Photo run in The State News sparks outrage, prompting apology
The State News sparked outrage Monday in MSU’s community after publishing a photo of a black male with both middle fingers in the air, juxtaposed with the headline “‘Annual Step Show’ celebrates West African traditions, culture.”
The man pictured was among those celebrating the victory of Omega Psi Phi in the step competition, which took place on Saturday and was hosted by the National Pan-Hellenic Council. He, and others centrally pictured, belong to non-MSU chapters of Omega Psi Phi, president of the MSU chapter and applied engineering sciences senior Je’Qua Halliburton said.
Readers and community members took to Twitter to announce their distaste and disappointment at the picture’s publishing and the coverage of the event.
Many were frustrated the picture was chosen and that it had made it through several levels of editors to, ultimately, be printed and sent across campus.
Members of the black community on campus carried hundreds of that day’s edition to The State News newsroom in disapproval of the choice to publish the photo and to show that, although the photo was removed from the news outlet’s website, there still were thousands of papers circulating and something more had to be done to rectify the situation.
Their demands included a better apology than the one issued on Twitter, public apologies from all involved, a retraction of the photo from the site and a greater mention of the sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, that also won at the competition but was only mentioned at the story’s end.
Journalism senior and president of Alpha Phi Alpha Tyler Clifford, who was among those in talks at the offices, said not only was the photo a misrepresentation of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, but it also portrayed the black community and MSU students in a negative light.
Clifford said that as an organization that claims to be a voice for all students, The State News shouldn’t marginalize minorities and perpetuate stereotypes of them, which, he said, the story and photo did.
With Omega Psi Phi participating in a charity event for the United Negro College Fund on Friday and then going on to share a win at the step contest Saturday, Halliburton said the photo ran counter to everything his fraternity had worked for.
“For us to have worked so hard and put in so much effort, for it to end like that, it kind of kills my morale,” Halliburton said.
Omega Psi Phi vice president and food industry management junior Edward Davis said the picture perpetuates negative stereotypes of black males and portrays them as thugs and hoodlums.
“We do a lot of positive things, and I feel like that picture did a lot to bring down the image of black males on campus,” Davis said. “It contributes to the same negative image that everyone tries to have.”
In attempts to reconcile the error made, The State News is issuing an apology, republishing different photos from the event and re-running a column written by Black Student Alliance President Rashad Timmons on Tuesday’s opinion page as the first steps in a series to better address the concerns of the black community here at MSU.
In the original article, it was incorrectly stated that Tyler Clifford was the president of Phi Alpha. The correct name is Alpha Phi Alpha, and the online article has been changed to reflect this.