While the decline of print journalism is often blamed on a host of problems — from the loss of jobs to newspapers’ competition with online blogs and tabloids — digital journalism does have its perks.
According to the Washington Post, for instance, it helped an editor at Fauquier High School’s student newspaper, the Falconer, battle censorship for an article on drug use after the school’s principal did not allow it to run for fear it would encourage students to try the drug. The article, which covered a practice called dabbing, in which one smokes an active ingredient of marijuana off a nail, was later posted to the online outlet, Fauquier Now, and received more attention than it would have in the school’s paper.
Though schools can often censor school-sponsored publications, based on Supreme Court precedent, the article was meant to be an informative piece that would explain the drug’s effects, since the writer knew students were using it.
While the paper’s decision to turn to online publication is a smart way to resist censorship, it still points to the bigger issue of censorship in a school environment.
Administrators may feel the need to make sure a school paper delivers age-appropriate content, but it’s worth remembering students will be exposed to touchy subjects reported outside of a high school setting.
For instance, the Washington Post recently made a round-up of op-eds published in college newspapers throughout the country, with pieces ranging from being politically correct to Indiana’s religious freedom bill to quitting Facebook for privacy concerns. All are issues that high school students could weigh in on, especially since controversy is always in the media.
Though censorship shouldn’t happen in high school newspapers in the first place, it continues to be a problem in college publications.
In a major scenario that made national news in 2012, student editors of the University of Georgia’s independent student newspaper Red and Black quit after an administrative decision to hire 10 nonstudent employees to edit and censor the paper.
In addition to this Big Brother-esque situation, in 2009, the then-football coach at the University of Montana began a boycott among his team and other staff against the school’s paper, the Montana Kaimin, after a story regarding two football players’ “alleged misdeeds” was published. That same year, a campus fraternity at the University of Arizona stole over 10,000 copies of the Daily Wildcat as a way to deal with negative coverage.
While these could seem like petty complaints, they are serious threats that only support personal interests and work against the right for papers to deliver. Regardless of whether the issue is drugs or honest reports on matters that don’t make a school look so good, starting and perpetuating censorship among people honing their journalistic skills only serves to keep them from doing their jobs and to prevent readers from knowing what’s happening around them.