NORTH CAROLINA — The publication of the first issue of a newspaper is an event to be celebrated. But for the student journalists behind the first newspaper at Charlotte’s Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, “frustration” overwhelmed any feelings of joy, the paper’s adviser said.
The school’s assistant principal, Deborah Ramsey, locked the papers in her office for a week before returning the first issues of the Cardinal Chronicles to its staff on Monday, June 6, a day before the school year ended.
Ramsey held the first issue because “the paper was rife with errors,” ranging from grammatical to factual mistakes, Principal David Baldaia said in an e-mail.
“With all the errors, it was offensive to the image of the school,” Baldaia said. “Also, what gets published under our school name needs to be factually correct.”
Jennifer Shepard, the adviser of the Cardinal Chronicles, said Ramsey prevented the newspapers from reaching the school’s students because of two sentences in a student’s opinion piece.
The sentences described two of the school’s teachers arguing, which Ramsey said insinuated that teachers at the school were engaging in fist fights, Shepard explained.
The sentences read: “It seems like some teachers are getting into it with other students or staff members. Some teachers don’t like other teachers, and that is sometimes easy to see.”
“The thrust of [the student’s] article had nothing to do with people fighting, it had to do with people being responsible for their actions and being respectful to each other,” Shepard added. “[Ramsey’s actions] didn’t make sense to me personally and it didn’t make sense to any of my students either.”
Shepard said Ramsey expressed concern that false statements about some staff members might reach the public. Shepard responded by saying her staff would be more careful in the future.
Shepard’s students felt frustrated and treated unfairly, she said.
“They may have been frustrated because they worked hard to produce the first newspaper in the school’s history,” Baldaia said. “However, they need to learn how to do it right.”
Although Ramsey returned the papers to the students, Shepard said they still felt wronged because Ramsey only returned the papers after a request from Baldaia, who had reviewed the first issue prior to its publication.
“Some of my students said they didn’t feel like it was a victory,” Shepard added.
Because Ramsey did not return the newspapers until June 6, Shepard doubted many students had the opportunity to read the staff’s work. Tuesday, June 7, was the last day of school and Shepard said many students often skip the last day because testing has already ended.
Although the issue resolved with the return of the papers, Shepard said she expects the students and their paper to face more problems when the 2005-2006 school year begins.
“Time will tell” if the issues carry over into the coming school year, Baldaia said.
–By Mike Hart