Herriman High newspaper cries censorship

Herriman High newspaper cries censorship

Herriman High School’s newspaper, The Telegraph, has recently gone from averaging seven page views a day to over 100 page views. What would cause this change?

Conor Spahr, news editor of The Telegraph, wrote an article about Ryan White, a well-loved teacher’s, random departure from the school. In his investigative journalism, he attempted to discover if the teacher was fired due to sexual harassment against a student.

Surpassing any means of administrative approval, the staff published the article to the website. The story describes the students efforts at finding out what happened, including contact with the district and with a school where the teacher previously worked. The article had zero named sources with information incriminating the teacher.

Next, nearly 12 hours after publication, the advisor of the staff, Alex Sousa, was notified by administrators to take down the article and staff members found their site completely removed by administration.

An article from the Salt Lake Tribune stated, “Sandra Riesgraf, spokeswoman for Jordan School District, say the changes at issue to the school newspaper’s website were made to ensure that the student’s journalist work is accurate, appropriate and informative.”

Under the Supreme Court case Hazelwood V. Kuhlmeier, the school has the complete right to censor anything the students post as long as it is seen unfit for a student publication, such as being poorly written, vulgar, unbiased or inadequately researched. This is because the school is funded by the government and anything posted to the newspaper belongs to the school and is the face of the school.

Despite the removal of their site, Max Gordon, Editor-In-Chief of the Telegram, created a break off website under an altered version of the schools newspapers name, The Telegram. They posted the original article as well as updates about the entirety of the situation on this new website.

Gordon states that while they have an open letter to Jordan School District on the new website, they sent a more personal letter to Jordan School District and administration asking for their website back and the permission to repost their article. Gordon has yet to get any response or direct communication on the matter.

“We want to steer away from fluff articles, my staff needs to become real journalists and know that they are going to get told ‘no’ a lot,” Gordon said. “We are going to continue with articles about the dress code, sexism in the athletic department, and drug use in the school.”

Fox13 states that while the staff plans to keep posting these articles for now, the more controversial articles will be published on their break off website.

The new website features phrases such as, “Student Run. No Censorship,” showing the staff’s persistence with the right to publish the article. A petition was started on Change.org and as of January 25, had 641 signatures and counting.

Climbing from an average of seven page views a day to nearly 900 views overnight, is invigorating for any staff and stands as means to keep up whatever was being done before. However, only eight of the staff members signed off on the letter and the new website, leaving ten members of the staff out of the equation.

Many of the students actions have received support from all around the Utah valley. Jean Norman, campus liaison for the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists told KUTV 2, “It teaches students that chasing their curiosity and attempting to confirm information are futile and that student voices do not count.”

Others, however, are stating the students are in the wrong. The Salt Lake Tribune states, “The story in the Herriman High School Telegraph needed an editor. It didn’t need a censor.”