The MUD issue: Tradition taken too far?

By Caitlin McHugh

Online Content Editor

In the current world of journalism, it is more important than ever for journalists to recognize the powerful impact of their writing. The Dalai Lama once said that “indirectly, writers have the power to create the happiness or the unhappiness of millions of beings.”  With the current reputation that journalists have been given by administration from the recent accusations of “fake news,” it raises question as to whether or not it is appropriate to publish a “MUD Issue” of the Canisius College newspaper, The Griffin.

What exactly is a MUD Issue? MUD stands for Moving Up Day, so this issue is a tradition that many newspapers at different universities throughout the country publish at some point during the school year. The Griffin publishes this issue as the last one of each school year. According to the current Editor-in-Chief, Janelle Harb ‘18, it is an issue the staff of the newspaper puts together that contains articles that are intended to be comical and not meant to be taken seriously. The contributors of the current paper create fake identities to attach to their stories so that there is less likelihood of readers figuring out who is responsible for their work. The content and topics reported on in MUD Issues of the paper have changed drastically over the years and it is questionable about whether or not it is time to end this tradition. Taking a look at MUD Issues that The Griffin has run in the past, and the negative view towards media instated by Donald Trump’s recent election, it must be asked if it really in the school’s best interest to keep this tradition going.

The 1960 MUD Issue of The Griffin included a statement on the bottom of the front page that read: “Happy  Moving Up Day! Don’t believe everything you read.” It included articles about made-up campus news and events that are easily recognizable as unrealistic reported stories. For example, there is an article on the second page of the issue titled “Russian Moon Photos Taken in Parking Lot,” referring to a piece of Canisius land that is a part of the moon. Many of the stories in this issue include several different campus-related characters similar to more recent editions; however, there are no instances in which any individual is blatantly made fun of and attacked.

Within the office of The Griffin, there is a cabinet containing many past issues of the newspaper. Sydney Bucholtz ‘18, the current features editor of The Griffin, shared her thoughts on the 1960 edition of The Griffin in comparison to more recent issues.

“I think that the newspaper has varied in its MUD Issue, when it’s compared to that issue from 1960,” Bucholtz said,  “but I know that journalism evolves just like people do. Granted, it seems as though the last MUD Issue published is clearly more vulgar than the one from 1960, and it is possible that some stories were printed with the intention of shock value, as some jokes are intended. But I think that other recent stories from the last MUD Issue are very funny, and that they have definitely evolved from the 1960 issue in accordance with what our generation finds to be humorous.”

There have been multiple instances in which members of the Canisius community, along with members of the local community, have been personally affected by some of the content that has been released. But the members of The Griffin think the fun of writing outweighs the consequences of potentially hurting the feelings of others.

Harb stated that she feels as though the MUD Issue is mostly for entertainment purposes, and that it is acceptable as long as nobody “takes it too seriously and gets their feelings hurt.”

As “fun” as it is for the staff to compile this issue each year, controversy arises around what is considered acceptable to include in this paper. What exactly crosses the line between fun and ethical?

According to The Society of Professional Journalists, journalists should “show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage and use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent.

Dr. Catherine Foster, The Griffin’s faculty advisor, feels that it is time to take a look at the bigger picture and consider putting an end to the tradition of the MUD Issue.

“The fact that we have a journalism program which is supposed to teach people the standards and practices of good journalism… This just seems sort of amateur today, and I wish that it stopped,” Foster said. “Even if they decided the tradition is much too valuable to lose, I think it needs some context.”

She continued, “A lot of students don’t know what it is, but how can they appreciate the humor in it? There needs to be some sort of sign post on the front page of the paper that says this is our spoof issue [where] you don’t believe anything you read in it.”

The MUD Issue is a tradition that the editors and contributors of The Griffin hold very dear to their hearts. They look forward to it every year and are constantly brainstorming different ideas to feature in it throughout the entire year, Harb shared. She expressed strong feelings about keeping the tradition alive during the duration of her position as Editor-in-Chief.

“It’s really a really special tradition to us,” Harb said. “It’s our most popular issue all year, so we print over a thousand copies.”

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Comments

  1. I understand the context and criticism of the practice. With that said, it’s a MUD issue. It’s an issue clearly marked as fake. You’re not promoting “fake news,” and if you’re nervous about offending unwilling participants, then TALK to them and clear it. Write the issue, especially now with all the fears in the world and on-campus, we NEED parody.

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