Sometimes we, the media, get carried away and blow stories out of proportion. From the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding scandal to that trial in Los Angeles (I vowed never to say the name in my column), there has been a trend to sensationalize the news. The Arizona Daily Wildcat has even done it a couple times, such as the front-page story about the Naked Man (even though he argued that one thing was not blown to proportion). But I never really thought about the issue until I was the victim of a media conspiracy. Here is my story.
The other day I was walking out of the Wildcat newsroom when I was suddenly blinded by a white light. At first I thought I was having a Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown experience, but as my eyes began to refocus, I saw the photo editor holding his camera.
"This photo is going to be on the cover of the new 1995-96 Student Directory," he said with a smile. "Look behind you."
I turned around and there was a woman about four steps behind me. She was carrying a basket of red flowers.
"What's with the flowers?" I asked.
"They're sleeping poppies just like the ones in the 'Wizard of Oz,'" she said as she shoved them in my face.
I don't know how long I slept, but when I woke up I found a copy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat by my side. The top headline proclaimed "Suggested directory cover gets everyone upset." I turned on the television in the office and saw the picture on the screen with the announcer saying "UA employees are appalled by this shocking photo ." Then the local newspapers began to call asking me questions like "How does it feel to be a complete jerkface?" My aunt from Virginia called me and told me she didn't love me anymore. All of this controversy over a picture on the student directory cover. All over a picture completely open to interpretation.
Anyway, to make a long story short the day culminated with an angry mob armed with pitchforks and torches chasing me up to the top of the Student Union clock tower.
"Down with the Opinions Boy!" they chanted as they waved their pitchforks and torches.
"Listen people, I sense a little tension," I yelled down. "I'll admit the directory cover wasn't the greatest, but there's a lot of other more important women's issues on campus. Did you notice how the Wildcat got a slew of letters about the directory cover, but not one about the report that 40 percent of all UA female employees are sexually harassed ("Survey reveals harassment on campus," Nov. 2)? I'm not a woman, but then again I'm not Papa Patriarchy. It's your right to complain about the cover, but my question is Ä what are you going to do about it? How are you going to break down sexist stereotypes? Merely writing letters doesn't cut it because the words in your letters are like the ones in my column Ä here today, but forgotten within a week. This directory cover is merely media fodder for a day."
After my speech, the crowd stood in silence.
"Whoa," said a crowd member. "This column got really heavy, really quick. I never realized how words in the newspapers can be like dust in the wind."
"How did he do that thing with the parentheses in the middle of his impassioned speech? Let's leave him alone," said another crowd member.
"Burn him! He always misquotes us!" yelled the administrator. The crowd began to disperse anyway.
As people were putting down their pitchforks and extinguishing their torches, I saw the photo editor taking pictures. I ran over to him.
"You!" I screamed as I shook his shirt collar. "Who's behind this? What did they offer you? Gold? Silver? A UA parking permit?"
The photo editor looked down at his feet. He reached into his shirt pocket.
"He gave me these magic beans," said the photo editor as he held three beans in the palm of his hand.
"Who is he?" I asked. The photo editor whispered the name in my ear. I was shocked.
I stormed down to the Wildcat offices and found the news editor behind his desk rubbing his hands together and muttering, "My plan is coming to fruition."
I went over to his desk and asked,"Why did you start this insanity?"
"I was bored," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "Y' know with all these letters about administrators and boring articles, I was afraid we were becoming dull. So, I concocted a sinister scheme to get more readers. How do I justify my actions? Well, sir, I blame society."
The news editor then crawled into the fetal position under his desk. The phone rang. One of the reporters picked it up.
"Hey Jon," said the reporter. "This caller says that the photo editor is being chased around the UA Mall by a 50-foot giant screaming about some goose that lays golden eggs."
"Doesn't really sound like a good news story," I said. "How about we start running more in-depth pieces on the UA bureaucracy?"
"But the caller claims that the giant is only wearing a loincloth," the reporter said.
I jumped on the news desk, picked up a nearby sword and yelled, "I want photos! I want emotion! Fire up the presses! I see the headline now Ä HALF-NAKED GIANT TERRORIZES UA STUDENT! Can we blame the administration for unleashing this giant? What does the giant think of core curriculum? Move! I want comments!"
Ä You didn't really think I was going to learn a lesson, did ya?
Jon Burstein is a journalism and political science senior. The other day he was kicked out of the Tucson Mall's Everything's a Dollar store because he kept on picking items off the shelf and asking the clerk, "This item doesn't have a price tag. How much does it cost?"
Read Next Article