One of last year's Backpage writers, Eliza Thompson '09, just sent us this exclusive statement.
"As a former editor of the Backpage, I am very upset by the news about the Misc's decision to cancel it, and I think you should find it upsetting as well. Whether or not you thought it was funny, it attempted to poke fun at Vassar and campus life, and if you have been there longer than a week, you probably know that the school and its students often take themselves waaaay too seriously. We worked very hard for many hours to produce content that was funny and well written, and sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we didn't, but in any case, the goals behind it were simple: provide an arena for criticism and satire of Vassar life, in a paper otherwise filled with serious content. We know that all of you didn't find it funny, and that's fine--obviously two or three people cannot appeal to everyone's sense of humor at once. For example, many people find Family Guy to be very hilarious, while I find it mostly unwatchable except when I'm extremely drunk. The same is true for the Backpage. Many people have told me it was the only section of the Misc worth reading, while others thought it was not funny at all. Either way, I think its presence on campus is something worth fighting for, and not just because I used to write it.
As to why it was cancelled: One reason given is that the section does not have a byline and so seems to reflect the opinions of the paper itself. This is a legitimate problem but an easily fixable one: put the writers' names on the page (which are also inside on the masthead). This was discussed while I was there, and though I suggested it several times as a solution to the "paper's opinion" problem, nothing was ever changed. The second reason is that the Backpage supposedly generated too much controversy and received many complaints from the Vassar community. However, while I was Backpage editor, none of these emails or letters were forwarded to me, and despite my continued offers to field questions and comments from readers, the editors repeatedly told me it was unnecessary. I was never given any information about complaints except vague things like "someone didn't like that women's studies joke, no more women's studies jokes." If the section actually did generate a lot of controversy, I was never given an opportunity to address it myself, and never once saw an actual letter or email about offensive content or spoke with anyone in person.
But even if the Backpage did inspire tons of angry letters, I wonder why the current editorial board is so afraid to court controversy in its paper. That's what real journalists do, it's part of the job description. A journalist who's afraid of pissing people off is like a pilot who's afraid of heights or a drunk celebrity afraid of the paparazzi. This is not to say that the Backpage ever produced hard-hitting journalism, but the principle is still the same. If real-life editors avoided criticism and controversy in the same way that your current Misc editors do, nothing of consequence would ever be published. Even if you didn't like the Backpage, the fact that it existed at all should mean something to you, and the fact that it's being cancelled now should show you what kind of people are in charge of the school's newspaper.
Furthermore, I would like to address Brian Farkas's statement, which I found incredibly offensive. First of all, while I was editor, the Backpage was NEVER "poorly/hastily planned." Ben Grinspan and I put a lot of time and effort into the Backpage, as did the people who helped us with photos and ideas from week to week (special shout-out here to Mike Alberti for that one time we made him play Jesus), and I don't appreciate Brian's belittlement of something that we worked so hard to produce. Secondly, saying something like "thank goodness" in response is just a TAD rude. Many people spent a lot of time on the Backpage over the years, and while Brian did not find it funny and didn't like answering all these alleged complaints about it, to brush it off like that so flippantly makes me question the amount of respect Brian has for the people who helped him put his paper together. No one who disliked him as an editor-in-chief took to a website to publicly rejoice in the end of his career at the Misc.
Molly Finkelstein (your Backpage editor 04-08 and my career mentor) and I are in the process of starting a letter writing campaign in an attempt to restore the Backpage to its rightful place in the Misc. In the mean time, go ahead and send firstname.lastname@example.org an email in protest if you're interested in saving the Backpage. If you're not, that's fine, but remember that your editors are very afraid to deal with controversy and a little bit of button-pushing. If you think the Misc is going to get any better under their control, you best think again."