There is a fine line between genuinely funny and downright tasteless, and that line is different for everyone.
No doubt by the time you’ve reached this column, you have thoroughly perused our annual April Fool’s Issue of The Bacon. I hope you had your fair share of snickers, chuckles, and guffaws. We worked hard for those laughs, spending precious overtime hours in the Beacon office crafting the silliest Bacon yet. We also worked hard to make sure we wouldn’t offend anyone. Not even ARAMARK.
Boston University’s student-run paper, The Daily Free Press, was not so conscientious. Their April Fools Issue, “The Disney Free Press”, contained Disney-themed articles that took jabs at drugs, prostitution, and rape, including a story where seven frat dwarves allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted a female BU student. Over this last week, the Internet, particularly Facebook and Twitter, has erupted with backlash against the newspaper, calling for the Editor in Chief’s resignation.
I will admit right now, I have a downright awful sense of humor. I will laugh at the most depraved, horrifying things; nothing is sacred. My personal view is: if I don’t privately laugh at everything, I’ll end up being a mess, sobbing endlessly about how awful the world is, like I used to during my pre-teen years. The key word here is “privately.” I’m well aware that my humor isn’t for everyone, and if I were less careful about who I crack my more unsavory jokes to, I’d end up making more enemies than friends.
(That being said, I’m not a big fan of rape jokes.)
Journalism (tabloids notwithstanding) is supposed to be professional. People are easily offended, and they have a right to be. Depending on how big your projected audience is, hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people (if your newspaper has an Internet presence) could be reading your articles at any moment. That’s a lot of people to offend. Alienate your audience (be it in any medium, not just journalism), and you lose them forever.
When did The Daily Free Press think that their rape and prostitution jokes were actually funny and appropriate? Did no one on their staff take a step back and think “Hey guys. Maybe, just maybe this might come back to bite us in the rear?” In light of the recent sexual assault arrests at BU, these joke articles seem particularly in poor taste.
I was astounded to learn that the Editor in Chief of The Daily Free Press’s Editor-in-Chief was a woman (Chelsea Diana). Did she think that her status as a female meant that she could get away with those kind of jokes? Who knows? What I DO know is that this blunder will follow her for the rest of her life… I wouldn’t be surprised if this debacle keeps her from ever getting a job as a real journalist.
Know your audience. Know that when you laugh, the world doesn’t always laugh with you. And keep your rape jokes to yourself, not in your fake newspaper. Or better yet, don’t make them at all.