh wait, that's not how things work. If you're offended by words used purely for humor's sake then your offense is completely manufactured and corresponds to nothing in the real world. Words are not inherently offensive; they are only hateful when they are intended to demean or degrade another person. As anyone with an I.Q. above 14 would be able to tell you, the April Fool's edition clearly did not use the terms maliciously, so any hurt feelings are purely the result of someone looking to be offended. If you think the word choice was childish, immature, or otherwise below the journalistic standards that the Maneater ought to adhere to, then you'll find no argument from me. If you're upset because you think the word "cunt" is always, in every circumstance, in any context whatsoever, unacceptable, then you are incalculably more immature and unprofessional and pathetic than anything contained in the April Fool's edition of the Maneater. Grow up. If you're legally an adult, you should start behaving like one.

April 6, 2012
at 4:50 p.m.

Dylan Connell: I can understand not knowing that "carpet eater" was offensive, but what about "cunt," "slut," and "whore?" Have we not all been raised to understand that those terms are offensive to women? I can't remember the last time I read "cunt" in the Onion.... It also seems strange that just about anyone, including Freshmen with about 0 journalistic experience outside of high school, can write for The Maneater. Does new staff go through any type of sensitivity training, the likes of which we receive in Cross-cultural Journalism (J2000)? If not, this entire issue just proves that it is sorely needed. All of that said, this was a very good apology, and its sincerity makes me think that The Maneater will do better in the future.

April 6, 2012
at 5:07 p.m.

Sydney Miller, ASUM: No self-respecting paper has an April Fools Edition in the first place, so, I guess this is some kind of step in the right direction. Didn't see the newsletter, but can't imagine "cunt" "slut" and "carpet eater" are acceptable to print in any context. It sounds like someone trying to be funny, failing, and having to fall back and vulgarities for page views to me.

April 6, 2012
at 5:48 p.m.

Herman: Many Maneater employees will be able to smoothly transition into politics or talk radio after becoming so proficient at apologizing for their own (or their organization's) fuck ups.

April 6, 2012
at 5:49 p.m.

Jake Sullinger: people actually read the maneater?

April 6, 2012
at 6:28 p.m.

Landon Heid: "we don’t want this to overshadow the journalistic work we do throughout the year" You could have just put that as your original April Fool's cover. Would have been more funny than the original.

April 6, 2012
at 6:29 p.m.

Jordan : I applaud the Maneater for owning up when their words caused backlash. However, if you can't take risks at a student paper, then where else can you? I know the April Fools issue offended some, but I don't believe that the writers were trying to be hurtful. Being transgressive is important; especially for our young journalists.

April 6, 2012
at 7:41 p.m.

T.: I don't think that the Maneater attempted to make some horrific jab at women, and I think that people are taking this a little more seriously than needed. However, as a journalism student, I just find the entire issue completely idiotic. The fact that this could even possibly have gotten through writers, editors, etc. absolutely amazes me. If the Maneater was a blog, maybe, but as a university student-run paper, I have no idea how this happened without someone saying something (such as, what the fuck are you thinking?) But it appears that the joke ended up being on the Maneater, and I think it's good that there is an apology letter. Next time maybe don't mention "cunt" in a school newspaper?

April 7, 2012
at 10:35 a.m.

Sara: I'm sorry. I understand this is an apology but how are you that unaware that the word "Carpetbagger" was not extremely offensive? It is sad that the people supposed to have the most knowledge of the world and it's culture can be so socially unaware of this. And also unaware that printing the word "cunt" is not satire, and if this was any other journalist they'd be shamed and fired. I understand this was supposed to be a "joke". But really, your priority is to the students you write to first. And you did not humor them, you insulted. The letter to the editor said it perfectly- "This is not journalism."

April 10, 2012
at 3:46 p.m.

Kristin T.: To Sara: The term "carpetbagger" is not the word in question here. The term is not offensive in the way the actual term in question is. Don't go off on people if you don't even know what you're talking about yourself.

April 11, 2012
at 1:20 p.m.

Andre L.: It was an April Fools edition. Lighten Up and move on. You kids obviously have nothing better to do than to beat up on your classmates. Geez

April 11, 2012
at 1:43 p.m.

Tyler James: Who knew? The first time i ever picked up a Maneater would also be the last time i would ever do that. Abby, you are right; ignorance is not an excuse. But i can't imagine you claiming and feigning ignorance at something you clearly knew it would be targeting certain marginalized groups. The very fact that you even had to apologize makes absolutely no sense, especially since this is definitely not the first time this paper has incurred the wrath of the student population, and something tells me this would not be the last too.

April 12, 2012
at 6:29 a.m.

Brian: Several have mentioned The Onion, New Yorker, and SNL as successful American satires. Those are not learning organizations, they are professional ones. An intended satire gone wrong at a student newspaper should be quickly forgiven if an apology is offered. The call for resignation is overly demanding and rude from those who took offense at something that was deliberately not intended to be taken seriously.

April 12, 2012
at 3:22 p.m.

Anonymous: I am upset to see the resignation of both editors. What I fail to understand is how is this all just the Managing Editors fault? There had to be at least one or two other people involved. You have a production manager don't you? Wouldn't they have been apart of the PRODUCTION of this April Fool's edition? And if someone else is responsible, why haven't they owned up to it yet? Isn't it killing them inside!? I'm sorry for everything that has happened in the past, and the apology is very well written and should be accepted by all! The Maneater is all good in my book.

April 13, 2012
at 1:47 p.m.

Juan Didion: I believe the preferred nomenclature is Carpet Muncher - and it's not derogatory, it's funny. As a member of the GL&B community, I support the full usage of funny language, in a funny context. It's one thing to bully and abuse someone, quite another to riff on the very real, funny and poetic qualities of our language. The lesson here is not "don't use bad words, kids" - the lesson here is "lighten up, prigs."

April 15, 2012
at 4:24 p.m.

Nassim Benchaabane: To address concerns, The Maneater has released an official apology and statement explaining how the April Fool's edition came to be and how the paper move forward. You can find the statement here: http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2012/4/12/statement-maneater-editorial-board/ Thank you, Nassim Benchaabane Forum Editor

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