Letters

Scoop Goat
I'm a former TV news reporter who is now a teacher. I've worked with a high school newspaper staff. As a reporter, I did several stories about student journalists being "denied" their First Amendment rights ("Extra Censory," A. Tacuma Roeback, August 7). And there's no question that some principals have abused their power of prior review. But as a teacher, I've found the issue isn't quite so black and white.

At most high schools, the newspaper is a class that students take for credit toward graduation. A typical newspaper class consists of students between the ages of 14 and 18. Some are highly motivated and genuinely interested in journalism. Some are mildly interested in journalism, and some are simply taking up space. All of these students will write stories. Many of those stories will appear in print. Those stories will include quotes from other students, who may not understand the consequences of saying something for public consumption.

Similarly, the newspaper adviser may be a teacher with a journalism degree and/or journalism experience. Or he may be a fresh-out-of-college English teacher with no journalism experience whatsoever. This adviser will also be teaching several other classes.

This adviser and these students will publish a newspaper that is subject to the same libel laws that apply to New Times or the Arizona Republic. If student journalists have a right to free expression, do they also have the responsibility to pay libel damages? ("Hey, Mom--can I have $100,000 for school tomorrow? I have to pay off my share of that libel judgment.")

John Kain
Phoenix

The author of the article "Extra Censory" missed the whole point and argued his case with false analogy.

First, staff writers for high school newspapers are adolescents, not adults; students, not journalists; functioning in a playschool pretend journalistic setting, not a professional work environment.

Second, the First Amendment issue is no more applicable to the high school newspaper situation than it is at New Times or any other commercial newspaper. The First Amendment protects the right of the newspaper to speak freely; not its staff members to demand that every piece they write be approved by the managing editor and printed as is. In the high school setting, the journalism teacher is the managing editor, and the principal is the publisher or CEO.

In an effort to try to create a stimulating, real-life situation in which novice student writers will be challenged to master their communication skills, we sometimes downplay that serving on the staff of a high school newspaper is really no different from taking any other English class.

Thomas Lewis
Mesa

I read with interest the feature on censorship in high school newspapers, mirroring as it does my own experiences at Apollo High School in 1990 and 1991. It was so disillusioning that it took me a long time to consider journalism as a career, and it means that I'm trying to "catch up" in the journalism program at Arizona State University. The First Amendment should apply to students as well.

Erika Jahneke
via Internet

The Racer's Edge
I enjoyed Terry Greene Sterling's column about the Mesa City Council goings-on ("Horndog Jim," August 7). I've known Jim Stapley since the early '60s when he was a hard-charging, winning race-car driver who was also handy with his fists after the races--almost a requirement in those days. In his last year of racing, he barely lost the Arizona State Championship to Harry Bechtel because the last race of the season was rained out on a Saturday at Manzanita and rescheduled for the next day, which, because of Stapley's Mormon religion, precluded him from competing. He had the talent and ability to follow other Phoenix drivers, like Bobby Ball, Art Bisch, Jimmy Bryan and Donny Davis, to the big time, but had to forgo all that because of not being able to race on Sundays.

I haven't seen or talked to Stapley for quite a few years, but if I had to choose between his veracity and that of Joan Payne, I'd take Stapley in a heartbeat. After researching and writing the column, even Greene Sterling would have to admit Payne is a couple bricks shy of a full load.

Bob Smallwood
Glendale

Trial Offer
It is interesting to note the Symington trial ("Judge Stranded," John Dougherty, August 7) can be summed up by three literary quotes:

1. Shakespeare for the defense: All's Well That Ends Well.
2. Grantland Rice for the prosecution: "For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name/He writes--not that you won or lost--but how you played the Game."

3. The verdict? The answer to the title of Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?".

The coverage? The Arizona Republic provided full transcripts of the proceedings on the Internet; John Dougherty (of New Times) proved a powerful polemicist for the prosecution; and Mark Flatten (of the Mesa Tribune) an able apologist for the defense.

To widen horizons, New Times may wish to arrange for guest columns by Dougherty in the Mesa Tribune and Flatten in New Times.

Harold Paul Sieglaff
Mesa

Med Alert
Two of the letters in New Times' August 7 issue criticizing the jail medical treatment of Damon Dreckmeier are disturbing. The letter writers deplore Dreckmeier's treatment largely because it hurts the campaign to restrict the rights of inmates--which they support.

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