On Wednesday, March 5, ArtShould held a PostSecret Gallery Night in the McCormick Lounge, featuring anonymously-crafted and secret-divulging postcards made by UChicago students. The Maroon covered this event (“Students Postsecrets in Public,” 3/7/14), and placed the article on the front page of last Friday’s issue. Accompanying the article was a colorful example of a PostSecret card, a large photograph reading, “I hate vegetarians.”
I understand that the purpose of PostSecret is to provide an outlet for individuals to artistically express their opinions or secrets that they only feel comfortable articulating namelessly. The Maroon’s featured photograph is a wonderful example of such a project. However, choosing to feature this specific photograph is completely inappropriate in a piece of journalism.
The student newspaper chose to inflate on their front page a picture directing hate towards members of a specific belief who are represented here on campus. Vegetarianism is a voluntary ideology and practice often grounded in morality that, in this respect, is no different than religion or political party affiliation. The featured photograph is the same in nature to one that proclaims, “I hate Christians” or “I hate Republicans.” Vibrantly displaying the message of hate towards vegetarians in journalism serves no purpose other than to be shocking and controversial, with the consequence of hurting fellow students. It adds nothing to the article but animosity.
Additionally, the Maroon article correctly states that the ArtShould Gallery was composed of secrets collected during this winter quarter, but the “I hate vegetarians” postcard was not one of the dozens on display because it’s over two years old. ArtShould first posted the secret on their tumblr account, artshouldpostsecret.tumblr.com, in November 2011, and again uploaded it to Facebook this year in an album promoting their gallery event. It was never on exhibit, and thus is not an accurate representation of the story that the Maroon covered. This fact makes the selection of the hateful postcard as the sole pictorial PostSecret example particularly egregious.
In the spirit of ethical journalism, the editors should have authentically represented the ArtShould Gallery Night by using a picture of a postcard actually featured at the event. Furthermore, the editors should never have chosen to portray—of all the dozens of PostSecret cards displayed—one that is intentionally spiteful towards a sect of their audience. It was entirely tangential to the focus of the article, which was otherwise a lovely piece highlighting the trend of campus-wide anonymous confessions and the broader goals of ArtShould. Loudly proclaiming hate on the front page of the Maroon provides a shock factor to draw in readers, but it’s not right. That’s a move for yellow journalism, not respectable journalism.
—Kristen Wacker, Class of 2017