[section_title title=Page 2]
In an age where information flows like saliva through the thick lips of Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, student journalists are now more powerful than ever before. While censorship in high school journalism may have worked in the 20th century, today’s modern world is a whole new chessboard, with the students in the clear advantage to inflict a checkmate. With the online expansion of publications such as The Huffington Post, The New York Times, TIME and The Washington Post, students now have the ability to voice their thoughts both inside and outside of the newsroom through letters to the editor, blog posts (I specifically write for The Huffington Post) and op-ed submissions. Nothing stops me from taking the same editorial censored by my school principal and putting it online for thousands to see. That’s quite scary, don’t you think Dr. Smith?
For example, in this year alone, two teens from Ann Arbor, Michigan have demonstrated the undeniable fact that “censorship is gasoline on the flame of a powerful idea.” After being denied the opportunity to publish a positively thoughtful discussion on depression in adolescents, the two teens have taken their voice not home to complain and cry, but to NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and The New York Times. By attempting to deprive students of their voice, the Michigan administrators only exposed the wound of censorship that much more, revealing to the entire world a bloody scar of resentment and poor judgment. Hazelwoodcan only regulate student voices in school-sponsored publications; It says nothing about the Internet. So, now that we are in 2014, the age of Twitter and Facebook and the ever-so-popular email, an era where words spread like wildfire, my question to you is this: is Hazelwood worth it? Is the censorship of one or two or even three articles worth the shame and public degradation that can only follow it?
Of course, this is not to say that students should be allowed to say whatever they want. With the Internet has come along new regulations regarding cyberbullying and a greater sense of responsibility. A good student journalist knows that a school newspaper is not an appropriate place to point fingers at members of the school, whether they are other students or teachers. That’s nothing more than name calling. However, schools need to come to the grim realization—grim for them, not us—that freedom of speech often crosses paths with the freedom to offend. Journalism has not been and cannot be about keeping everyone happy. Journalism is about drawing awareness to issues that would otherwise remain underground, communicating with our society and providing voices that spark intellectual debate. Schools that exercise practices such as prior review are hardly preparing their students for the world of journalism; not only do they put themselves in jeopardy, as they become responsible for what is printed in the school newspaper, but they also misguide students by forcing them to relinquish this responsibility. As long as a school newspaper or publication makes it clear that the opinions and ideas expressed in its content do not reflect the viewpoints or feelings of the school as a whole—as Gael Winds has in each and every one of our editions—student voices should be free. Are mistakes going to happen with this new level of freedom? Yes. But journalism in schools is ultimately a learning process that in the end can only create brighter and more socially aware individuals. A bylineis where all journalistic responsibility should stem from, not, as I have seen in the past two years, from an administrator’s iron fist.