Last week, 3,000 copies of the New School Free Press were stolen on the day it was published. As the editor in chief, I was understandably furious. Partially, about the paper itself—which was thankfully covered by the university’s insurance and quickly reprinted. But mostly it was a group of radical students, angered by our portrayal of their organization, who attempted to silence our voices through such a crude and undemocratic method.
I was surprised to find out from yesterday’s Broadsheet that we’re not the only student publication dealing with censorship-by-removal.
"When Stevenson High School, in Lincolnshire, Ill., devoted an issue of its award-winning student newspaper, the Statesman, to an exploration of students’ hook-up culture, all 3,400 copies of the issue disappeared the night they were published. Perhaps that was because, as the school’s administration claims, "students and parents" dying to read about the hot topic "snapped up" the issue’s entire run. But maybe, the Chicago Tribune suggests, school officials had more to do with the disappearance than they’re saying."
My immediate reaction was outrage. If students aren’t able to talk about the hook-up and drinking culture at their school, through their own publications, then the administration is only silencing this behavior—not, by any means, putting an end to it.
I was baffled by a letter to the editor of the Tribune, wherein one reader said that this isn’t censorship, because it’s the school board’s right to dictate what it prints in school media. In my best editor voice: this is a student newspaper, jackass, not an official newsletter. The students should write about whatever affects them, not what the administration thinks affects the students. Bringing sex and drinking to the attention of parents and faculty is a good thing and could potentially bring about a discussion of healthy sexual habits.
But according to Jim Conrey, a spokesperson for the school, the problem was not the subject matter, but concerns of negligent and incomplete reporting. He assured me that the paper has already run stories about suicide, oral sex, and heroine use among the student body.
He explained that it’s a fault in the system of the newsroom. Some things don’t get looked at as thoroughly as they should, mostly because of time constraints. These are teenagers, he said, so sometimes they don’t get their stories in until the last minute. (Editor voice: tell me about it.)
But to steal the papers as a response? To silence students in such a disrespectful and sneaky way? My god, the editor in me won’t stay quiet: if you disagree with someone’s journalistic practices, then talk about it in an open and transparent way—theft is not an answer for anything.
If I were a student on the Statesman, I’d be outraged. It’s the school’s fault if they’re reporting isn’t complete—they’re the ones who taught the students to report – and unfortunately it’s the students who will suffer as a result.