Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Fucking With McSwane

Once again, David McSwane is the most talked-about student journalist in the country. But rather than saluting his enterprise with awards, this time the prudey-pants professionals are tsk-tsking the editor of the Colorado State University newspaper for this shocker: He published an editorial with the headline:"Fuck Bush."

If you can't print profanity in a college paper, where can you print it? (Beyond Westword, of course.) And it's not as though people in conversations around the country -- and beyond -- aren't expressing the same sentiment, often in the same words.

Although mainstream media outlets were quick to jump on the "Fuck Bush" story, few reports have gone into much depth on McSwane's exceptional career, in which he's displayed that he's far more inclined to get a story the hard way -- by pound-the-pavement reporting -- as with an easy "fuck." When he was a senior in high school, he went undercover as a pot-smoking potential Army recruit to show just how eager the Armed Services were to find live bodies; he's seen here with one of the recruiters he encountered. His story for Westwinds, the Arvada school paper, not only earned him a prestigious Investigative Reporters & Editors award, but also inspired the military's May 2005 "Stand-Down Day."

That event was supposed to serve as a refresher course on ethics for recruiters. But as McSwane showed in "An Army of Anyone," a Westword feature published two years ago, some over-eager recruiters failed to get the message. That article, too, was honored with an IRE award.

McSwane's fate as editor of the CSU paper will likely be determined at a meeting on September 26. No matter what happens to his career in the short term, though, one thing is certain: He's exactly the kind of journalist this profession needs if it is going to not only survive, but thrive. -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun