As the Courier celebrates 100 years of service to the community, it is a time to look back upon the many moments that have shaped the lives of the campus community.
Some of those many moments showcase the best things about journalism.
But this story isn’t about the best moments. This story is about some of the worst.
In a July 2000 issue of the Courier, four pages of coverage dedicated to professional wrestling replaced the entire section where sports are supposed to be.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The issue included a television schedule of upcoming pro wrestling events, a vocabulary of terms for those wanting to understand the “sport” and articles about different wrestling promotions, most of which aren’t even around anymore.
I guess the editors of the Courier felt it would enrich the lives of students and staff by making them more knowledgeable about people getting hit over the head with folding chairs.
The 2003-2004 school year was a very interesting year in terms of news coverage on campus. There were many issues that captivated the campus community and it was certainly a good time for sensationalism when it came to producing the paper. But before I get into the coverage, I must take the time to talk about the paper’s logo.
The logo at the top of the newspaper that year looks like a printer vomited out the words ‘Courier’ with a backwards 3 serving as the E in the word.
But aside from the horrible eye sore that was the logo, some of the coverage was memorable because of its sensationalism.
In the May 6, 2004 issue, there was a feature story with the headline ‘Campus Hit by Yawning Epidemic’, which detailed how all it takes is one person yawning to begin a chain reaction causing others to yawn in the immediate vicinity, and how this “epidemic” was affecting people on campus.
I wonder how many people on campus were enlightened by such hard news. As a matter of fact, after reading the article, I feel like the yawning epidemic is beginning to affect me.
Another interesting find from 2004 was a front-page story about how a study found the drug use among students was below the U.S. average. An interesting story for sure, but the photo illustration that was used on this front-page story, and I kid you not, was a picture of a student snorting what appears to be cocaine off of a mirror using a rolled up scantron sheet.
The story even included a survey, which found that PCC students favorite drugs were marijuana, (surprise, surprise) crystal meth, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Which makes the picture of the cocaine-snorting student even more puzzling.
Another story from that year centered around an attempted sexual assault that happened in one of the women’s restrooms on campus. A female student was involved in an attempted assault, which was thwarted, and police subsequently arrested the offender.
Now to be fair, campus safety is a serious issue and the coverage of the incident was spot on. No one deserves to feel unsafe while walking around campus.
But at what point does the coverage of a situation add to the fear?
In a later issue there was a cartoon titled “Campus Safety”, which portrayed a scantily clad young girl leaving the women’s bathroom, textbooks in hand, being followed by what I can only describe as a phantom in a black trench coat with sharp teeth and nails creeping out of the shadows to follow said girl.
If you look back on 2004, between the photo illustrations of a student breaking into a car to talk about parking safety, the coke snorting test taker and the phantoms walking around stalking students, PCC must have seemed like a very dangerous and decadent place.
In 2005 the Courier instituted a new kind of column called Sexpert…
This column involved students writing the paper with questions about sex. I don’t know what made the people answering the questions experts, or Sexperts, but some of the subject matter was extremely provocative.
One entry from Sept. 15, 2005 comes as a he said/she said exchange between two Courier staffers that remained anonymous (I wonder why).
The male writer details his displeasure about the unfair treatment of men by the sex toy industry. Just take a moment to let that sink in.
He went on to explain that the sex toy industry caters to women more than men and he is very displeased with the unfairness going on to ask the question, “Whatever happened to equal opportunity?”
He then goes on to let the male reader know that if a partner buys a sex toy that is “bigger” than they are, that they could “kiss that relationship goodbye.”
The female reporter went on to use her time advising the readers about the different kinds of sex toys and how to pick the right one for you.
At one point she talks about how the feeling of walking into an adult store is like “Walking into ‘Toys R Us’.
Another he versus she exchange from a later issue had both writers discussing the merits of oral sex.
I don’t know what exactly made these anonymous writers experts in giving advice on sexual matters, especially when it seemed like they were just pulling things out of thin air.
The fact that these writers were giving out sensitive sexual advice, but were too shy about it to include their actual names, says a great deal.
It’s not a mystery that a few weeks into the semester there was a message alerting the readers that the Sexpert column was on hiatus “while the editors review concerns expressed about the column’s content and format.”
Apparently all of that essential information about purchasing sex toys had some readers questioning the paper’s sense of taste.
When the column returned a few weeks later, the content was toned down and dealt more with dating and flirting, rather than intimate issues like sex toy envy.
Around 2006, The Courier chose to go in another bold direction.
The editors decided to separate the standard news stories from the features and put them into a section called the Flipside.
The Flipside was printed upside down forcing readers to turn the entire paper over in order to read the stories in the back half of the paper. (Get it? Flipside).
From a design standpoint it was strange because it asked the reader to do unnecessary work in order to get to the back half of the paper. It also made it feel like two separate publications that accidentally got stuck together.
If a person happened to open the wrong page, they would see one page going one way and the opposite page going another way. It’s enough to make a sane person dizzy.
Another issue from 2006 featured a front page story about the deadly H1N1 virus or Bird Flu. At the time, the Bird Flu had killed over 100 people and birds were said to be migrating toward the U.S., which was a serious deal.
But the photo that was used on the front page was a bit less serious.
The photo featured a student sitting outside, quietly studying, while a pigeon creeps up next to him. As if to say that that particular pigeon was a diseased menace that was preying on the poor defenseless student.
Another horrible idea from 2006 was a section called ‘Eye Candy’ which took a student and pimped them out to the campus.
There was usually a black and white photo with the student in a “sexy” pose.
The ages as well as a few facts about the student were listed, and there were also questions asked by the reporter.
It was a mix between a shady Craigslist ad and one of those ads in the back sections of local newspapers about escort services that might or might not be totally legal.
All in all, no publication is perfect. And for the most part, The Courier has done a fantastic job of putting together a cohesive and well thought out newspaper.
It’s been an amazing century and the hiccups along the way have been as much a part of the legacy as anything else.