‘The Rearguard’ disguises itself as the award-winning ‘Vanguard’

In an unsurprisingly tasteless move, The Rearguard decided to appropriate the Vanguard’s cover style for its latest issue. The Rearguard’s editors justify the move on their Facebook page, stating that “Someone has been throwing out issues of @therearguard and not #thevanguard…[sic] when they’re placed side by side. This has happened twice now. So a disguise is what we needed…[sic] we are going to trick the culprit. If we look like #thevanguard, they won’t know which to throw away right?”

The Rearguard’s editors are quite fortunate that our student publications are housed under the Student Media umbrella. Had this happened in the real world, the Vanguard would have most likely sued The Rearguard for violating its signature style.

Aside from The Rearguard’s blatant trademark violation, we at the Vanguard have some deeper concerns. Oftentimes, distribution racks that house the two publications sit right next to one another around campus. This is troubling to our editorial staff, as we are mortified by the thought of someone mistaking The Rearguard for the Vanguard in passing.

If someone confuses our publications at first glance, they will see a poorly designed rendition of our cover boasting a distasteful photo. This is made worse by the fact that the latest issue of The Rearguard is slated to rot on the shelf for an entire month—or more, depending on whether its organizational members take the initiative to distribute the next one.

Inside The Rearguard’s offending issue, the editors complain about their publication being thrown away before they can distribute it. Somewhat misleadingly, they imply that this is because The Rearguard is the “red-headed stepchild” of Student Media. This assertion absolves the editors from having to take any personal responsibility for their organization’s lack of a formal distribution system.

There have been at least two occasions over this past year in which issues of The Rearguard have sat beneath the sky bridge between Smith Memorial Student Union and Neuberger Hall—where they are dropped off—for weeks completely untouched. Is this the Vanguard’s fault? No, but The Rearguard’s editors appear to make a somewhat defamatory connection between the two in an editorial on page 3 of their latest issue.

“Every month [our issues are] distributed to the same location, but for some reason that’s no longer acceptable and no one thought it pertinent to tell us,” the editorial states. “The Vanguard [sic] is not getting thrown out—even though it is delivered beside us.”

Perhaps now would be a good time for The Rearguard’s editor-in-chief, Amanda Martin-Tully, to take Student Media Coordinator Reaz Mahmood up on his long-standing offer of conducting a workshop about media law and ethics for The Rearguard staff. Having actually participated in such a session, we at the Vanguard know that the consequences of defamation and intellectual property protection are both covered topics.

If the editors of The Rearguard are concerned about issues of their publication being removed from the distribution drop-off location, they should address their concern without bringing the Vanguard into it. The Vanguard’s issues don’t get removed because we have a distributor there to pick them up no more than 10 minutes after they are dropped off.

Your paper can’t be mistaken for trash if you care enough to get it on the newsstands after it prints.

While we understand that multiple structural issues and a lack of funding contribute to The Rearguard’s distribution problems, taking potshots at a fellow Student Media organization to compensate for a lack of commitment on behalf of The Rearguard staff seems to us a gross misuse of student fee money.

What is perhaps most remarkable about this is that it comes at a time when the very existence of The Rearguard as a student publication is in jeopardy. According to the publication’s mission statement, The Rearguard exists “to provide a voice for the unrecognized, oppressed, and marginalized.” We at the Vanguard find this comical when paired with the slogan plastered across the cover of this month’s issue: “Your monthly source for ridiculous nonsense.” It gets even better when you look inside.

On page 3, The Rearguard receives an endorsement from Jon Mandaville, a professor emeritus of history at Portland State. In his endorsement, Mandaville credits The Rearguard with “[keeping] the record straight.” This month’s 16-page issue of The Rearguard features stories about Priuses, Voodoo Doughnuts, and a wine and beer festival—a far cry from the marginalized voices it claims to speak for.

We at the Vanguard wonder how Mandaville feels about his endorsement showing up in an issue that boasts writer biographies as its only “news” for the month. Unless, of course, the photo collage under the heading “RIP in peace [sic] our fallen comrade, Food For Thought” is intended to be news as well.

Over this past year, we have yet to see The Rearguard make any fruitful efforts to take itself seriously or live up to its mission statement. At some point we feel they must take responsibility for the poor quality of their publication and disappointing use of student fee dollars. Rather than complain about all the hoops they have to jump through to produce their publication, the editors should acknowledge that this is the same bureaucracy all Student Media organizations must navigate in order to serve their audiences.

The Vanguard prints a 24- to 32-page issue weekly, and inside we cover legitimate news events pertaining to the PSU community. On Friday, the Vanguard’s efforts were acknowledged at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s 2014 Collegiate Newspaper Contest, where we were the proud recipients of 19 awards, including first place for general excellence.

We get that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but The Rearguard’s poor attempt to copy the Vanguard falls short of what we would recommend. If The Rearguard editors want to take a page out of the Vanguard’s book, we’d encourage them to imitate our journalistic integrity. After all, that’s what made us first in state this year.