TV show, newspaper censored for coverage of impeachment trial

MARYLAND — A high school’s newspaper was asked to recallissues on Oct. 1, while its television station yielded to a requestto edit some content later in the week – both stemming from theircoverage of the student government association president’s impeachmenthearings.

The Black & White at Walt Whitman High School inBethesda reported on the impeachment hearings of Austin Lavin,the SGA president, in its Sept. 28 newspaper. Following the reports,community Superintendent Frank Stetson said he received a letterfrom Carl Lavin, Austin’s father and The New York Timesnews editor for the Washington bureau. The letter raised concernsabout the coverage from what Lavin saw as student privacy issues,although the impeachment case was heard by 70 homeroom representativesand was known by most students at the school. Stetson passed onthe concerns to school principal Jerome Marco.

The Black & White received a request on Oct. 1 fromschool administrators to withhold the remaining 200 or so papersyet to be distributed. Lance Kramer, Black & White editorin chief, said that as a result of the request, he held the papersunder "lock and key" for about a day before they weredistributed.

Jan Bowman, the Black & White‘s faculty adviser,told Marco that she would give him two copies of the paper "tomeet the letter, but not the spirit" of the request.

"Mr. [Carl] Lavin demanded that the papers be retrievedand that a letter to the editor by a teacher be blackened — essentiallyto have the newspaper censored," Stetson said.

When contacted, Carl Lavin said he had no knowledge of anynewspapers being recalled.

Marco did not return phone calls.

The privacy concerns extended to the school’s television newsmagazine,Whitman Shorts, where testimony in opposition of Austinby teacher Bob Mathis was not allowed to air in its entirety aspart of a segment covering the impeachment trial. Whitman Shortsaired a slightly edited version, without any comments fromMathis, with a disclaimer explaining why their coverage was notcomplete.

"He [Carl Lavin] placed demands on us; he wanted thattape," said Greg Malling, adviser of Whitman Shorts."It’s coming from above the school. It’s his [Carl Lavin’s]demands. He’s demanding that the testimony not be shown."

Lavin said he sent a letter to Stetson expressing his concernthat airing the television program may violate privacy laws, butLavin did not say whether he demanded the tape not to be aired.

Stetson met with student journalists and their advisers onFriday to clarify the week’s events. Kramer said Stetson clearedthe air surrounding the censorship speculation and reassured studentsat Whitman Shorts that they could air the segments theyhad previously withheld.