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Maybe that's true. Maybe the football team notched some wins and the cheerleaders are pretty. But Globe High School is certainly not teaching its students much about good journalism — much less critical thinking.
The Papoose used to come out five or six times a year. I looked at a few years of back issues, and I was impressed. It's an attractive tabloid, with design good enough for a small college newspaper. It wins awards — including, last year, second place in "overall excellence" from the Arizona Newspaper Association's high school division. The two co-editors are serious enough about their work that both attended journalism workshops during last year's summer break.
This year, though, the Papoose has struggled. The longtime adviser retired, and last semester, the paper was stuck with a new teacher just arrived from the Philippines, a guy who made it clear he had little interest in newspapers. It didn't help that the school district auctioned off the newspaper's Macs and replaced them with a new computer system incapable of printing the newspaper's layouts, co-editors O'Neal and McLoughlin tell me.
It wasn't until December that the students managed to complete their first issue. Just getting it to the presses was something of a triumph.
It's a shame that the rest of the school never got to see it. What's even worse: O'Neal and McLoughlin tell me their next attempt at an issue didn't even get that far.
After the December 7 issue was junked, they say, they were told that the next issue would have to be vetted by no fewer than four teachers and administrators — and one school office worker. Not surprisingly, the late December issue didn't even get through half that roster before someone objected to an editorial about the Plan B "morning after" pill.
That issue has yet to be printed. (Principal Stephens denied knowing anything about its existence, much less the controversy over the Plan B editorial.) McLoughlin and O'Neal say it's no longer timely; they've given up on getting it out.
And here's the kicker. Now, the students say, the school is suggesting that its journalism class ought to help the district to publish a newsletter instead of putting out a real newspaper.
"They tried to assign us to do articles about the school and articles that could go out to the parents," McLoughlin says, rolling her eyes.
"They wanted a public relations tool," O'Neal says.
LoMonte, of the Student Press Law Center, says the students could have a decent lawsuit over the censored issues — and that there are plenty of lawyers around the country who take cases like this pro bono. God bless America, eh?
But neither editor wants to pursue it. They're getting ready to graduate, and they can't wait to get out of Globe to study journalism at Arizona State or, in O'Neal's case, perhaps, the University of Southern California.
McLoughlin says, "I want to see justice done, but . . ."
"But we only have four months left," O'Neal finishes.
I don't blame them for moving on. Still, it's unsettling that the students at Globe High School got to see plenty of commercials this year but, so far, haven't seen a single issue of their supposedly student-run newspaper.
"We are constantly being preached 'professionalism' and responsibility, but how can we be expected to perform to these standards if the boundaries are constantly being altered?"
That's the last line of Nathan O'Neal's editorial from December 7, the editorial Globe High School wasn't allowed to read. Principal Stephens may not agree, but I think it's a really good question — and it's safe to say the students aren't going to find the answer on Channel One.