Censorship has put Chelsea High student paper on life support.
by Christina Field
Published in July, 2009
Chelsea High School has offered a student newspaper class for thirty years. But outgoing principal Ron Mead's censorship has killed interest in the Bleu Print, according to faculty advisor Phil Jones, who says the paper has turned to "fluff."
"No one wants to be on a paper if you can't write anything worth writing," says Joy Wilke, a former Bleu Print editor. Wilke's 2006 exposé of allegedly favorable treatment of Bulldog athletes by local police so disturbed Mead that he has since reviewed every issue before publication-and has killed several stories.
Mead has no written policy on Bleu Print articles. He says, however, "Some key points are that sources need to be credited, both sides of stories researched, appropriate for a fourteen-to-eighteen-year-old audience, be accurate, not set up a student for ridicule."
School officials say funding cuts mean most courses must have at least twenty students. Enrollment in the newspaper class fell from close to thirty students four years ago, says Jones, to eleven this spring, when it was offered under the opaque title of Production Writing.
Other area high schools report increased enthusiasm for student journalism. Sean Enright, a Saline school official, says forty-eight students vied for twenty-four slots producing the Golden Sting. Rod Satterthwaite, advisor for the award- winning Dexter Squall, says enrollment has increased from eight students when he started the job nine years ago to forty- seven this spring. About 100 students have signed up for next year.
"The student body likes the Squall and feels it represents them, and they want to be a part of it," Satterthwaite says. "I think it would destroy the class if prior review was here, because students would realize it wasn't a student paper and it wouldn't have their voice."
In response to student and parent complaints, Production Writing will run as an independent-study course next year. Current Bleu Print staffers Jessica Tchoryk and Annika Schwiebert anticipate staff will be smaller, publication less frequent, and issue sizes smaller. They want to find common ground with new principal Julie Deppner. "We're going to work to boost promotion of the class and to work harder next year so the administration will be more supportive," Schwiebert says.
[Originally published in July, 2009.]
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