Does Censorship Destroy Stories?

One of the main arguments against prior review from those outside the newspaper staff, is that it is a slippery slope from there to censorship. While I certainly don’t condone censorship, I do think that a story subjected to review or censorship can still be meaningful, relevant and engaging depending on why/how it is censored/reviewed.

If a student journalist writes a story that is well researched, sourced and written article that is reviewed but not censored it would still contain meaningful, relevant and engaging information, assuming it was there to begin with.

Articles that are not just reviewed, but that are subject to censorship are a little trickier. Obviously if a story is censored to the point it changes the narrative then the story itself would lose meaning, relevance and ultimately be less engaging. However, the story could also gain meaning, relevance and engagement in another way if the story of the censorship is brought to light and used as a tool for change. There are many examples of this throughout scholastic journalism history from Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier to Dean v. Utica. While the impact of the original stories was lost due to administrative censorship, the stories gained larger meaning, never-ending relevance and have been engaging students in journalism classrooms across the country since.

New examples of this pop up every year. One of the more recent occurrences comes from Steinmeitz College Prep in Chicago when a story about a change to the school’s  start time resulted in censorship by the principal and accusations that he intended to cut the program next year as a result of the censored story.

Ultimately the story in question was published on the front page of the January/February print issue of the Steinmeitz Star along with an article about the censorship issue. Additionally, the coverage promoted benefactor and alumnus Hugh Heffner to pledge a yearly donation of $7,500 for the next five years to support the paper’s printing costs.

This story is a perfect modern example of how a censored story can in fact result in meaningful, engaging and relevant journalism that destroys the idea of censorship rather than the other way around.


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