“It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell,” Chicago Times publisher Wilbur Storey declared in 1861. Those functions are not guaranteed to please everyone, as student journalists in Springdale, Ark., have learned.
In October, the Har-Ber (High School) Herald published a story based on months of investigation after five varsity football players transferred to another high school in the same district. Students are not allowed to make such moves to play on a different athletic team. Parents of the students had written letters asking for the transfers for academic reasons. But the Herald interviewed two players who admitted on the record that they switched in pursuit of major college football offers. It was an exposé worthy of professional journalists, but it angered some people. The district’s deputy superintendent ordered the story removed from the website. (That decision was reversed last week.)
Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins, reported BuzzFeed News, had said the story would remain banned because it was “intentionally negative, demeaning, derogatory, hurtful and potentially harmful to the students addressed in those articles,” as well as “extremely divisive and disruptive” — adjectives that bear no resemblance to the careful, thorough case made by the Herald.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE