At one of the plenary keynote sessions of the two organizations’ semi-annual conventions, Mr. Dan Savage had been invited to share with students the power of social media in today’s world as well as speak about the problem of bullying of gay youth, an issue all too familiar in many American schools. Mr. Savage’s comments on April 13 veered from the topic however. At a point in his speech he criticized the Bible, at times using vulgar language. An immediate consequence was that some students and advisers walked out on the speech.
NSPA and JEA consider Mr. Savage’s use of harsh language and profanity to be inappropriate and offensive to many in attendance. This is not what our organizations expected. In his attempt to denounce bullying, Mr. Savage belittled the faith of others – an action that we do not support. Ridicule of others’ faith has no place in our programs, any more than ridicule of the LGBT community would.
Student journalism, like professional journalism, is built on the foundation of free speech. It should not shy away from controversial topics and viewpoints. But it should promote and engage in civil discourse. Mr. Savage’s speech fell short of that standard, and for this our organizations apologize.
Mr. Savage has also apologized for using inappropriate language in front of the convention audience.
The two organizations will review their procedures to assure the appropriateness of content to student audiences.