Censorship

28Nov07

I’ve been thinking about media and perception, and the self censorship that’s gone on through a lot of the Bush administration, and I can’t help thinking that censorship in the media is a bad thing. I’m not talking foul language or nipples (though I don’t get the big deal there).

I’m talking about censoring the press, what they can write about and what they should write about.

I was the News Editor for my high school paper, which I’ll call The V, in the fall of 1998. I was being groomed to be the Editor-in-Chief the following year, so if anyone was going to get into a scuffle with the administration, it was going to be A, our then editor-in-chief and me. I was a junior, and in my world freedom of the press was an absolute constitutionally guaranteed right. I was 16, and I couldn’t drive yet. The V was paid for by my high school and printed using computers, copiers, you name it; we were owned by the school.

Freedom of the press is not guaranteed if you are under 18, and have someone to answer to, who ultimately will control whether you graduate, and who gets to approve your content. The single most annoying part of the whole publishing process at The V was how long it took to get, section editor, E-i-C, teacher, and administration approval on every single article we published.

On October 12th 1998, Matthew Sheppard was brutally murdered. Because it was important news, no matter that we were a Catholic School, we got to publish it. We were not allowed to publish a set of op-ed pieces relating to homosexuality and anti-discrimination and anti-hate crime legislation. We were fairly certain that the only reason we were even allowed the news story was because it was such big news, and we covered it as fairly and ad much detail as we could from thousands of miles away. And those are the kind of stories that win high school papers journalism awards.

And we fought that tooth and nail. There was no Blogger in 1998, (they didn’t start until 1999) and we had no way of publishing those stories outside the normal realm of the print edition of The V. But we were censored. If we printed anything that was not approved by the administration, not only would the paper be shut down, we could be suspended.

We went round with the administration a number of times that year and the following year, and in my heart I wanted to be a journalist because I wanted to be like the students at Northwestern University, who were responsible in large part for the moratorium on the death penalty while the state investigated abuses in system.

That’s what made me want to be a journalist, the idea that words on paper could change the world. An, ultimately, thats what makes me deplore censorship.

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