Student paper self-censors articles with 'content warnings'

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • Swarthmore College’s independent student publication now places trigger warnings at the top of select news articles that could be considered offensive to some students.
  • The "content warnings" frequently appear in articles discussing statements by Donald Trump, even when Trump's actual words are not used in the story.
  • Despite the prevalence of the warnings, The Phoenix actually has an official editorial policy rejecting the use of trigger warnings.
  • Swarthmore College’s independent student publication now places trigger warnings at the top of select news articles that could be considered offensive to some students.

    For instance, one recent article published in The Phoenix about a Trump rally on campus begins with a “content warning,” saying “this article contains racial, ethnic, and anti-LGBTIQ slurs and ableist language.”

    “Content warning: this article contains racial, ethnic, and anti-LGBTIQ slurs and ableist language.”   

    [RELATED: SURVEY: Majority of profs use trigger warnings]

    The article, though, doesn’t actually mention any of these slurs explicitly, but simply reiterates the claim that slurs were allegedly used, attesting that one Trump supporter used a “xenophobic slur repeatedly” while another “asked a Black-identifying student a racially charged question repeatedly.”

    Another recent article about the school’s president denouncing Trump’s now-infamous comments about using his celebrity status to harass women begins with another “content warning” that simply states: “sexual assault.” Yet again, however, the article refrains from reproducing Trump’s comments.

    An article published Thursday discusses a visit to campus by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, again preceding the text with: “Content Warning: Sexual assault, ableist language.”

    A few different articles published over the last several months about the protests at Mizzou also begin with trigger warnings, notifying the readers that they may encounter “racial violence” in the story.

    [RELATED: American U. student gov. pres demands mandatory trigger warnings]

    Notably, The Phoenix’s own editorial policies state that the publication “does not print trigger warnings, though exceedingly graphic content will be marked as such.”

    Campus Reform reached out to The Phoenix’s editorial board to ask if it could elaborate on what constitutes “exceedingly graphic content” as well as the difference between a trigger warning and a content warning, but no response was received.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski



    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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