College journalists apologize for satire

Posted: April 05, 2007

Student journalists at St. Joseph's University publicly apologized yesterday for an April Fool's newspaper that compared Jesuits to Nazis and described Cardinal Justin Rigali as gay.

Administrators at the Catholic school saw the satire as "quite offensive and disrespectful," university spokeswoman Harriet Goodheart said.

The fake stories and ads appeared in the Squawk, a parody of the Hawk student newspaper. The annual prank edition, written by departing seniors on the newspaper staff, was published March 28.

One ad featured the university's president, the Rev. Timothy Lannon, endorsing the use of condoms, saying, "I approve of this product." The Catholic Church does not approve of birth control. The fake story about Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, said he had announced he was gay.

Goodheart, asked last night about Lannon's reaction, said, "He was deeply disappointed. He found it enormously disrespectful." Lannon personally apologized to Rigali, she said.

"The cardinal accepted the apology and was appreciative that Father Lannon reached out to him," said Donna Farrell, director of communications for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. The cardinal appreciates how the university has handled the matter, she said.

On the Hawk Web site, editor-in-chief David Spain apologized at length to students, faculty and administrators.

"I take full responsibility," he wrote. " . . . I personally examined each page, article, and ad of the Squawk, and despite some of my own reservations, allowed questionably inappropriate material to be printed. For that I am deeply sorry."

He said the content of the parody had been kept secret from faculty adviser Jenny Spinner.

Spain's apology appeared along with one from students who developed and wrote the stories. Vincent Jackson, Sam Narisi and Kevin Phillips said the satire was "traditionally meant as harmless fun, but we have abused the tradition. We regret our lapse in judgment."

One person wrote the newspaper Web site to admonish, "This isn't MADtv, folks. I hope everyone associated with this debacle learned something."

St. Joseph's has an enrollment of about 7,000 students.

Goodheart could not say if the journalists would be punished by the university. She said she would not be surprised if the newspaper came under greater oversight as a result of the incident. The students have been asked to meet with Lannon and other administrators when classes resume after Easter.

"It's especially unfortunate because the Hawk is a strong student newspaper," she said. ". . .They realize they have really abused the reputation of the Hawk, and have gone beyond the boundaries of an April Fool's prank."


Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 610-313-8110 or jgammage@phillynews.com.

This article includes information from the Associated Press.

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