Tuesday 1 December 2009

The Word: How I Learned The Importance of Free Press

Upon entering high school, I was quite excited to finally put my love of writing to use: I could write for the school newspaper.

So I joined the Newspage Club. Notice it says Newspage, not paper. This is because a school newspaper does not exist at Le Roy High School, only a program allowing students to write articles for the local paper twice yearly. These "articles" are more like public relations measures for the school -- negativity is not allowed. Of course, I took advantage of this opportunity.

I did not cease to ask my teachers and administrators why our school did not have a newspaper, but I never received much of an answer. I believe their (perhaps unspoken) rationale was this: a newspaper would require too much work and could bring about too much controversy.

This frustrated me, and junior year I found like-minded friends (like Sam Bortle), who, unlike myself, were actually motivated and proactive enough to confront our principal. Their efforts were in vain, but they did not abandon our idea of a newspaper. About five of us combined our creativity, skills, and finances to create The Word. Taken from the Beatles song, our tiny, once-monthly newspaper was completely our own. We distributed it at school between classes, knowing that if it was banned, we would have no problem handing it out ourselves in our small town. Content was nothing too serious -- mostly music, book, and movie reviews, and some feature articles, opinions, and editorials on subjects like applying for college or recent football games.

Looking back, what we created was remarkable. We never ran any controversial stories, we never investigated wrongdoings in our school or community, we never criticized teachers or administration or examined relevant social issues. However, if we ever needed to report such important information or voice concerns, we had the means to. If we felt Le Roy High School was being undemocratic or violating student's rights, we could write about it and print it and let everyone know. At a relatively young age, we recognized the necessity for a free press, specifically in our own small community.

The Word was just that - free. Free of school interference or control. Somehow, the stubbornness, laziness, or tyranny of our school system (which ever you prefer, or a combination of all three) benefited us by not giving us a school newspaper and forcing us to create just a newspaper.

Now we're gone, and so is The Word, which only lasted a handful of issues. My co-creators and myself all keep our own personal blogs, but sadly, Le Roy High School is still without a form of student media, independent or school-run. It's a crying shame. Every school, every community, EVEN Le Roy, New York, hometown of Jell-o, population 4,000, needs a newspaper.

Sam Bortle's blog can be read here. She was the editor-in-chief, I wonder if she put it on her resume. (I recently used The Word on a resume.)


Jim Mignano said...

Just for the record, I'm working to get a newspaper currently lol

sam said...

ahhhh the word. the good ol' days.

Joe Mignano said...

How about an online newspaper? Virtually no cost to the school, and a rampant free press through the halls of LeRoy.

Molly Kate said...

Joe, we did try to start an online newspaper - Jim and I wrote the first and, I believe, last article (that was never even published). I don't think it's still going on this year.

It's a shame. Our article was an interview with Mr. Crowe - about his huge popularity with past and present students - in the wake of all the drama around his changing positions last year. It would have been awesome to publish that.