School’s Prospector tackles drug issues
Reports of censorship may have been exaggerated.
Some students at Park City High School argue that a clash with administrators over an ambitious drug-focused issue of the school’s paper constituted censorship. Administrators say it was editing, not censorship. "There was no censorship," said Roger Arsht, adviser to the paper, The Prospector. "There was some poorly researched articles that needed to be changed because they were not telling the full story. There was no censorship, there was, however, some things that had to be fixed and the administration was perfectly within its rights that those issues be clarified." One of the articles, by sophomore Hailey Dering, criticizes Valley Mental Health’s anti-drug campaign The Majority Report, which challenges the perception that most teens do drugs. "Tell it like it is, most don’t!" is the Majority Report’s slogan.
In her article on the Majority Report, Dering writes that "even if most don’t, a lot do."
In fact, the Majority Report article was printed in The Prospector. But school officials prevented students from running it on the cover of The Prospector (it ran on page 9 instead), and administrators mandated some changes to the piece. "Kids were yelling ‘censorship! censorship!’ In this particular case, the administration did us a service by pointing out a deficiency on our part," Arsht said. "Hopefully the students will see it that way and learn from it. It’s teenagers. It’s too easy to knee jerk." The article’s author, Dering, said, "We weren’t too happy about it, obviously we worked really hard on the front page I don’t think they had a valid reason to make us re-organize our whole front page." Administrators had Dering change the article because, she said, they perceived that she identified students who were arrested for drug charges at the high school recently, even though she didn’t name names. Dering also had to add some material to her article about Utah’s Safe School Policy, which punishes all drug use on school sites equally, regardless of the drug’s potency. About these changes, Prospector editor Tyler Anderson said, "I think I’m glad that they brought it to our attention and we should have done it anyway."
When administrators made the students re-visit the article, it "prompted the whole staff to make (The Prospector) a real newspaper, report on it professionally," Anderson continued.
One article which was cut entirely from The Prospector, Anderson and Dering said, was an interview Meredith Burrus had with school intervention counselor Bonnie Beaty
Anderson said, "She put different context around the quotes to make it seem that the drug issues at Park City High School had just recently come to light and maybe Miss Beaty wasn’t doing her job very well."
Anderson re-wrote the article to cast administrators and Beaty in a better light, he said, but it was still removed. "Certainly the article that was cut entirely was censorship," Anderson said.
Administrators also made The Prospector change the headline of an article on the front page, Dering said. A review of the cocaine scandal involving super-model Kate Moss by Sarah Belfort, the article’s headline read, "Cocaine is so last season." But it was changed to "How the skinny have fallen."
Arsht became journalism adviser this year after teacher Jon Green was fired for undisclosed reasons. "They’re very gifted, very talented students. What we’re working on is what is the role of the newspaper and how do we do that in the most effective way possible," Arsht said. "In this particular case there was no censorship." In Saturday’s Park Record, intern David Lambert, a senior at Park City High School, wrote about the issue. Lambert is not a Prospector staff member. "I think they’re doing a good job at getting articles out there but they could do more with it and that’s what made everyone so angry," Lambert said. "The one time they wanted to get in there and do it the administration stepped in and told them that they couldn’t."
Becoming a more professional paper is important to Anderson. "The administration runs the school pretty well, but there’s a student aspect that isn’t there. The Student Council basically does event planning and basically the jobs that the PTO doesn’t want," he said. "And the student newspaper has never been as hard hitting as I would want it to be." He adds, "I think the administration is very supportive of the newspaper in general."
In drug education, Dering feels the administration focuses too much on marijuana and less harmful drugs, and not on more "acute" drugs like pharmaceuticals, which are "sending kids to hospitals." "I’d say that the students are really the only ones that realize the full extent of the problem," she said. "While the drug issue hasn’t been eradicated, I do think that they’re dealing with the problem," Anderson said.
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