Members of The Traveler staff insert cards with a condom attached and information about HIV/AIDS prevention into a pre-Spring Break edition of the paper.
Free Condoms in Traveler Ignite Controversy
In 1990, The Arkansas Traveler devoted its pre-Spring Break issue to health issue of AIDS. Editor Ray Minor and Managing Editor Karina Barrentine guided the reporting staff in developing a package that looked at the myths surrounding the virus that is passed primarily through sexual contact.
At the time, Spring Break for many college students meant week-long trips to beaches along the Gulf Coast and debaucherous activities. The Traveler package reminded students reminded students of the potential health dangers related to unprotected sex.
As a way of drawing attention to the package of stories, The Traveler also inserted complementary condoms in each of The Traveler issues. The gimmick drew more attention than the editors expected, overshadowing to some degree the editorial package itself. Minor was interviewed by local and state media including television reporter Steve Voorhies, left in picture at right. In their editorial to explain the issue, Minor and Barrentine had no illusions about pleasing everyone:
In this Bible-belt state, many will be convinced that The Traveler staff is going in the wrong direction for its part in the distribution of sexually-oriented materials to the campus. But after researching this issue, we discovered that other campuses distributed condoms. Campuses such as the University of Alabama and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have caught little flack about distributing condoms. We only wonder if this state will be as mature as its sister states.
Much of the campus community didn't have a chance to comment on the issue until after Spring Break, when the new editor, Steve Wilkes, took over. Wilkes, now the media advisor at the university, ran letter to the editor that took up nearly two pages. An editorial reported that about two-thirds of the letters came from non-students and clarified for readers that no state money had been spent on the condoms.
The controversy, however, was rekindled later that year when the company that manufactured the condoms recalled them because of defects.
The Arkansas Traveler, March 14, 1990.
Ibid., March 28, 1990.