Students in Avon High School teacher and student newspaper adviser Pam Essex’s journalism class know what news is.
When multiple football players and a team trainer at AHS in Avon, Ind., told student reporter Marina Hennessy about “pretty brutal” hazing beatings of freshman and sophomore players by other players during a summer training camp that involved electrical cords and socks stuffed with tennis balls, she knew it was news.
Yet when she tried to publish it in the Echo, AHS’s student newspaper, she found that not everyone appreciated her sense of news judgment. School officials threatened to pull the story calling the account overblown and “yellow journalism.” After the reporter’s mother threatened to take the story and her daughter’s notes to the school board, they backed down, but only after demanding that the original story be changed to include a prepared quote submitted by the football coach.
Rather than kill the story, the staff agreed to make the change, adding an editor’s note to the Nov. 10 issue that alerted readers of the forced alterations.
Hennessy’s story about one of Indiana’s top football programs quickly attracted statewide attention. In a Nov. 12 story, The Indianapolis Star published a story about the hazing allegations. The football coach told the Star that he has met with his players and their parents and has promised to look into the allegations.