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No reason for the condom picture on the front page

By Scott Tibbs, November 15, 2011

Note: I sent this letter to the editor last Monday.

Why did the Indiana Daily Student feel it necessary to put a large picture of a used condom on the front page of the November 4 print edition? What purpose did it serve? Was it informative to the reader? Did it help the reader understand the story? Or was the condom simply there for shock value? I think we all know the answer to that question.

The IDS is consistently seen as one of the best student newspapers in the country. The IDS often covers issues faster and more thoroughly than the main newspaper for the area, the Herald-Times. The IDS is usually more balanced than the H-T. There are a lot of professional newspapers that could learn from the IDS.

But putting a large picture of a used condom on the front page of the newspaper is an example of a bad habit at the IDS: The propensity to be offensive for no good journalistic purpose. The "F Word" was used eight times in a six month period in 2010. This is not new: the IDS published a how-to guide for anal sex on the opinion page in 1997.

This is a newspaper that is not confined to the IU campus. There are multiple newspaper boxes throughout downtown as well as stacks of newspapers distributed at stores around Bloomington. Did you think of the embarrassed parents who were asked by their children what the bright pink item on the front page of the newspaper was? This picture was not only on the front page, but prominently featured above the fold.

I've said this before, but it is worth repeating. Writers for the IDS (for the most part) are looking for a career in journalism. If a human resources manager at a newspaper sees that the person designing the front page of one of the most prominent college papers in the country placed a picture of a used condom in a prominent position on the front page, how do you think that will impact your chances of getting a job? This indicates a lack of maturity and will not help.