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PSU’s Vanguard issues apology for Veer review

Posted by on March 15th, 2009 at 10:43 pm

“The statement was intended to be satirical and we apologize if it was presented in a context that made it seem otherwise.”
— Nathan Hellman, editor-in-chief of the Daily Vanguard

Nathan Hellman, editor-in-chief of Portland State University’s Daily Vanguard newspaper, has issued an apology for a harshly worded movie review they published on March 5th. The paper has also printed two letters from student groups and faculty members that objected to the review’s content and called for the paper to take action to remedy the situation.

In the review, Stover E. Harger III doled out some stinging criticisms of Veer: A documentary film about bicycling culture. Here’s a passage that many felt crossed the line (emphasis mine):

I didn’t realize I had such hatred for these people until I watched the movie, and I can’t pinpoint exactly why. All I know is I have a weird desire to make quick right hand turns in my Honda without checking the side-view mirror. Just kidding.

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After word spread about the review, Vanguard editors and the paper’s faculty advisor Judson Randall, received strongly worded letters from student groups and faculty members.

A letter signed by Peter Welte, president of the PSU Cycling Team, and Hannah Fisher, president of the Associated Students organization made it clear where they stood:

Equating cyclists to “rats in a subway tunnel” within the context of a movie review was just insulting, but what followed was completely unacceptable…

We ask then, for the following:
1) an apology from the author
2) the donation of one page for a bicycle safety campaign.

Violence on the streets, or jokes about the same, will not be tolerated. We hope that the Vanguard listens, and learns. Jobs and lives depend on it.

Another letter — signed by Ian Stude, Transportation Options Manager, Alex Accetta, Director of Campus Recreation Victoria Gilbert, Assistant Dean for College of Urban and Public Affairs — called for similar actions to be taken and then concluded with:

This is a unique opportunity for the Vanguard to rise to the occasion and prove it is capable of being a positive force in the PSU community. We strongly urge you to take appropriate action to remedy this matter in due haste.

In addition to publishing both of those letters in their entirety in the Vanguard’s March 13th edition, editor Nathan Hellman issued the following statement and apology:

…the Vanguard had no intention for the views expressed to be harmful. However, one paragraph that referenced making blind right turns while driving a car was insensitive and made light of a potentially fatal situation.

The statement was intended to be satirical and we apologize if it was presented in a context that made it seem otherwise. This paragraph should have been excised from the review, and the Vanguard regrets that it failed to do so.

BikePortland has also learned that at least two advertisers have terminated their contracts with the Vanguard in light of this situation.

On a related note, we’ve got word from PSU that a screening of Veer might be coming to campus later this spring. Stay tuned for details.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • old&slow March 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Wow, the bike community is a little thin skinned isn’t it? This was a film review by a college student, you are asking for an apology? Pretty open minded! All of the supposed bike culture here from the zoobombers to the fixie hipsters can probably get over this if they even read it? You can’t criticize the bike scene in a sarcastic way without upsetting this group? You are taking yourselves far too seriously if that is the case. I thought the review was kind of funny, I think the author was not being serious so just lighten up! The film was pretty lame!

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  • Jebus March 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Regardless of how lame the film was or how badly he panned the movie, it is his (joking) disregard for our safety and our loved ones who have suffered under a similar situation.

    I care less if he says outright that the movie is so horrible it should never see the light of day and that he hates biking more than anything else. He can even call us names if he wants. The moment he threatens my family, even jokingly, he has crossed the line.

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  • KWW March 15, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    What? No apology from Stover E. Harger III???

    It’s one thing for an editor to realize a lapse in judgement, but there is no REFUTATION OF THE RIGHT HOOK STATEMENT!

    Sure the editor says it is satirical, but in a city where where the right hook is the medium of choice for killing bicyclists, anything short of saying it was WRONG, is not an apology.

    Further, I just went back to the review, and it still has the disparaging statement!

    So for editor Nathan Hellman to say that it “should have been excised from the review” is disingenuous. The editor has a chance to remove the statement from the website, and did not. Your apology then rings hollow.

    Half an apology is no apology at all in my book.

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  • n8m March 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Glad to hear the community stepped up to make things right. PSU has consistently been a positive force in building bike-friendliness in Portland. This threatens its hard-earned reputation. Theres nothing edifying about hatred towards any people group no matter what writing style is used.

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  • wendy March 16, 2009 at 12:30 am

    “we apologize if… ”

    conditional apologies are disingenuous.

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  • John Russell March 16, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Just wait and see this student review something like Forrest Gump or Rain Man, only to finish his reviews by saying that he wouldn’t mind accidently killing someone if they happened to be a person with mental disabilities. I don’t think that would go over too well either.

