The never-ending fight to the death that is the Alabama-Auburn rivalry claimed some media victims in the past couple of weeks — both universities’ student newspapers.

Spawned by Auburn’s Iron Bowl victory, these two different takes on the game apparently landed the student editors in hot water with readers and led to both making public apologies. In one instance, though, I’m still not quite sure what the fuss was about.

The Auburn Plainsman ran into trouble with an editorial entitled “Bammers are in a class of their own,” which took a rather negative look at Alabama fans. Reading the editorial it’s hard to come away thinking it was completely satirical. After all, satire is a mockery or parody and use of wit to criticize behavior. While the editorial did contain some satire, it also contained some pretty clear stereotyping of Alabama fans.

(I say this as a Mississippi boy and a newspaper columnist who wishes both UA and AU well, before anyone gets upset.)

The editorial’s final line pretty well sums up the overall attitude: “So take to heart the lessons of the past four years Bama. Learn from what Updyke and the Bammers have done. And remember, just because you’re a bunch of winners doesn’t mean you can’t also be a bunch of losers.”

To their credit, though, the student journalists at the Plainsman addressed the complaints and realized that even if the editorial started as satire it may not have ended that way. It’s a good lesson for them to have learned.

What happened at the Crimson-White, however, is a bit different. Editors there ran a cartoon of an Alabama player diving into the dirt behind an Auburn player galloping for a touchdown. Above the cartoon it says “This is what happens in Obama’s America.” For some reason the editors were criticized for racism and quickly apologized.

But as they explained in their apology, the satire of the cartoon was simply the rather common occurrence of people blaming all manner of unpleasantness on President Obama. It has become a joke, even among Obama supporters to sarcastically say “Thanks Obama” when things obviously outside the president’s preview happen.

Your steak’s undercooked? Thanks Obama. Your cholesterol is too high? Thanks Obama. Your favorite football team loses… You get the point. I have certainly heard this satirical joke made hundreds of times.

But at the first cry of racism the Crimson-White editors were cowed into apologizing and even reevaluating the entire way they handle political cartoons.

“This cartoon was, by no means, intended to be racist or insulting. It was the unfortunate product of editorial oversight and a lack of a critical eye in determining possible implications the cartoon could have. This mistake will not be made again,” editor-in-chief Mazie Bryant wrote Dec. 5.

Unfortunately I’m afraid the student journalists at the Plainsman probably learned a lot more about how to handle a controversial situation than did their colleagues at the Crimson-White. I advised South Alabama’s student newspaper for 11 years, so I know student journalists are often likely to miss the mark a bit with satire, but they are also likely to face criticisms more mature readers wouldn’t make.

Part of journalism should be the ability to point out society’s foibles and to satirize the ridiculous. Backing down at the first criticism when it isn’t justified just teaches the next generation of journalists to stay on the meek-and-narrow and not to push boundaries a bit.
Our society certainly doesn’t need more journalists afraid to speak truth.

And on that note….

In a business where you deal with thousands of facts and figures every issue mistakes are bound to be made. But occasionally you really blow it, and that’s what I did in this space last week.

My rundown of local radio share numbers was the result of an improper reading of the information I had as well as an incomplete understanding of what that information was, and it had a few radio people hopping mad. For that I apologize.

What I reported on last issue was simply a trend released by Neilson Audio rather than a complete “book.” In other words, they released partial numbers along the way to putting together a complete three-month book of local ratings. What that means is the numbers weren’t complete, even though they released them, and I should have presented them that way.

The last complete book released by Neilson was for this summer. I also incorrectly ranked the stations reported on, when, in fact, stations that do not buy the service are left out of the list I received. What that means is some stations with better shares didn’t show up.

So to set the record straight, here are the summer book’s 12-plus numbers for 2013. Understand that some stations like WZEW and WNSP are not in this list because they don’t subscribe to the service.

Tops for this summer’s ratings was WBLX-FM with a 12.2 share, which follows its 12.9 share in spring. Next was WDLT-FM with a 9.1 share in summer and an 11.2 in spring. Country king WKSJ-FM came next with a 7.8 share in summer and an 11.9 in spring.

WRKH-FM landed a 7.0 share in summer and 6.4 in spring, while gospel station WGOK-AM had shares of 6.7 and 5.3 respectively. WABD-FM was at a 6.5 share for summer and 7.3 for spring.

WMXC-FM stayed steady with a 4.7 in summer and 4.3 in spring, while WAVH-FM (FMTalk 106.5) had a 3.1 in summer and 2.0 in spring. WTKX-FM from Pensacola drew a 2.6 in both books and WNTM-AM saw a 1.8 share in summer and 2.0 in spring.

I hope that rights the ship. I’ll let you know the whole story on the fall numbers when they are complete.


Updated at 11:39 a.m. Dec. 12 to clarify that non-subscribers did not appear on the original list of radio ratings used last issue.