Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Battered Ram

By Shawn Healy
Rocky Mountain Collegian editor David McSwane was admonished by an independent review board for his bone-headed editorial featuring a headline that used President Bush and a four-letter word in the same banner. The Colorado State University Board of Student Communications found that McSwane violated the newspaper's code of ethics (“profane and vulgar words are not acceptable for opinion writing"), but that his actions were protected by the First Amendment. McSwane's decision to publish the editorial was deemed “unethical and unprofessional.”

I concur, and at the same time commend the wisdom of the Board of Student Communications at Colorado State. The members will without doubt face scorn for their leniency, but freedom of the press emerges triumphant.

By admonishing McSwane, the Board will hopefully teach him a valuable lesson that would have even more severe consequences in a professional newsroom, (namely, he would be out of a job and unable to pay rent). Moreover, they vindicated the First Amendment rights of student journalists, seemingly a lonely victory after a series of defeats.

McSwane's comments were concise after surviving the storm he precipitated,: “I am proud to be a student at a university that respects students’ First Amendment rights.” Let's hope he exercises them more responsibly going forward.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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