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  • Haplo March 16, 2009 at 1:40 am

    I am absolutely amazed at what is going on with regards to this review of Veer. What…a bunch…of Babies. I’ve been Right Hooked. It’s scary stuff. But as far all this whining is concerned, just stop. Please. It’s embarrassing. “Bullet”. “Can….can people say Bullet? In public!? But, they can kill someone.” “Meat.” ” Oooooo……I don’t know about that one, some Vegans maaaayyyy take offense. Don’t want that now. Ungh ungh, no Sir.” “Retard.” “Now you’ve done it. I don’t even care if it’s a gradual slowing in a piece of music…..you’ve crossed a line!” Retarded Meat Bullet. Well……we may have stumbled across something here.

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  • John Wilmot March 16, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Good Lord, people. What a bunch of cry babies! Boo hoo! Somebody said something mean about a film with my friends in it. Whaaaaa!

    For the love o’ Pete, it was a movie review about a low budget film about a group that many people actively dislike. Was no one expecting ANY negative feedback? Really?

    And spare the B.S. about taking issue with the author’s right turn joke. It obviously WAS a joke, and it was just another way of saying that the subjects of the film were not very likeable, at least as presented. That’s REALLY what ticked people off. But guess what: It’s a valid criticism of a film.

    The silliest thing of all to me, though, is that the bikeportland blog not only mentioned this whole tempest in a teacup in the first place, but took sides and treated it like a major scandal. Who died, Jonathan? Who is in the hospital? Who is in jail? Who lost his job? Who even shed one little oversensitive tear? Nobody.

    Puting something creative “out there” is an INVITATION to criticism. There’s no option to get reviews only from people who think you’re as awesome as YOU think you are. That’s just how it is. So come on cry babies, grow up and deal.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt March 16, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Hey John and Old&Slow,

    For most of us, it isn’t about the review of the movie. It’s making light of the very thing that killed two members of the bike community less than a year and a half ago.

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  • 3-speeder March 16, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Re #6: To John Wilmot – Thank you for expressing your opinion.

    You clearly demonstrate that you fail to understand the key issue in this discussion.

    I’ll make a point to ignore all future comments from you on this forum.

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  • Brent March 16, 2009 at 7:32 am

    John Wilmot & Old & Slow. It is not because he didn’t like the movie that cyclists are upset. If the author had been reviewing a film about African Americans, and then said “I didn’t realize I had such hatred for these people until I watched the movie, and I can’t pinpoint exactly why. All I know is I have a weird desire to seriously injure or kill one of them,” I think people would be upset too. Encouraging people to injure or possibly kill someone just because they can be identified as a member of a social group that you hate is not a joke.

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  • frank March 16, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Thanks to the powers that be in Portland you do not even have to “hate” cyclists to kill one.

    Just make a right turn pretty much anywhere in town and you have a pretty good chance.

    Its strange how a city with “cyclists rights” forces them to remain to the right side of a right turning car or truck.

    Its a little like 1950’s America. Blacks could ride the bus as long as they stayed in the back……actually that was better because riding in the back of a bus never actually killed anyone.

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  • b March 16, 2009 at 7:48 am

    wow, the trolls have been quick to jump on this one. i’d like to know where they’re linking from.

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  • f5 March 16, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Regardless of the circumstances, but yeah I agree “Aplogize if…”, or non-apogies, are weak. VERY WEAK. However it’s what society has come to these days.

    I can’t remember the last time I heard/read “I apologize for”. It’s always “If I offended you, I apologize”, etc., etc….

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  • jamdox March 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    @Brent: Way to compare bicyclists to black people, dude. Probably the kind of self-absorbed asshattery that that moron at the PSU paper was trying to critique with his pathetic, PSU-level writing ability.

    Seriously, I saw that trailer, the movie looked dumber than shit. Revolution??? Seriously? You do know that a huge percentage of the country lives in places where the infrastructure, built up over the last 100 years, is designed for cars, making bikes impractical for the vast majority of Americans, right?

    Oops, sorry, don’t want to kill your revolutionary buzz… “I can’t afford a car, this is so great, I’m contributing, viva la revolucion!”

    Here’s my guarantee: stop accusing drivers of wanting to kill you, you’ll cut down on the number of offensive jokes you hear. I promise.

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  • K'Tesh March 16, 2009 at 9:54 am


    Thin skinned? Skin is all that all we have to protect us from cars, no metal jackets to shield us from those accidentally, or intentionally would cause us harm, or the unaware.

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  • K'Tesh March 16, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Dang, posted before proofreeding…
    loose the last “or the unaware” part.

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  • Pj March 16, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Your skin would be thin if you’d ever been right hooked. It sucks, a lot.

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  • Noelle March 16, 2009 at 10:18 am

    i would like to know the advertisers that pulled out- i dont care what they sell, i want it

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  • frank March 16, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I propose a new lane design for hybrid cars.

    They stay to the right….always….no matter the situation.

    It goes (from center) semi lane, car lane, bike lane and then a hybrid lane.

    Anyone can turn right or left from any of those lanes. You just need to check your mirrors so you can do it safely. Make sense? Of course it does!!!!

    I *feel* safer already.

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  • Haplo March 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Just throwing this out there: Dominant Monority. Here’s a link for y’all:] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominant_minority
    This is what appears to be going on in Portland as of late. The antithesis would be a “Creative Minority”, which some insist on still being.

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  • MooP March 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I fully respect and like bike culture in Portland. It is part of what makes this city cool. I do not like or agree with the review of Veer personally (I liked it and thought it was quintessentially Portland) but it is obviously not sincerely threatening. It embarrasses me that people in my circles can so easily get there Pu$$ies hurt. Brent’s comment frankly embarrasses me as a human. Not liking you is not a violation of your human rights so go move your bike to the back of the rack where it belongs. Life is maybe just a little too easy for us here in PDX.

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  • Polly March 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Hey, FYI:

    a troll is someone who goes to a forum to antagonize for fun. it is NOT someone who just happens to have a differing opinion from you guys. Jesus. “Tolerance and welcoming community,” my ass.

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  • Hart March 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    This kid wants to be a critic of cinema and he critiques the SUBJECTS of the film with the line: “I hate these people“?

    Have fun being a critic, kid. Cuz you’ll never be a filmmaker, that’s for sure.

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  • Kristen March 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    “…who just happens to have a differing opinion from YOU GUYS.”

    you know….those guys. them, over there, the ones with the blog that i never read. unless of course i want to vent my personal bitterness toward the bike community from behind the safe blue glow of my computer monitor.

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  • steve March 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I have been right hooked. I do not own a car. Does my opinion count now?

    You all are a bunch of whiny children. It was obviously a joke. Probably time for another rally, yeah?

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  • Hart March 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    You all are a bunch of whiny children. It was obviously a joke. Probably time for another rally, yeah?

    Hey, since it’s totally cool to wish harm on others now, I’ve got a right hook for you, pally. Just remember, you aren’t allowed to whine about it.

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  • Jacob March 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve found the vanguard staff generally makes anti-bike statements. There was a whole page article last fall about fixed gears focusing on trends and safety.
    Two years ago someone did a Bike VS. SUV clip and went with suv because they’re ‘Safer than your deathtrap of a fixie’

    Since when does a bad publication deserve so much attention for bad news?

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  • Jim Lee March 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    So there have been III of these Honda-driving idiots scumming up our system of higher education?

    In my day anyone with a country-club WASP moniker like that would at least have been driving a ’57 Chevy convert with several delicious babes…

    Oh, never mind!

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  • old&slow March 16, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Well I guess I will stir up the hornets nest. To all the people who called me out, I ride 5000 miles a year on our city streets and know what a right hook is. Obviously I was right about people here being thin skinned judging from the response. Do any of you have any sense of humor? I don’t think the reviewer wants to kill you. Advocating for censorship seems pretty odd coming from this media!

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  • Polly March 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    “you know….those guys. them, over there, the ones with the blog that i never read. unless of course i want to vent my personal bitterness toward the bike community from behind the safe blue glow of my computer monitor.” –Kristen

    Kristen, this is your blog now is it? Yours? And you know that I never ever read it, that I only came here this ONE TIME to call you and your friends out on the BS of calling someone with a differing opinion a troll? And your only comeback to this brief education was: “you don’t belong here”?

    WOW. Pat yourselves on the backs kids, way to bring the hate and intolerance. Good job, cyclists! Every post like Kristen’s further serves to alienate everyone else who isn’t in your club from the ‘vibrant Portland bike community.’

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  • old&slow March 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Polly, you have confused this website with one that actually relates to people who ride bikes to work, for recreation, etc. If you are not a zoobomber, tall bike rider, fixie hipster or a sprockette this site is not for you.

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  • Ken Wetherell March 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Hey, anyone want to talk about bikes?

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  • revphil March 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    whats lamer than whining online?
    whining about all the whiners online.

    But all this does bring up interesting points about media censorship and hate speech. I don’t want to restrain anyone’s expression, but just as Veer made itself a target for criticism, so too does the vanguard. Neither are beyond reproach.

    John Wilmot i take exception to your justification for negative feedback. Sure, Veer is about people who often evoke an emotional response. But just because a movie is low budget doesn’t mean anything. My professional opinion is that big budget pictures deserve more skepticism.

    Looking forward to writing, “my professional opinion” more often,

    reverend phil
    bicycle pornographer

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  • carless in pdx March 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    As an alumn, and considering how many students and faculty bicycle to school, it warms my heart to hear of the studied reaction from the administration and student groups.

    The original Veer review was very mean-spirited and outright insulting to a large percentage of students and faculty of PSU. If the author can’t differentiate between humorous wit and offensive hate-speech, perhaps he should seek another career path.

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