Some lesson in free speech and responsibility

Some lesson in free speech and responsibility

: A high-school principal in Georgia has gone after the school’s paper and now the students have blog telling their story. An AP story reports:

This school year’s final edition of a high school student newspaper was killed and the school’s journalism class was eliminated after the principal said the paper highlighted negative stories and a lack of thorough reporting. Randolph Bynum, principal of Pebblebrook High School in Cobb County, cut the class citing a teacher shortage and the need to keep more popular courses like cosmetology. But he also criticized the paper for negative stories at the expense of articles more favorable to the school’s image, and for a lack of thoroughness in its reporting of stories on teen pregnancy and vandalism in the school parking lot.

Go to these PDF links and you will see that this is an impressive newspaper that, indeed, covers hard issues like teen pregnancy and gambling and even anti-evolution textbook stickers.

The principal, like any bureaucrat, is apparently allergic to transparency — which is all the more reason why the student body and the community are well-served by this very good newspaper.

There could be no better lesson in the need for journalism.

But there’s some hope: The school got a new principal last week. Here is her email address: [email protected]

Journalists and bloggers alike should come to the aid of these good students and their teacher — and free speech — and send email to Ms. Montgomery. I have.

  • Good use of this blog, JJ. Hope it helps these kids.

  • franky

    Christ this is better than some mags I’ve written for. Email to new principle on the way.

  • Hal

    “But he also criticized the paper for negative stories at the expense of articles more favorable to the school’s image”
    Huh. Wonder if he called them “Eeyores”, or “pondsc*m”. (note, I had to use the “*” because your nanny filter thought it was questionable content.
    How ironc.

  • Mork

    Yeah, my jaw hit the floor, too.
    This is the same Jeff Jarvis who jumps all over any press report that he thinks is unfairly skeptical of our glorious leader’s efforts to bring peace and harmony to the world? The same one who thinks that the press should not report stories that might make Muslims think that we don’t all love them?
    Once again, give me a fricken break.
    Either Jeff has the worst case of cognitive dissonance ever contracted or he is a hypocrite, plain and simple.

  • gregory

    Don’t encourage them. We have enough journalists, more cosmetologists would be nice. Free speech ? Wasn’t the school district paying for this class? Do taxpayers need to pay for someone’s free speech? What is this NPR?


    Oh, I forgot we need to train the kids so NEWSWEEK will have a pool of job applicants.

  • Well, Hal and Mork, you seem to be referring to the Newsweek report that Newsweek now admits is false.
    Can we spell non sequitur?

  • Mork

    Well, Hal and Mork, you seem to be referring to the Newsweek report that Newsweek now admits is false.

    No, Jeff, I’m referring to the way you always jump on whichever hysterical anti-media bandwagon the Administration shills happen to be pushing on any given day. Add it up, and your posts on the media’s coverage of the administration and its military activities amount to a constant refrain that the media is wrong to be skeptical about or challenge the administration on any aspect of the war, and deserve to be punished for it.
    To read your posts, it is much better that the media never question the Administration at all than that they do so and occasionally make an error.
    In other words, you are the principal in this story, and not the kids.

  • tonynoboloney

    Do taxpayers need to pay for someone’s freespeech?
    I agree with Gregory, when I was in school we had a school newspaper called the BREEZ it’s main purpose was to highlight students accomplishments, cover the sports and do some light (non-offensive) gossip. In 1968 at the hieght of the Viet Nam war we journalism students decided it was our job to educate the populace as to what was “really” going on over there. With a minor coup we took over the school newspaper and began to reprint articles out of S.D.S. manuals our brothers had brought back from universities. Said articles were for the most part communist propaganda complete with portrayal of U.S. servicemen as baby killers. Needless to say our illustrious principal soon put a stop (thank God) to our antics. We threatened to go to court to protect our 1st ammendment rights but in the end we were stopped by rightiously outraged tax payers who believed correctly that they should not have to pay for a radical shool newspaper. Although I believe in freedom of the press, a school newspaper can hardly be called that. It seems to me a school newspaper should be published to teach journalism and not to break the newest news story. Stay out of it Jeff, its a local issue and the parents, teachers, School board and administration will do what is right for their district. In the end it will probably serve the students a teachable lesson and they will be better for it. TONY

  • In the end it will probably serve the students a teachable lesson and they will be better for it.
    What’s the lesson, that children should be seen and not heard?
    These kids did a fine job and their principal (remember the princi- “pal” is supposed to be their pal), gave ’em a screwing they didn’t deserve. Bless their hearts for bringing their story to the blogosphere.

  • Shalom Jeff,
    Freedom of the press is, of course, exactly that: freedom to print for those who own a press. For years schools have rightly used the fact that they own the press to justify telling students what they can and cannot print.
    Well, now things are different and schools need to realize they have a choice. They can maintain journalism classes and shepherd students through an educational process or they can stamp their feet and lose any chance they have of providing an education.
    It will be interestng to see what the new principal does.
    Jeff Hess

  • jeremy in NYC

    Yeah, Mork, Jeff is definitely the principal in this metaphor, what with his always calling to shut down any journalistic source that he disagrees with. You know that Jeff Jarvis, always calling for censorship. Boy, does he go after the First Amendment.
    Seriously, if you can’t see the difference between criticizing something versus shutting it down, what are you even doing trying to have a discussion? Are you that desparate to make your point that you can’t wait for an apropos situation?

  • Good points, Jeremy. I don’t know why I continue to read these comments since they always leave me flabbergasted. Here Jeff is promoting some kids in Cobb County, Georgia, whose newspaper is shut down by the school – which is the exact kind of censorship that he basically started this site to oppose – and you have posters (a) ripping Jeff for completely unrelated topics that they didn’t agree with him on, and (b) defending the school’s “right” to censor the paper – which, yes, it may have been legally right (or not) but since when do we start rooting for more censorship and less freedoms as Americans? I just don’t know why people who are clearly not going to agree with any points Jeff makes continue to come to his site and comment on it.

  • Talsman

    Being new to this Blog I thought that if we take you comment a little further then we should not be paying for NPR, Public TV or Radio Free America, or letting our Congress People send out flyers that are disguised as surveys but are nothing more then ads for their next campaign, or telling Children how to put on condoms from a flyer. That also comes right out of the old TAX PAYER POCKET. Are you against that also ????

  • tonynoboloney

    what’s the message, that children should be seen and not heard? well……………….yeah.
    By the very nature of H.S. newspapers they are highly edited and scrutinized for content, after all their purpose is purely educational (or should be). As to wether or not tax payers should be responsible for NPR, public t.v., radio free america and congressional flyers I believe the comparrison is a bit of a stretch. TAX PAYERS pay for public education not nessesarily to protect minors first amendment rights. And I dare say the students will learn a heck of a lot more about freedom of the press in being denied it (I sure did per my earlier post).

  • Sloppydawg,
    what’s the message, that children should be seen and not heard? well……………….yeah.

    From now on, I’m going to mention you during my Rosary every night. Not that I’ll be praying for you, but instead I’ll be thanking God that my parents didn’t share your view, at least on this issue, as they were raising me.

  • K Eckman

    It’s great that Pebblebrook has a new principal . . . bad news is – Mr. Bynum was PROMOTED, not removed. He is the new Area Superintendent, over THAT school as well as numerous others. Effectively, he is the new principal’s BOSS. Not such good news after all. While other good things ARE happening in the county, this speaks poorly for the school system as a whole. To me, THIS reflects much more negatively on Cobb Co. than high schoolers trying to report on the real world in their school newspaper.