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Maneater editor resigns after fallout from April Fools' edition

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | 8:01 p.m. CDT; updated 3:34 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Poynter.org.

COLUMBIA — It's been a tough year for collegiate newspapers. In recent months, a recurring theme has been for student editors to step down after journalistic missteps.

Among them is Abby Spudich, managing editor of MU's campus newspaper, The Maneater. Spudich, a sophomore, resigned Tuesday morning after criticism about the April 1 edition, which many people considered offensive. The fallout has been covered by news outlets including The Huffington Post and The Kansas City Star

"After the April Fools' edition, I thought immediately of resigning," Spudich said. "There has been a precedent for that in recent, similar issues." 

Spudich's decision follows those of editors at student newspapers at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Iowa and Boston University. 

Recent incidents

Earlier this year, Devon Edwards, managing editor of Onward State at Pennsylvania State University, submitted his letter of resignation after prematurely tweeting the death of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. 

According to journalism institute arm Poynter.org,* Onward State initially reported Paterno's death saying the information had been sent to the football team via email. The student news website quickly became unreachable, presumably because of the amount of traffic being directed to the site. 

In March, the University of Iowa's independent student publication  The Daily Iowan published a story about an increase of meth burn cases being treated at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

According to an Iowa City Patch article, the student publication featured photographs of people who were not meth burn victims treated at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, but inmates at the Johnson County Jail who had methamphetamine-related charges. 

The hospital's concern was that readers might have inferred they had been treated at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, according to the Iowa City Patch article. 

The Daily Iowan published a correction the next day, but editor-in-chief Adam Sullivan resigned shortly thereafter. 

Similar to The Maneater's current situation, editor-in-chief Chelsea Diana of Boston University's independent student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, resigned from her position after an April Fools' edition appeared to mock rape and drug crimes, according to an article by The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post reported that the mock newspaper, titled "The Disney Free Press," reported on the false arrest of  "seven frat dwarves" for allegedly drugging and raping a woman known as "the fairest of them all."

Although the stories were meant as jokes, "simply writing them perpetuated rape culture," Diana stated in her apology.

The Maneater's case

After the publication of the April Fools' edition, The Maneater faced criticism from around campus and Columbia. The issue replaced the publication's name with "The Carpeteater," a vulgar reference to lesbians, and featured derogatory and profane language.

Reader response has included a published letter to the editor with 234 signatures stating that the issue was "a highly offensive and poorly constructed attempt at satire." 

The issue also included paid advertisements, which are traditionally left out of the annual April Fools' edition.

Garry Lewis Properties published a full-page advertisement in The Maneater stating it "did not pay to be and was not intentionally placed inside of the unmentionably titled wraparound section of the paper," according to the advertisement in the April 6 issue. 

After the publication and in the wake of reader response, Spudich issued a letter of apology Friday. In the apology she said the issue was "incredibly offensive and potentially damaging to the social climate at MU" and has "spread negativity and hurt toward marginalized groups."

Spudich said Tuesday that after writing the letter, she received mixed responses from the community.

"In the end, I thought the best thing to do would be to take my name and disassociate it from The Maneater," she said.

Initially, she planned to finish the semester as managing editor and engage with the community about the publication from her leadership position, Spudich said. 

Editor-in-Chief Travis Cornejo said in a statement to the Missourian that it was upsetting it needed to come to that. 

"However, I realize it is what Abby thought was best. Throughout the past week, I have communicated to her many times that she has my support in whatever decisions she makes," Cornejo said in his statement. "Considering how quickly this is all happening, the next few days will be confusing."

He said the MU Student Publications Committee was meeting Tuesday to discuss the April Fools' issue. The board is a committee appointed by the chancellor to "recommend to the vice chancellor for Student Affairs policies and regulations regarding the publication of the Maneater," according to the committee website.

With her resignation behind her, Spudich is reflecting on whether to pursue a journalism career in the future. 

"People have been supportive in telling me that I shouldn't give up," Spudich said. "But, I am hoping to consult with an unbiased person working in journalism now to give me an unbiased opinion on whether or not they would choose to hire me after this."

Spudich is taking full responsibility for the criticism, saying she was "the last set of eyes" to see the issue.

"It was my responsibility in the end," Spudich said. "As an editor, all of that was under my control." 

Next year's April Fools' edition of the Maneater has been canceled. 


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Comments

mike mentor April 11, 2012 | 8:37 a.m.

The edition was offensive and untrue?
Nothing to fear Abby!
There is only one company you need worry about having a problem with being offensive and untrue!!!
I think CNN and MSNBC are fighting over you right now...

(Report Comment)
Chris Cady April 11, 2012 | 10:33 p.m.

I'll be the first to say that crude humor is a cop-out, and it's a lot more work to write sophisticated stuff. On the other hand, the April Fools edition was edgy 25 years ago when I was in school. So what? Has everyone lost their sense of humor? Geez.

(Report Comment)

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