Every year on a given June morning, Stuyvesant students flock to the second-floor atrium and crane their necks to see the colorful displays that adorn the wall near the senior bar—a popular hangout for fourth-year students. The cause for the commotion: crush lists, a long-standing tradition whereby seniors list the crushes they’ve had since freshman year as their high-school experience comes to a close. This year, however, the lists have garnered considerable negative attention from multiple media sources, which have blown the situation out of proportion.
Though it’s been outlandishly suggested by these recent news pieces, in no way do crush lists serve as invitations for students to have sexual relations. Some crush lists may give shout-outs to people they find physically attractive—under the heading “I’d tap that”—but the heading merely clarifies the difference between the lists showing crushes, and those pointing out people whom the creators just find physically attractive.
And yet, based on the reactions of The New York Post, New York Magazine, Fox News and other publications, it would seem that Stuyvesant students are embarking on a crusade of school-wide orgies. These publications have made their points by twisting facts and quotes and otherwise taking advantage of an easily misinterpreted display by turning it into a scandal. The purpose of a newspaper or a news magazine is to report the news accurately and with journalistic integrity, not to fabricate real-life events into sensationalist stories—especially if these pieces have no purpose but to undermine the reputation of a high school and its students.
The low level of journalistic integrity displayed by these media sources is appalling. The NY Post’s article, published on June 8, 2010, and titled “’Tap’ that class at Stuy HS” presented a considerable amount of false information. This initial piece was followed by an op-ed written by Andrea Peyser, which uses the faulty information from the Post as undisputed fact to support its reasoning. Although Peyser’s article is an Opinions piece and is therefore expected to contain the author’s own take on the issue, Peyser’s points are inadequately supported by false information, and therefore teeter on the edge of slander.
The Post’s first article states “Students […] were encouraged to create displays listing classmates they considered the sexiest.” The use of the word “encouraged” implies that crush lists are a school-sponsored activity. But crush lists are a decades-old student-organized tradition. Students may have been “encouraged” to make lists by the Stuyvesant Class of 2010 Facebook group, but that was merely a means for the senior class to publicize the event. Furthermore, the Post seems to have missed the meaning of what a crush list is. It is not a competition over who the most attractive students are. Rather, it is a confession of one’s own crushes over the past four years—a cathartic process of sorts. The Post goes further, using the phrase “pent-up desire” to refer to the unfulfilled lust that students supposedly express in crush lists—taking far too much freedom in their interpretation than is appropriate for a news piece.
The article provides sparse evidence for its bold claims. The only clear support it could summon regarding negative reactions to crush lists was from an elusive “one teacher” who stated that he or she would do away with the “I’d Tap that” category that appeared on some students’ lists. Aside from the softness of this quote, it is unattributed to anyone in particular, putting its validity in question. And given the vast number of teachers at Stuyvesant, mustering up only one anonymous quote from a teacher is pitiful.
The Post uses student Ali Greenberg’s otherwise positive quote to portray the crush lists as “out of whack.” The Post’s assertion is followed by Greenberg’s confession that “[to say I’d tap that is] a little bit awkward.” The only other individual quoted in the article was 18-year-old Adam Macomb, a student who did not participate in the listings and said that he thought the lists were “completely harmless.” If the Post had a valid point to make, it should be easier for them to find students and teachers who agree with them as well as students who are more involved in the issue.
The Post’s follow-up—an op-ed by Andrea Peyser—violates guidelines of journalistic integrity even more egregiously.
Peyser begins her piece with a reference to some senior class days such as “Pajama Day,” and then introduces something she calls “Tap Day” as being in the same category of theme days at the school. She sets off the “Tap Day” from the rest of the article with dramatic double spacing and quotes that are not attributed to anyone in particular. There’s only one problem, Ms. Peyser: “Tap Day” does not exist.
She goes on to fabricate facts several more times, presenting multiple anonymous sources and completely failing to cite others. She quotes an anonymous teacher (with no mention for a desire to maintain anonymity) as saying, in regards to crush lists: “It’s horrible! […] I see kids crying, kids passing out. They laugh. It’s always the girls.” Aside from the convoluted language in that quote, no Stuyvesant student to our knowledge has ever cried, except from laughing, or passed out as a result of crush lists.
In the second to last paragraph, Peyser also introduces “Natalie”, unaccompanied by any kind of title or a last name, thereby discrediting the girl’s quote and making us wonder if any fact-checking at all takes place at the NY Post.
Peyser qualifies the listing of students of the same sex on crush lists as “homophobic ribbing,” and then claims this is done to “brand them as gay or torture them.” This accusation, possibly the most undeserved in any of the articles, is perhaps most clearly refuted by the carnival celebration of Gay Day in the school’s first floor atrium the day after the article was published. Straight students who list members of their gender on their crush lists do so to give shout-outs to their friends, not to engage in homophobia.
Furthermore, Peyser takes jabs at Stuyvesant students’ reputation for geekiness, mentioning “nerdy graduating seniors,” and a “dog-fondle-dog mentality.” She implies that intelligence and an ability to have successful relationships—or even crushes—cannot coexist, a gratuitous and unprofessional insult on her part.
Aside from its journalistic blunders, the Post also distorts the slang used by Stuyvesant students, who, as teenagers, implement today’s adolescent vernacular. Phrases such as “tap that” should not be taken any more literally than other expressions that have been used as comic euphemisms for centuries.
Crush lists, when taken outlandishly out of context, can seem crude and inappropriate. Newspapers have used this vulnerability to turn a perfectly harmless practice into a gossip-worthy scandal, resulting in the probable prohibition of the long-standing Stuyvesant tradition for next year’s senior class.
But what could the reporters who wrote these pieces have possibly gained from publishing clueless, below-the-belt and slanderous pieces, besides the chance to make snide remarks about students half their ages? Their journalistic reputation has dwindled even more. Regardless of what tabloids choose to print about our school, attempting to tarnish our reputation—with gratuitously long “cuddle puddle” features, for example—we at least maintain a sense of unity in the face of crass and sensationalist “news” pieces.