Stevenson High orders student editors to publish

Published: 11/24/2009 8:13 PM | Updated: 11/24/2009 8:52 PM

A week after publication of the November issue of the Stevenson High School student newspaper was blocked by administrators, the Statesman staff was ordered to complete the edition and release it Wednesday, an editor said Tuesday.

Editor Pam Selman told the Daily Herald on Monday the students were taking an ethical stand and opting not to publish the issue because administrators refused to allow some stories to be printed. She hoped some of the articles planned for the issue - initially scheduled to be released last Friday - would be published in the December edition.

On Tuesday, however, Selman said the students were told to complete the issue and send it to the printers, which they did. The order came from administrators and was relayed through the teachers who are the newspaper's advisers, she said.

"We're very disappointed," Selman said.

Stevenson High spokesman Jim Conrey said administrators and teachers involved with the journalism program never intended to permanently spike the November issue. The students were told to finish the newspaper because "we decided we wanted this issue to be published as close to the original (publication) date as possible," Conrey said.

Some articles, such as those about Thanksgiving and fall sports, simply could not wait until December to see print, Conrey said.

"And let's face it, the newspaper contains advertising, and there's an obligation to those advertisers," he said.

About 3,500 copies of the Statesman will be distributed to students Wednesday as they arrive at the Lincolnshire school, which is traditional, Selman said.

The November issue's release was delayed last week after administrators ordered a story held because it featured anonymous sources discussing alleged illegal activity, and it was not fit for print, school officials have said. Other stories also were targeted, students said.

Administrators had wanted the issue to come out but with changes. The Statesman staffers, who publish the newspaper as part of a journalism class, refused.

Then on Tuesday, the students were told to publish the November issue despite their objections.

"We were basically told it was part of the curriculum," Selman said.

Students laid out the pages Tuesday, but administrators chose which stories would run and on what pages they would appear, Selman said.

Selman and her fellow students wanted to counter the order by running articles without bylines - a tactic known in professional journalism as a byline strike - but they were told such a move would not be allowed.

Two articles originally planned for the November edition did not make the cut, Conrey said. He said officials hope those articles can be "improved upon" and published in December.

The controversy is the latest dispute between students and administrators over Statesman reporting. A January story about teen sex led to more administration oversight because of what officials said were reporting problems.

Additionally, teacher Barbara Thill left her post as the newspaper's adviser at the end of the 2008-09 term.