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Stop the presses!

   If my boss didn't like this, you wouldn't be reading it.
   That's because I don't get to decide what goes into this newspaper;
that's the publisher's and editor's jobs.  No one passed a law that says
I have the freedom to use someone else's press to make whatever point I
   Apparently, this reality has escaped the Illinois Legislature, which
has just sent to Gov. Edgar a bill giving high school journalists rights
that I - a practicing journalist for 35 years - don't enjoy, never
expected to get and don't think I should have.
   The bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, gives high
school students the right to put, with a few exceptions, just about
anything they please into their student newspapers.  No matter how
inconsequential, unprofessional, or stupid.
   In that, some might say, the high school papers will be just like
regular papers.
   But there is a difference.  The Illinois law would overrule the
judgment of the newspaper publisher (school authorities), and turn on its
head the principle that students are in school to learn, and teachers to
teach.  It would also impose another unfunded mandate on local schools,
based on the presumption that lawmakers, who have trouble doing their own
jobs, are perfectly suited to micromanage someone else's.  And finally,
it is another blanket invitation for lawyers to butt in.
   All this is accomplished by a law that sounds high-minded enough:  It
would forbid that any student journalist working on a public high school
paper (including papers put out as class projects) be subject to "prior
restraint."  Only if what a student writes is libelious, obscene,
"harmful to minors," "unwarranted invasions of privacy" or incitements to
"imminent lawless action" can it be kept out of the paper.
   The bill makes every school board adopt a "written student freedom of
expression policy" that "shall include reasonable provisions for the
time, place, and manner of student expression."  That policy must
recognize the essential roles of "truth, fairness, accuracy, research and
responsibility," which sounds fine in principle.  But if a student thinks
his right to publish has been violated, his parents can sue.  And you can
bet that they will the first time Butthead doesn't get his rants
   This legislation confers upon high school students a right that even
investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein didn't have.  If
Katherine Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, had decided
not to run Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate exposes, they would not
have run.  And no government in this country could have forced her to do

[216 lines left ... full text available at <url:http://www.reference.com/cgi-bin/pn/go.py?choice=message&table=06_1997&mid=660309&hilit=CENSOR+CENSORS> ]

Article-ID: 06_1997&723610
Score: 81
Subject: Mini-FAQ: LAME POSTS - Follow-up from News.answers