BY THE BEACON STAFF
After The Beacon published its first issue, Principal Kimberly Martin’s decision to institute a policy of prior review for the paper was catapulted into the national spotlight. We heard from friends and family members in other states who had read about The Beacon. We received emails and tweets from members of the DC journalism community, eager to help us fight for a free press. We were contacted by reporters from The Washingtonian, The Washington Post, WAMU, NPR, USA Today, and local student newspapers.
There are so many people we have to thank for working alongside us to secure a censorship-free Beacon. We are grateful for the invaluable support we received from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists. If we had not been defended by these established organizations, it would have been much more difficult for us to speak out against Martin’s policies.
To everyone who supported The Beacon – whether it was by signing our Change.org petition, tweeting about us, or buying subscriptions – we cannot thank you enough. The outpouring of support for a censorship-free school paper confirmed for us what we had known all along: Student journalism does make a difference, and our voices have the power to effect actual change.
On September 4, Martin met with The Beacon’s Editors-in-Chief and agreed upon a more stringent revised editorial policy to replace prior review by her. The new policy includes a more detailed description of who must look at an article before it is published, as well as requirements for quote verification. It can be found in full on The Beacon website, www.thewilsonbeacon.com
Working for a school newspaper is a learning experience, and we appreciate Martin’s decision to allow The Beacon staff to learn how to navigate it on our own. In the past month, our fight against prior review has taught us how to advocate for positions we believe in, interact with professional reporters from established papers, and organize support. We have Principal Martin to thank for a process that, in the end, made us better student journalists.
Below are some statements from tweets and our Change.org petition that we thought were too good not to share. They come from fellow journalists, Wilson graduates, and pioneers in the struggle for free speech:
– From one of Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple’s multiple stories: A DCPS “spokeswoman said that ‘prior review is a common and expected practice.’ Not around here it’s not.”
– Barton Gellman – Pulitzer Prize-winner and Edward Snowden’s original confidante with documents about NSA surveillance: “Someday HS principals may see that censorship is not the way to teach civic virtue. Meanwhile, want to sign this?”
– Olivia Oksenhorn from Aspen, CO: “I am signing this because I am one of the current editors for the Aspen High School Skier Scribbler. Kim used to be the principal of our school, and would veto stories based on her opinions of them. I whole-heartedly agree with this petition!”
– Cathy Kuhlmeier Frey from Springfield, MO (Kuhlmeier was the defendant in the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court case. Her story about teen pregnancy was cut by her principal.):
“Lord have mercy it’s a flashback from 30 years ago. Have we made no progress on this issue?”
– John Tinker from Fayette, MO (Another student whose free speech case went to the Supreme Court and became the Landmark case on the issue: Tinker vs. DeMoines Independent Community School District.): “We should be educating our kids to be responsible citizens in a democracy.”
– Tim Grieve, Editor-In-Chief of National Journal: “Student journalists at @Wilsonhsdcps are standing up for press freedom. Let’s join them.”
–Jocelyn Nieva WASHINGTON, DC
“I’m a proud Wilson Tiger (class of ’78). Respect your students and they will shine. Prior censorship is wrong.”
–Joseph Hickey OTTAWA, CANADA
“Principal Martin: Stop teaching students authoritarianism.
Freedom of speech, freedom of the press. Freedom to think.”
GRAPHIC BY CARL STEWART