Web site managers at JuicyCampus.com, a controversial online gossip site, did not initially respond to a request to be interviewed for an ABC News On Campus story that first appeared last week. The story detailed the controversy generated by the gossip site, which has the self-described mission "of enabling online anonymous free speech on college campuses."
But after the story appeared, site founder Matt Ivester, who rarely does media interviews, responded and spoke with a reporter from the ABC News On Campus bureau at Syracuse University. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Where did the whole idea for the site come from?
...I wish I had some really great story about how I came up with it, but the truth is ...I knew that I wanted to start an Internet company. I was thinking that the college space would be a good fit for me since I was just a couple years out of college and, basically, because of that I'd have an advantage over people maybe with more business experience.
And, I started thinking, gosh, even two years out of college some of my favorite stories were from my college days -- just the stupid things my friends and I would do -- and it occurred to me that every day, on every college campus, every group of friends had these same great stories. So, why not create a place online where people could come together and share those stories?
OK, what do you think it is about college kids, in particular, that makes them want to share their stories with people on the Internet -- not just with their friends, not just gossiping?
Well, you know, it is a different generation. It's the Internet generation. And people are willing to put photos up on Facebook and write on each others' walls. I mean, basically, it's a logical extension of the fact that college students are spending more and more time online -- and this is the same gossip that used to happen offline. Now it's just happening online.
You mentioned how people can share their really great stories, but a lot of it's turned into not necessarily vicious gossip, but it's definitely more along the lines of "so and so is fat," "who's the sluttiest girl on campus," things like that. Was that what you had anticipated when you started?
My original idea was to create that place for the hilarious high jinks of college life and, to this day, our intention with the site is always just to have it be for fun, lighthearted gossip. Really, to the extent that anyone is using it for personal attacks or to be vicious, as you said, really isn't the intent of the site; it's a misuse of the site. But our other intent is always to create a really and truly authentic college Web site and the only way to do that is to create a place for college students where they can discuss the topics that interest them most, and in the manner that they deem appropriate.
We don't want to be censors; we don't want to be kind of playing "big brother" in deciding what is or is not appropriate for these students to be talking about.
So, a lot of the media have been focusing on the negative reactions toward your site, but what kind of positive responses have you gotten from people by giving them a place like this where they can put up what they're thinking about ?