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The Iowa State Daily's Sidebar Mistake Accidentally Condones Rape

First Posted: 01/14/11 09:49 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

Iowa State Daily Consent

As newspaper mistakes go, this one's a whopper.

A recent sidebar on a sexual assault article in the Iowa State Daily mistakenly said it was okay to have sex with those who are asleep, unconscious, inebriated, incapacitated, debilitated or under 16.

The sidebar's header in the Daily's Jan. 12 print edition read "Who can give consent?" An editor's note appended to the online version of the article states that the header was supposed to read "Who cannot give consent?"

The Daily's error has picked up speed around the web and has been sarcastically deemed a "great moment in student journalism."

Alas, student newspaper expert Dan Reimold offers some perspective on his blog College Media Matters, saying that the error shouldn't "distract from what appears to be a well-written story and nice design."

And a reminder to the folks at the Daily -- tomorrow is a new day.

UPDATE: Daily Editor-in-Chief Jessie Opoien has appended an additional note to the article. It says in part:

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Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2011 5:17 pm | Updated: 5:46 pm, Sun Jan 16, 2011.

The Daily's sidebar mistake By Jessica Opoien, jessica.opoien@iowastatedaily.com Iowa State Daily

On Jan. 12, 2011, the Iowa State Daily published an article about the sexual assault, misconduct and harassment policy at Iowa State, written by Kaitlin York. The story, headlined in print as "Defining dangerous deeds," and online as "Understanding the policies for sexual assault," was about a very serious issue on college campuses.

The story was accompanied by three sidebars, with the intention of providing more information about sexual misconduct. However, a very unfortunate error, on our part, has made one of those sidebars infamous across the Internet. The sidebar, "Who cannot give consent?" was headlined, in print, as "Who can give consent?"

The error, of course, dramatically changed the information that was presented in the sidebar. Copy errors run in publications every day, but this was more severe than the average newspaper misprint.


This was nothing more than a mistake on our part -- not, as some online commenters have suggested, the product of someone with a sick sense of humor. Sexual misconduct is not a laughing matter, and, too often, careless jokes are made that can numb us and make us forget the seriousness of the matter. The Iowa State Daily does not condone sexual misconduct, and we do not take this issue lightly. We deeply regret any offense we may have caused.

View the note in full here.

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Filed by Leah Finnegan  |