Student journalist causes controversy
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 03:02
When Cassidi Bush, a University of Southern Mississippi student and staff writer at the Laurel-Leader Call covered the same-sex wedding ceremony of Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven, she did not foresee the whirlwind of negative and positive reactions that would follow both locally and globally.
“I was just doing my job,” Bush said.
Bush’s article, titled “Historic Wedding,” was published on the front page of the community newspaper on Feb. 7 and first received attention and backlash from subscribers in the Jones County area.
A post regarding the article on the Leader-Call’s Facebook page has more than 200 comments. Many were showing support, but some commenters reacted negatively to the article. One commenter said it was “insulting” to see the news in her local newspaper.
“One of the most surprising comments was a lady that questioned my faith,” Bush said. “They said if you were a Christian you would have known better. I don’t think it had anything to do with my faith. It had to do with my job.”
Bush noted that she has written articles on topics such as child exploitation that have made the front page with little to no reaction, yet this article sparked a lot of backlash.
Jennifer Lowe, a staff writer at the Laurel-Leader Call, witnessed the backlash that Bush and the paper received following publication.
“It was disappointing to see the reactions that Jones County had,” Lowe said. “It’s unfortunate that people responded that way because Cassidi was just doing her job.”
Bush said Laurel Leader-Call lost about 40 subscriptions since the article was published, but they have gained around 200 since the paper received national attention.
Bush, a senior broadcast journalism major, believes that her journalism training at USM influenced her when writing the article. She also felt it was important to keep her personal opinions separate from her work.
“Southern [Miss] has taught me how to be objective about my opinions, and a lot of my teachers focus on ethics and objectivity,” Bush said. “It’s not my job to sift through things I like and dislike. It’s my job to report the news, whether people agree with or not. There is always going to be somebody who disagrees.”
Deep South Progressive, a blog run by USM student Ashton Pittman, first brought greater attention to the article. Pittman’s blog post was tweeted by Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC television show host. After this, the article went viral and was featured on CNN, Yahoo, Gawker, MSN and even Perez Hilton.
Bush is shocked at the amount of coverage her article has received.
“It’s been really crazy,” Bush said. “This is not a story that I would have ever dreamed would get my name out there.”
Because of the international coverage of her story, Bush has received hundreds of emails of support, some even from abroad. She has received emails from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, Iceland, Belgium and Canada.
Bush said the emails were from the LGBT community as well as heterosexual supporters.
“I also received emails from fellow journalists and scholars who supported our journalistic integrity at the Laurel-Leader Call,” Bush said. “That meant a lot.”