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To The Telegraph: Leave it to the experts

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Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, and most importantly, freedom of the press. These are rights outlined for every American citizen in the Bill of Rights. This means no one can censor or remove an article from a newspaper publication, right? Wrong.

While these rules are closely followed by professional news organizations and college based newspapers, the situation becomes a little sticky when it comes to high school publications.

Under the Supreme Court case Hazelwood V. Kuhlmeier, Herriman High School’s administration had every right to censor a student news article alleging sexual harassment against a teacher.

Ryan White, a well-loved teacher, mysteriously resigned from Herriman and the news editor of The Telegraph was curious about it. Conor Spahr, news editor, and Max Gordon, editor-in-chief, wrote an article explaining their search to find the reason the teacher left.

They took several months to write the article, starting their search back in November and publishing it in mid January. Despite this fact, their advisor, Alex Sousa, did not sign off on the article and told students the article needed more work before publication.

Within hours, the article was spotted by administration and taken off the website. The students, in turn, created their own website called The Telegram and republished the article in question. The students are now accusing administration of censorship and want publication rights restored to them on the school newspaper website.

In Hazelwood V. Kuhlmeier, the decision ruled that schools can censor any article unfit for a student publication for being poorly written, vulgar, biased, or inadequately researched.

The article posted by Herriman was not only poorly written but it had no real facts or sources as support. They did receive information from Jordan School District and Providence Hall, White’s previous employer, but none of it mentioned the sexual harassment allegations.

Sphar and Gordon wrote about White’s disappearance from the two schools, but there was no identified source stating why he left. Who made these allegations?

The students also put “we” in the article numerous times. If the staff of Herriman High knew a single thing about AP style writing, they would not include themselves in the article in any form unless it was an opinion article, which was not the case.

In an interview with Deseret News, Sousa stated the staff wanted to be the first to break the news on everything. The Telegraph needs to reevaluate the purpose of the newspaper and they should first remember they are a high school publication.

Fox13 has confirmed there is an ongoing police investigation on the matter but no real decision has been made. There is no reason for high school students to participate in such intense investigative journalism. High school students are novice journalists, and they are simply not trained to report on criminal cases. If they do, however, have the chance to report on such a case, all fact checking and regulations should be followed. Journalists must be ethical.

Gordon did state Herriman’s procedures on getting advisor and administration approval for the articles haven’t been followed throughout the year, so that does not leave the school completely blame free. Administration and the staff adviser should have exercised more control in this situation.

To those on the Herriman Newspaper staff that “pandered to lurid curiosity” in order to break the news: leave it to professional journalists to publish ethical investigative journalism. As the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states, “seek truth and report it.” Verify your information, identify your sources, and remember that speed doesn’t excuse inaccuracy.

It may be time to revisit the code of ethics at https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “To The Telegraph: Leave it to the experts”

  1. Moira on February 7th, 2018 4:27 pm

    TELL ‘EM GIRL

    [Reply]

  2. Ashlynne on February 9th, 2018 1:18 pm

    DRAG THEM

    [Reply]

  3. Sydney on February 9th, 2018 2:41 pm

    BOOM

    [Reply]

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To The Telegraph: Leave it to the experts