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Critics Question Controversial Column In N.C. State Paper

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Potentially,

The Technician

-- N.C. State's campus newspaper -- reaches more than 16,000 students. Now critics are worried that so many eyes could see a controversial column in a recent edition.

The column in the "Viewpoint" section of the paper had some students seeing red. Student Justin White believes the column went too far.

"Even if one student reads that and it's like, 'Wow, I didn't know I can do this. I'm going to try this next time' -- that really upsets me," he said.

The column starts out with this matter-of-fact statement: "It's never a good idea to drive drunk, but sometimes there's just no way around it."

Columnist Jeff Gaither called himself an expert in drunken driving since he'd done it so much. He wrote: "If you have to take a Breathalyzer, buy yourself some time by requesting a witness, which could give you an extra 30 minutes to sober up." Gaither ends the column with: "Drunk driving is like anything else -- there are smart and stupid ways of doing it."

"This is a campus newspaper and we're learning as we go," said


's editor Rebecca Heslin.

Heslin said the column doesn't reflect the views of the paper, but it did uncover flaws in the editorial process.

"My regret is that there wasn't more discussion that went into it," she said.

"It's an audience we're trying to reach," said Craig Lloyd, spokesman for North Carolina's Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Lloyd said a column like this doesn't help reduce drunken driving accidents that claimed more than 500 victims last year statewide.

"We're coming up on the Super Bowl and other holidays, and it's cause for some concern to us," said Lloyd.

WRAL talked with the paper's faculty advisor, Bradley Wilson, who said this was a learning experience for the students and it's lead to some changes in the editorial process. He said students will have more discussion about topics and content before a column goes to print.


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