Why are Mississippi State fans upset about a newspaper headline?
Mississippi State fans had reason to celebrate Saturday after the Bulldogs sealed the regular-season SEC baseball title only a year after they were ranked dead last in the conference.
But the joy of victory was short-lived for many fans and Sunday subscribers of Mississippi’s largest newspaper, The Clarion-Ledger, all thanks to a headline referencing the Bulldogs’ fierce rivalry with Ole Miss, along with the role the Rebels played in helping MSU lock down a title.
The paper is no stranger to bias accusations from both fanbases, but one fan’s cynical prediction turned prophetic when readers opened Sunday’s paper and couldn’t believe their eyes.
Then things got REAL awkward.
After hours of being on the receiving end of a rivalry-driven Twitter storm (plus a non-stop parody in the form of #ClarionLedgerHeadlines), editors from the paper took the opportunity to explain how it happened.
While it would make sense to assume the paper’s editorial staff was directly responsible for the headline, the C-L is owned by Gannett, a company which uses regional design hubs to aid the publishing process at many of its local papers.
“The headline was written by someone at our design studio in Nashville, someone who does not know the intricacies of the rivalry between the two schools,” executive editor Sam Hall wrote in a column Sunday afternoon. “The headline played off the fact that Texas A&M needed to lose for State to win the SEC crown outright. For the Aggies to lose, Ole Miss had to win. It left State fans cheering for arch-rival Ole Miss at the same time the Bulldogs were trying to seal the deal against Arkansas.”
Of course, the “Thanks, Ole Miss” joke wasn’t born in a Nashville design studio. It was a pretty popular joke leading up to the Rebels’ Saturday game against the Aggies, even getting an endorsement from a member of Mississippi State’s media relations staff after the Bulldogs won the title.
Still, sports editor Hugh Kellenberger was quick to acknowledge that not only was it not the originally intended headline, but it wasn’t “appropriate for the accomplishment” of the Bulldogs rising up from worst to first in one season.
Hall said a series of checks would be implemented to ensure his staff signed off on all content in the future, while taking the opportunity to address the ongoing theory that the paper is bound by an unspoken allegiance to one school or the other.
“We have no conspiracy against either school,” Hall, a Mississippi State alum, said. “We want Mississippi State, Ole Miss and every college in the state to succeed. When our schools succeed, it is great for our state, great for our readers and even great for business. To want to harm any of them would be asinine.”
Chances are this will all blow over by football season, but #ClarionLedgerHeadlines is still going strong.
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