I would like to express my sympathy to those who have had the misfortune of reading the once humble student newspaper as of recent. In the last two months, we have been subject to such headlines: ‘Student Dies in Harrill Residence Hall’ with a view of the closed door of room 510; ‘Fiske Pleads Guilty to Murder’ and ‘Bright Student Acted Strangely’ above the picture of Andrew Krnak, wearing the orange suit of a state penn inmate. We have been the victims of not only this horrible news, but the brashness of headlines that read so in the Western Carolinian.
On the contrary, just last semester, we saw headlines such as: ‘WCU Graduate Student Dies in Accident’, with a view of the accident site including a memorial of flowers. Erica Coffey, whom I knew personally and all too briefly was the victim of a fatal car accident Labor Day Weekend just last semester. Her family and minister were forced to make an unplanned trip to Cullowhee only one week after school had started, facing the loss of their child. The headline chosen to inform us of the unfortunate news, by Seth R. Sams was respectful to the University, students, and more importantly to friends and family.
The headlines that are now gracing the front page of the our paper are news, but they have turned into what we might recognize as Tabloids from the supermarket. Western North Carolina is one of my favorite places on earth. I have chosen to live here two times in my life and have lived and visited many other places in and beyond this continent. I am finding it hard to swallow the wonderful life of a Cullowheean when I am faced with a small university newspaper that insists on sensationalizing news. The Charlotte Observer (and the largest city in the state, and my hometown) published a letter to the editor this past Sunday from citizen David Hartz regarding the recent school shootings in California and Pennsylvania. Coincidentally, I have family in both of these areas, and found the news very concerning, as the rest of the nation and the world as well as Mr. Hartz: “Thanks for downplaying school shootings: In response to ‘Girl, 14, wounds classmate in cafeteria’ and ‘Santana suspect faces murder, assuault charges’ (both March 8): I commend the Oberver for placing the Williamsport, Pa, shooting and the follow-up on the Santana school shooting on page 4A instead of on page 1A. If the TV networks would use such common sense, maybe copy-cat violence would be reduced or even eliminated.’ Mr. Hartz’s words should also be taken into consideration in the current context of university life. If I were a prospective WCU student and had read the recent headlines of our publication, I am pretty sure I would at the very least be reconsidering my undergraduate/graduate options, as my family was in agreement this past weekend.
Please keep reporting the news, just keep in mind your audience and what the paper means to them.
Sheila McCartyWCU Alumni and Graduate Student