Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Courage in Student Journalism and Other Student Newspaper Awards

Back in the day. . . when I wrote for my school newspaper. . . it was a monthly. It was an after-school club. We laid things out by hand. My senior year I was the Girls' Sports Editor. (Yeah, they were boys' and girls' sports then.) My compatriot, the Boys' Sports Editor, is now Deputy Commissioner at the NBA. Hey. . . WNBA! You missed me!

But--back to reality. Nowadays, many student newspapers are written during class time, and the layout skills you need are not keylining and kerning, but web design and photoshop. Articles are published on the web as well as in hard copy, and (at least at the good papers) the news is published frequently.

I don't believe I ever wrote about last year's controversy at Dexter High School's The Squall newspaper, but it was a tempest! Essentially it came down to students writing about the real life of students at Dexter High School, and a subset of parents feeling that it was too squalid. Yes, there were intimations of SEXual innuendo (OK, that's really too strong a word--they were writing about teen pregnancy and about students "grinding" at dances), but, as noted by one of the co-editors in this article, they were not advocating for a certain type of behavior, but rather describing what was going on. I recall the principal at my high school being a heavy-handed censor, so perhaps it is not surprising that censorship is still an issue.

And that's why I am really, really sorry that I missed this award back in the fall. William C. "Kit" Moran, the Dexter High School principal, won the administrator's Courage in Student Journalism Award from the Student Press Law Center for standing by the students. (He also won the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association's Administrator of the Year Award in 2010.)

Principal Moran received the administrator award for refusing to censor The Squall despite fierce attacks from community members who claimed the paper was printing content inappropriate for its school-age audience. . . "I believe that journalism in America is crucial to our democracy," said Moran, a longtime English teacher and coach who has been principal at Dexter since 2006. "A free society needs a free press. This isn't new, but allowing this concept to be played out in high school may seem a bit radical. However, if we teach our students sound journalistic methods and ethics and allow them to act as journalists, we provide a rich and robust environment for their education." (Emphasis mine. Find the full press release here.)
That The Squall is a robust newspaper is very clear from today's release of student awards from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. They won many awards in Division III. Community High Schools' Communicator took many awards in Division IV. Kudos to both schools! Kudos also to their advisors, who are doing an excellent job.

Dexter High School winners:
Ray Carpenter, Conner Thompson, David LaMore, Nick Byma, Kelsey Heilman, Claire Berger, Travis Chaffee, Nicole Minzey, Tucker Whitley, Carly Cash, Taylor Schmidt, Sarah Molnar, Jennifer Stirling, Kaitlin Gotcher, Taylor Garcia

Community High School winners: Sarah Kerson, Mari Cohen, Eli Sugerman, Katie O'Brien, Gabriel Appel-Kraut, Murphy Austin, Jacob Garber, Liz McCubbrey, Julia DeVarti, Julia Kortberg, Brienne O'Donnell, Eliza Stein, Jordan Siden, Clare Lauer, Claire Berger, Olivia Kincaid, Jake Cinti, Kerry Fingerle, Annabel Weiner, Cooper DePriest, Kayla Stoler, Cody Pan, Ruthila Graff, Spencer MacDonald, Justine Samaha, Colleen O'Brien, Melanie Langa, Emma Share, Kyle Aaronson

(I probably missed someone or screwed up the spelling, and for that I apologize! You can read the full list here, under Newspaper Individual Contest winners.) I know that some of the other schools have good newspapers--I assume they just didn't compete. Half of life is about showing up, after all.

I will close with an excerpt from one of the first-place Community High School pieces, Sarah Kerson's "We Wore Purple. So What?" about Wear Purple Day (also known as Gay Spirit Day).
There were multiple Facebook events for Wear Purple Day, with hundreds of thousands of reported participants. The invites went out weeks before the actual event, fueling an excited buzz online.
At first, I joined in on the purple-stimulated anticipation. I invited all of my friends to the Facebook event and perused my closet for the perfect purple clothing. But as the day drew nearer, I grew more and more apprehensive: was this really it? Eight plus kids commit suicide and all we can do is coordinate our outfits? What change, if any, was this day going to bring?. . .
The kids October 20th was supposed to honor couldn’t take off their purple. They were purple. Their purple shirts were stitched into their skin. They lived with their purple every day. They were taunted and terrorized for their purple every day. They killed themselves because of the way others saw their purple. (Purple color added.)
 Read the rest of the piece here.

1 comment:

  1. According to the 5/2/2011 edition of This Week , the Ann Arbor Public School's internal brag sheet, "the Communicator, which has once again been selected as Michigan's and the Nation's Best, winning the coveted PACEMAKER Award."