NEBRASKA — An award-winning high school newspaper hascome under fire for its investigative reporting, and as a resulthas garnered an outpouring of support from journalists acrossthe nation.
The Register at Omaha Central High School has won numerousawards, including the Pacemaker Award and two consecutive "Bestin Show" awards from the National Scholastic Press Association.Yet, school officials have expressed dismay about the paper andhave reportedly tried to gain more control over the newspaper’scontent.
Principal Gary Thompson and other administrators met with thepaper’s adviser last Friday, where they raised concerns aboutthe paper’s aggressive reporting and edgy articles.
Stories in the latest edition include an investigative probeinto the use of methamphetamine by high school students and ananalysis of the death penalty. It was not until the newspaperran the story, "Athlete plays despite assault charges,"that administrators said they had had enough.
The article was about a football player who was charged withtwo counts of assault in August. Even though district policy madehim ineligible to play because of the charges, he participatedin five football games — before the newspaper brought his eligibilityinto question.
Thompson was concerned about the story because it containedthe football player’s name. He cautioned editor Matt Wynn andjournalism adviser Matt Deabler about the implications of runningthe story, but ultimately allowed the newspaper to make the finaldecision.
Following the reports of censorship, several state media outletsrushed to cover the school’s actions. The national Society ofProfessional Journalists has stepped into the mix, urging schoolofficials to keep their hands off The Register.
"Real journalism can be messy and difficult, and sometimeseven we professionals don’t make the right calls. But studentsneed the right to be wrong. They need the freedom to learn fromtheir mistakes," SPJ President Al Cross wrote in a letterto Thompson.
View SPJ’s news release and Cross’ letter.