Oh, how the worm has turned for J. David McSwane. Last year, as outlined in this More Messages column, McSwane, the editor for Colorado State University's Rocky Mountain Collegian, wound up as a coast-to-coast whipping boy thanks to his part in the decision to publish an oversized, two-word editorial: "FUCK BUSH." Then, this past January, word surfaced that CSU decision-makers were thinking about peddling the Collegian to Gannett, among the country's most prominent newspaper firms -- and most observers saw the McSwane controversy as a likely impetus for this possible move. (Click here for the Message on that topic.) In the end, though, sale negotiations died in the cradle -- and now, McSwane has been named one of the top 100 student journalists in the country.
This determination was made by UWire, which is described on its website as "a community-driven service devoted to the needs of student journalists. Our aim is to identify and promote the brightest young content creators and deliver their work to a larger audience." To that end, the organization solicited nominations from student journos' peers and advisers across the country, with emphasis given to candidates' "potential to shape the media industry in the years ahead," and McSwane made the final cut.
The UWire page touting this accomplishment includes comments from Collegian visual editor Aaron Montoya, who calls McSwane "a steadfast leader who bore the brunt of the harsh backlash" over the "FUCK BUSH" brouhaha even as he stood firm for his publication's First Amendment rights. More telling, though, are complimentary blurbs from two CSU journalism instructors, including Professor Anne Merline, who writes the following:
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David has sparked many levels of community in dialogue about American culture and values. It is something that few of us can effectively do. As an instructor, I wish I could do for my students what David has done for all of us. The issues that he has taken responsibility for has people talking about issues that affect us all. It has brought the conversation from campuses in Colorado to a broader understanding of what Americans should stand up for to the national and international level.
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Standing silent does not lend its way to human progress, and perhaps it will take several young leaders like David to get us all involved in conversation as a nation as we tackle the most basic of political rights and the most important social goal: human understanding through the process of communication.
Granted, plenty of folks would disagree with this assessment of McSwane. But he's shown throughout his career as a student scribe writing for a number of publications, including Westword, that he won't let such criticism silence him -- and the folks at UWire are clearly interested in what he'll do next. As we all should be. -- Michael Roberts