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Saturday, March 31, 2007

State Senate Edits High School Journalists Out of Student Press Bill

posted by on March 31 at 1:36 AM

Bad news for student journalists: The student press bill was gutted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. High school students are no longer included in the bill. Only college journalists are protected from censorship.

Earlier this week, I wrote a column supporting the original bill—which granted full First Amendment rights to both high school and college reporters. Specifically, the column criticized The Seattle Times for its lengthy March 25 editorial against the bill— where they got the basic facts wrong. I’ve also written several Slog posts, like this one, in support of the bill throughout the session.

Rather than saying anything more, I’m publishing the statements issued today by: Kathy Schrier (President of the WA Journalism Education Association); Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-33), the sponsor; and Brian Schraum (the student who brought the idea for the bill to Rep. Upthegrove.)

Here’s an excerpt from WSU student Schraum’s statement:

…the professional press share a part of the blame. Several newspapers, most notably the Seattle Times, editorialized against HB 1307. While I expected the paid administrator lobbyists to work actively against us, I really did expect better from the Times. I never thought I’d see the day when government censors and professional journalists would join hands against a free press – but the Seattle Times has exceeded my expectations.

Perhaps the greatest, scariest lesson I have learned from this process is not about the student press. It’s about the professional press, and the sad state of affairs this country is in when not even journalists will stand up for the First Amendment.

The Democrats outnumber the Republicans 5-3 on the committee. I’ll check in with bill sponsor Upthegrove to get his take on which Dems abandoned his bill. Rep. Upthegrove’s bill passed the House 58-37 on March 12.

RSS icon Comments

1

As someone who was at the Senate judicial committee meeting, it was Rodney Tom who abandoned the bill for the Democrats. He was swayed by lobbyists for the principals association.

Posted by Run... | March 31, 2007 5:11 AM
2

The editorial page of the Seattle Times is pure shit, as witness the letter they published from Rick Thomas of Woodinville about last year's murders at a Capitol Hill rave. You can check it out at


http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=tuelets27&date=20070327


it's truly vile.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | March 31, 2007 5:32 AM
3

During House debate, the Republicans kept talking about how "in the real world" editors and publishers won't just publish any old thing, and that it's such an important life lesson for budding young journalists to be censored. Never mind any principles about public money being used or the legal precedents Feit has admirably laid out this session.

It's like they were saying, "In the real world there are assholes, and we're going to make sure you undersand that, because WE are those assholes." Way to inspire young people. It would be disappointing to find out that the poster at #1 is correct (not disputing it, just waiting for another confirmation.)

Schraum's point about how too many working journalists don't defend the First Amendment is an important one. You'd think during an administration that regularly fosters the idea that reporting contrary facts is treasonous, more working journalists would take a stand.

Posted by stilwell | March 31, 2007 8:05 AM
4

I totally agree that the Tinker standard should be upheld, but I also have this to say. If you're sick of the principal censoring your student newspaper, start up one that isn't school sponsored. There were two such newspapers in my high school, one of which I cofounded, and the only restriction the school could place on us was that we could only distribute it between classes and at lunch. It wasn't expensive, but we sure as hell got a lot more attention than the official school newspaper.

Posted by Gitai | March 31, 2007 9:34 AM
5

Hopefully, this will get fixed, assuming the bill passes the full Senate and goes to conference.

And just to address one of Mr. Schraum's comments, SOME members of the professional press HAVE been taking a stand in favor of the First Ammendment; SB 5358, which passed with a 41-7 bi-partisan vote earlier this month would shield reporters from revealing confidential sources under threat of prosecution. A similar bill passed unanimously through the State House & some minor tweaking is expected to reconcile the two bills before it is passed on to Gov. Gregoire, who has indicated she will sign it.

I should point out, this legislation was conceived, formulated and presented by members of AFTRA, which represents, among others, journalists in the broadcast media, although it also had the support of the Newspaper Guild, as well as receiving a unanimous endorsement from the Washington State Labor Council.

Unfortunately, rank-and-file working journalists don't normally have much sway on editorial boards, but I do know, from discussions I've had with my members, that the issue of student journalist censorship is not one they take lightly, and for some of the same reasons to which Mr. Schraum alludes.

Posted by COMTE | March 31, 2007 10:31 AM
6

Later in the statement:

" It would be unfair, however, not to credit those many professional journalists who supported us all the way. The Seattle P-I, The News Tribune, USA Today, and the Spokesman-Review deserve a very special and heartfelt thanks. Their willingness to go to bat for students, and their refusal to accept the quick and easy “principal-as-publisher” logic gives me hope. "

Posted by pringles | March 31, 2007 10:52 AM
7

As I've said before, power of the press belongs to the person who owns the press. In the case of high school newspapers, the "owner" is the taxpayers, represented by their elected school board members. School boards should be able to set policy regarding their student-run newspapers, including how much control the principal or newspaper has in removing content.

Many have cried "censorship" in response to the amendment removing high schools from this bill. I'll re-ask a question I posed before on this blog that no one responded to, this time inserting a different faceless bureaucrat into the hypothetical. If it's censorship to control content in a government-financed publication, could Jay Manning, director of the Department of Ecology, censor information in the Ecology department newsletter? If so, is there some distinction between newsletters and newspapers? Does the medium matter?

You guys in favor of this bill should be arguing that you think extending these protections to high school student journalists is good policy, not that it's proscribed by the First Amendment, because it's a pretty shaky constitutional leg you're trying to stand on. Why make it about rights? Just say it's a good idea.

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