Monday, November 28, 2005

Another barking dog muzzled

“A free press is the watchdog of a free society.
... Some extraneous barking is the price
you must pay for his service as a watchdog."
Alan Barth [1906-1979]

Administrators seized 1,800 copies of a high school newspaper in Oak Ridge, Tenn., last week because the paper contained what can only be assumed to be sensitive information that threatened national security ... What's this? Stop the presses! This just in ... the school papers were seized because they contained stories about birth control and tattoos?

Yep, the superintendent and principal at Oak Ridge High School reportedly snatched all copies of the paper from classrooms, desks and mailboxes. Why?

"The Oak Leaf's birth control article listed success rates for different methods and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department," according to an Associated Press report. It "also contained a photo of an unidentified student's tattoo."

Superintendent Tom Bailey had his reasons.

"I have a problem with the idea of putting something in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something from the parents," he said. "We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing. We've got 14-year-olds that read the newspaper."

Pay attention, now. You kids in journalism class are getting several good lessons.

First, you're learning that publishers (in this case, school administrators) often see things differently from editors, and tend to be more concerned with business and appearances than actual journalism. Get used to it.

Second, you're learning that every story is brilliant to somebody -- and loathsome to somebody else. Get used to it.

Third, you're learning that people who dismiss the "media" as trivial, obsolete, wimpy and out-of-touch will still try to control it whenever possible. Get used to it.


Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side: The idiot who gave the "liberal" vocabulary quiz could be the newspaper adviser!!

Love, Rita said...

Sounds to me like the community of Oak Ridge, TN, is taking the "head in the sand" approach to the problem of teen pregnancy. How sad. They are creating yet another generation of welfare-dependent, undereducated adults. My daughter is majoring in Mass Communication with concentration in Journalism at LSU, just completing her first semester. I want her to develop a passion for free speech and not be afraid to "rock the boat". (I personally have always LOVED large waves!)