Editorial, Issue 11 — Volume CVIII

The Information You Need

What is the purpose of “The Weekly?”

Why was it founded? Why have students continued to print it for more than a century? How does it serve the greater Parker community? Where does it fit in to our grand tangled web of social academia?

“The Weekly” publishes over 200 pages of journalism each year, spending untold man-hours writing, reporting, editing, and producing a newspaper which is often valued more highly for memes and inside jokes than facts and story-telling. Why?

With the 2018-19 school year coming to a close, our editorial leadership began discussing the nature of critical inquiry within the walls of 330 W. Webster Avenue. In a community which values independent thought and the power of student voice, there are few institutions more important than the media.

We write today to reaffirm the importance of free, well-informed student journalism. We speak today to reaffirm the power of an uninhibited student press.

According to the American Press Institute, “The purpose of journalism is…to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”

This year, “The Weekly” has adhered to that duty with distinction. We believe that our work this year has demonstrated the power of a capable student press and indicated the necessity for working and fighting tirelessly to preserve such an organization.

“[P]rovid[ing] citizens with the information they need” extends beyond fact-finding.

Citizens of our community needed to hear the stories of Parker’s young women when we published the “Hear Us” editorial in Issue 9. With students fragmenting stories, mongering rumors, and questioning reputations––we needed a singular account. Elevating voices and clarifying tales is information we need.

Citizens of our community needed to learn about the life of beloved art teacher Deborah Cole when she passed away last winter. As our model home was mourning, a tribute found its way into the hands of teachers and students. “The Weekly” also published comments from any and all who sought to pay their respects. Honoring our esteemed is information we need.

Citizens of our community needed to understand the pervasive use of Juuls and e-cigarettes at Parker when we profiled the issue in February. As with many health crises, the effects of teen nicotine use can often feel like a problem for “them,” never something going on within our own walls. Recognizing that we have an issue is information we need.

“Need” is subjective. Each of the aforementioned articles saw some form of pushback, some level of opposition. Critics claimed that we shouldn’t be reporting on sexual harassment, that discussing death in the presence of young children is unwise, that reporting on drug use can only make our school look bad.

Critics asked why we should get to decide what information our community consumes.

In short: we shouldn’t.

Beyond providing information, newspapers serve as a public forum. “The Weekly” is a place to express your opinion and report on stories pertinent to your life. Even though our permanent staff consists solely of high school students, all members of our embryonic democracy are more than welcome to write for “The Weekly” at any time.

We shouldn’t get to decide what information our community consumes because nobody should get to decide what information our community consumes. Newspapers exist not to push an agenda, but rather to elevate all voices––serving as a marketplace of ideas. Because “The Weekly” is open to the community and all are welcome to write, the community decides what the community consumes.

Far too often, this ideal is placed in jeopardy. Not only does censorship tamp down on the ability of unpopular ideas to participate, but it allows one individual (or, as is often in our case, a group of individuals) to skew the topics of discussion. An open forum with an agenda, be it improving public image, changing the mind of the populace, or avoiding controversy, is not an open forum at all.

Furthermore, our common idea of censorship is often greatly out of touch with the day-to-day reality of the practice. Censorship is not big scary administrators in dark rooms cutting out entire pieces of content––it’s a meeting with a teacher in which they request that a quote of theirs be removed because it makes them sound foolish, it’s Parker’s higher-ups asking that you alter that sentence over there or remove this fact here, it’s your friends making fun of a stat, it’s you, not wanting to stir the pot.

Censorship is rarely blatant, it’s rarely obvious––the obvious censorship is the censorship against which we have the power to rebel. It’s nuance––the detail moving and quote switching, the self-censorship and friend-appeasing––which has the power to kill. As such, we all have the power to censor. As such, we all have the obligation to avoid censoring.

Contrary to our oft-authoritarian instincts, the best solution for speech is always more speech. A free exchange of ideas is decidedly the best path––instead of limiting the expression of others, prove them wrong with an argument of your own. This should be true of students, it should be true of teachers, and it should be true of administrators.

It is painfully ironic that this conversation even exists at Parker. While our mission statement reads “We believe growth in understanding, ability and confidence occur when we are open to new questions….when we speak in our own voices; and when we listen attentively to the voices of others,” the actions of our administrators and student body are directly contradictory.

Never let anybody stop you from speaking with your own voice, especially the people who claim to support the institution which encourages you to do so.

Citizens need unbiased reporting on issues impacting our school, even if it doesn’t paint us in the best light. Citizens need open dialogues, mediums in which any individual may speak and express themselves freely––untainted by fear of ostracization or censorship. Citizens need a community which supports open debate, free speech, and an independent press.

The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need.