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"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Newspaper censorship

Posted by quirksalight on July 9, 2008

To quote a friend: “Welcome to the real world. Things change last minute and are edited for controversy.” The real world making my effin’ head spin.

Specifically, censoring school newspapers.
After teaching a three-week lesson on newspapers, the advanced students in the 9th grade English club began their project; a school newspaper. Assigned reporters, photographers, cartoonists, etc, and had students design a basic layout of the paper.
(Yes, having students write a school newspaper in their second language was a HUGE amount of work – had to spend the three exam days to do to the layout and final edits!!!)

As the biggest news thread in Korea has been the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US and the resumption of US beef imports, it’s not surprising that several of the students chose it to be topic of their editorial cartoons and news article. The problem is, after the newspaper was written, layout completed and the final edit done, it was suggested that the article and one of the editorial cartoons be pulled. The reason was potential controversy. As the article was an accounting for the biggest protest rally on May 31st, I disagreed, saying that the student stated what happened without taking a position. I suggested that we remove an inflammatory quote, but to keep the article itself. It was “suggested” that the article was still potentially controversial, and that *I* rewrite to show the conservative sides.

If I do that – doesn’t that negate the student’s work? I mean, it’s not easy to write a news article, much less do it in your second language. The students worked pretty hard on these and I don’t want to discount that or make them believe that they did crap work. (b.c they didn’t) Also, why do *I* have to rewrite this!??! Argh. Finally, doing this changes the entire article. It’s not a reporting of the events at the protest. It’s an article on the Korea-US beef import and FTA issues.

And this is ENTIRELY separate from finding out that I had to redo the layout and paper size of the paper from B4 paper size and 8 pages to A4 paper size and 4 pages, after it was finished.

So I have to decide to rewrite it sometime during school tomorrow. (Thurs) Will update.


3 Responses to “Newspaper censorship”

  1. s.r.g. said

    So, controversy averted? Hardly! In their attempt to avoid a “potential” controversy, the gatekeepers you are dealing with are merely creating a very real one. Just think how they would react if you took their action to the next level with a story about their censorship incident. Perhaps that would be too passive aggressive if they were perceptive enough to pick up on it. Still, they might pick up the message, again, if they were perceptive enough. A story like that wouldn’t get past them. The real lesson here for your students and for all of us is at it should be and as you rightly pointed out up front, this is the real world. One can expect this kind of control, so typical in a school setting. Still, I’m seeing story shaping, subject avoidance and lopsided
    reporting increase as market driven. Publications tell their audience (their market) what they want to hear. This is what happens when the medium is a means of solidifying a loyal, precisely definable and documented readership. In other words, the rag is there to deliver the audience to the advertisers. You alienate either of those and all noble, ethical and warm fuzzy notions of serving as a watchdog are left barking in an abandoned alley. Demographics can be a fickle mistress. On the other hand, controversy boost circulation. Go figure.

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