Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
Journalism, like most other professions, is guided by a certain set of professional standards. Although the average high schooler might not be aware of this, journalists must follow a set of journalistic ethics. According to the SPJ code of ethics, reporters should be as accurate, honest, and independent as possible. People trust the news to be honest- publishing a misleading or deceptive article is a betrayal of that trust. Another standard that free, fair, and balanced newspapers maintain is unwavering support and promotion of the common good. These include a commitment to freedom of speech, peoples’ right to protest, and standing with those working to make our world a better place.
I bet you’re still wondering why all of this matters to you. The very reason we created The Classical Chronicle was to stand up for these principles where we see them lacking. A document has recently come to our attention that goes against these standards and ethical codes. The Purple Post’s “Master Plan: A Guide for Future Growth and Development” contains multiple violations of the journalistic ethics we just discussed. Our very own school newspaper completely rejects the notion of a fair and free press in favor of stifling the students’ rights to protest, speak freely, and organize for a better future. This document, recently given to us from an unnamed member of The Purple Post, outlines the newspaper’s policies and procedures for dealing with student protests, civil disobedience, and opinions that contradict those of the paper’s leaders. We have also uncovered firsthand accounts of censorship and bias in the paper’s staff, most egregiously concerning the climate strike that happened at Classical earlier this year.
The Master Plan lists a series of services they provide the school and administration. One of the services is aptly titled Prevent Student Civil Disobedience. On page 47 specifically, The Post claims that protests “[Take] a toll on our school’s safety and integrity”. This bias and irrational fear of student protests then prompts them to betray their responsibility to report facts in favor of publishing a paper that actively “prevent[s] students from engaging in these sorts of activities at all costs”. How far is the Post willing to go in order to stifle student activism?
Turns out, a clear outline of their methods with examples follows in the next paragraph. The Master Plan describes in detail its censorship of articles that would have informed students of the 2019 Climate Strike, even going so far as to boast that their actions “squashed the Classical Climate Strike Walkout”. The Purple Post decided to unjustly censor a relevant and important article that would have encouraged students to use their powers of civil disobedience to fight for climate justice. They go on to emphasize that this is not an isolated incident, saying that they will “continue to not spread the word about any protests occurring during school hours” or report on protests after the fact because they “promote the outright defiance of authority”. Multiple editor’s notes that content relating to protests should remain confidential makes this even worse. Not only does the Post censor students’ free speech, it also attempts to hide the Posts’ unethical policies. In effect, the Post is being used as a clandestine means of sabotaging student activities with which they disagree.This is a blatant betrayal of their journalistic duty to both the public and the truth.
Not only does the Post censor legitimate opinions, it also takes it upon itself to use its social media accounts spy on students who participate in these important events and report back to the administration with screenshots and specific information on participants. Once again, the Master Plan helpfully provides us with an example. During the 2019 Climate Strike, the Post implies that they screenshotted pictures of Sustainability Club members at the walkout because they “openly encouraged students to protest on social media”. The Post goes on to say that in the future they will “provide screenshots of the announcement [of any similar event] to be served as evidence for the administration… to take proper action”. What proper actions does the Post think the administration should take against fellow students? Protesting is a fundamental right- not a crime that requires “evidence”.
After realizing the extent to which the Post was censoring and violating journalistic ethics, we at The Classical Chronicle believe that our school needs a fair, unbiased, and analytical independent paper that reports on issues that directly affect the student body. The Classical Chronicle will strive for openness and accountability. We will publish unbiased op-eds that reflect the demographics we represent here at Classical and report news without censorship. We have also publicly released our codes of conduct, making sure that no secret “Master Plan” ever regulates our paper.
Student newspapers should serve the students, not the administration or the paper’s leaders. This simple fact, clearly ignored by the Post, will be central to our paper and will ensure that we will be open and honest as long as we are in print. Follow us on Instagram for updates @classicalchronicle.