All media have responsibility not to unduly offend public

Tony Venhuizen

Tony Venhuizen

Super Bowl XXXVIII was one of the best championship games ever played.

But this year’s Super Bowl will not be remembered for its explosion of offense in the second half or its last-second game-winning field goal by SDSU’s Adam Vinatieri. Super Bowl XXXVIII will be most remembered for what occurred at halftime, when Janet Jackson put a little too much of herself into the MTV-produced halftime show.

Janet Jackson’s exposure lasted for less than a second, but it was the hot topic in the media for days.

The NFL, CBS and the FCC wasted no time in condemning the action. Now some members of Congress are talking about new measures to toughen content standards in the media and impose stiffer penalties on violators.

The debate on media censorship came to SDSU as well, thanks to last week’s edition of Juice.

In the weekly supplement to the Collegian, Kara Lindquist wrote her regular sex advice column about oral sex. The column did not deal with the issue subtly; it talked about the topic in plain language.

Evening news programs on both KELO-TV and KDLT-TV aired stories on the controversial column and the reaction to such topics being discussed in the school newspaper.

Here in Pierre, where I am spending the legislative session, numerous people approached me about the topic. Every one felt that the column had been inappropriate.

I am not going to formulate perfect standards for media content in this column. I think it is very clear that Janet Jackson’s stunt was inappropriate for primetime television, especially the most watched television event of the year.

Kara Lindquist’s sex column is not so easy to judge. I believe strongly in first amendment rights, including the rights to free speech and free press. However, I also believe that the news media has a responsibility to produce content that is appropriate for its audience and within acceptable social norms.

The sex column may not have been terribly shocking to SDSU students, but it was certainly shocking to others who read the Collegian.

Government has the responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of the governed. It also has the responsibility to ensure that offensive or profane material is not widely publicized without reason.

That is why Janet Jackson’s actions were clearly over the line; there was no good reason for her to do that.

The sex column is more difficult. I personally felt that it could have addressed the same subject just as effectively in a more subtle way.

The sex column should be about giving advice to students; it should not be about drawing attention to the newspaper.

With every right comes a responsibility The Collegian, like all media outlets, has a responsibility to publish content that is not unduly offensive to its readership.

Reach Tony Venhuizen at [email protected].