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Hazelwood’s impact more than a memory

Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 1 comment


Just like any big event — you remember where you were or what you were doing. Those who were advising scholastic media when the Supreme Court announced  Hazelwood v.Kuhlmeier 25 years ago probably can recall their reactions — and maybe those of their administrators as well.

My own recollection: The principal, a fairly supportive guy, motioned me into his office. “Have you heard the decision?” Of course I knew what he meant. “Yes.” I smiled and added, “But there’s no room for you to moved your desk up to the X-Ray office.”

Luckily the St. Charles High School student newspaper, the X-Ray, didn’t face prior review. There had been some sticky moments in the past, but I got along well with this principal and his successor a short time later.

Not everyone had such smooth sailing. One way to find out what happened then and what changes followed was to talk to advisers who were in the classroom and student media newsroom both before Jan. 13, 1988 and after. What impact did they see from that landmark Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision? What difference did it make to them and their students and others they observed?

That’s why the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State took advantage of the Fall 2012 JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio to interview four such advisers who were attending. All taught at that time, and one is still in the classroom while the other three are retired but very much involved with high school media as mentors in the Journalism Education Association program and press association board members.

Gary Lindsay, JEA regional director recently retired from Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was only in his second year of advising when Hazelwood came about.

Janet Levin, adviser in 1988 and today at John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, Ill., remembers the local media reaching her when she didn’t yet know the decision.

At Homestead High School in Cupertino, Cal., Nick Ferentinos’ principal almost immediately took what he saw as an opportunity to remove an article in progress about an HIV-positive student.

Wayne Dunn, president of the Ohio Scholastic Media Association and JEA mentor, had been advising four years at Lebanon (Ohio) High School in 1988.

See what they had to say. Did Hazelwood have the kind of impact journalism educators feared in 1988? According to these four advisers who have seen the before and after, yes, the chilling effect on student journalists has indeed made a difference, and it hasn’t been a good one.

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