OREGON — A high school newspaper adviser in Astoria bore thebrunt of the controversy stirred up by an editorial in Jewell HighSchool’s student newspaper, The Jay.
The unsigned editorial published Sept. 2 criticized the Brandwood Landingliquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Astoria, spurring complaints from formerschool board member Dave Samuelson. Adviser Don Anderson received a voicemailfrom Samuelson after the editorial ran.
“In the message he said he was going to come down and get me and dosomething and try to make life miserable for me,” Anderson said. “Iwas amazed. I was surprised because the position in the editorial was not out ofkeeping with the mainstream position of the LNG debate. Students should beencouraged to take positions on issues and shouldn’t be afraid to doso.”
Samuelson did not respond to calls by press time.
Samuelson’s message was not deemed a criminal act by the ClastopCounty sheriff, and no legal action will be taken, according to The DailyAstorian. The complaints, however, intimidated Anderson, in addition to thestudent journalists who wrote the editorial.
Mike Hiestand, legal consultant for the Student Press Law Center, said thepressure that was put on Anderson as an adviser was conflicting. An advisershouldn’t have to make a choice between affording students the opportunityof a journalistic learning experience — the job he is supposed to do– and losing his position, Hiestand said.
“[The students] absolutely should be commended for digging in,”Hiestand said. “The fact that the kids are doing this kind of journalismin a pretty tiny school is amazing. This one politician who didn’t likewhat they said has really thrown his weight around and really scared them.It’s sad.”
The editorial denounced the LNG pipeline that has been proposed to gothrough the Jewell area, and its supporting politicians, though none of themwere specifically named. After Samuelson complained about the editorial, theauthors were afraid to speak about why they wrote the piece, Andersonsaid.
When Samuelson called Anderson, he sought to discover the identities of theeditorial’s authors, and if they had documentation proving their claims.Samuelson told The Daily Astorian that his personal frustration with theeditorial stemmed from recalls (supported by LNG opponents) facing his wife,County Commissioner Ann Samuelson, also a former Jewell board member.
Samuelson told the Astorian that he was “very shocked at thelack of oversight” in the editorial and that he was upset about the lackof respect the editorial showed for the hard work that public officials do,according to the Astorian‘s article published on Sept.7.
Anderson said his first thought after listening to Samuelson’svoicemail was to notify Jewell’s superintendent, Brian Gander, so he couldbe prepared to address the situation.
Though Anderson said he thought he and his students were not doing anythingoutside of normal journalistic practice, Gander has now required Andersonensure every article has a byline, including editorials. Anderson does not thinkthere will be any other changes made to The Jay, and strongly believes inthe significance of editorials in a student publication.
“There’s a trend in our culture to dumb down publications thathave to do with youth,” Anderson said. “I was the editor of my highschool paper, and I think it’s a time when you’re most alive.Journalism is always looking for something to uncover.”