TV reporter's complaint leads to confiscation of Md. high school newspapers

MARYLAND —Student newspapers were confiscated at Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School onMarch 16 after a television reporter complained that a story and photo of her mightcause her children to be harassed.

The Tattler wasdistributed March 16 between lunch and fifth period and confiscated duringseventh period, said Amy Heaton, coeditor in chief of The Tattler.

Heaton said principal Karen Lockard sent an email to facultyasking them to retrieve the remaining papers that hadn’t been distributed. In amiscommunication, Heaton said some newspapers were taken from students’ hands.

“I didn’t know what was happening until I spoke to oursponsor,” Heaton said. “A parent came to the administration because she wasuncomfortable with her photo in the newspaper because her kids were strugglingsince she has received a lot of attention.”

Heaton said the parent is a local journalist who hasrecently reported a series about underage drinking in the D.C. metro area. The Tattler’scover story was about the portrayal of teens in the media, Heaton said. The70-word sidebar and photo of the journalist were in the paper because of herreporting about teen drinking. The headline on the piece read, “B-CC Teenagersaccording to the Media.”

Heaton did not name the journalist but the photo was of WUSAChannel 9 reporter Andrea McCarren, according to The Washington Post.

McCarren removed herself from the series in February, citingharassment of her and her family in response to the reporting. The Tattler did not mention McCarren’schildren, who attend B-CC, in the sidebar, according to The Post.

McCarren put herself back on the teen drinking series lastweek. McCarren could not be reached for comment.

Heaton met with Lockard the following Monday to discuss theconfiscation. The Tattler’s circulationis about 1500 to 2000, Heaton said. The next day, March 20 all of the remainingnewspapers were redistributed during lunch.

In a statement, Lockard said the intent of the recall was toprotect students, “who had been harassed personally and on-line. The harassmenthad lessened and the concern arose that a story in this issue would stir thingsup again.”

“Students on the Tattler staff are responsible journalists.I encourage you to support, as I do, the Tattler and the staff as they continueto grow and improve the publication,” Lockard wrote in the statement.

Heaton’s mother, Lisa Heaton, said the method used toconfiscate the papers was poor judgment. Lisa works for Bethesda Magazine where her daughter is an intern.

“With student journalists, they’re learning,” Lisa said.“This is their try-it-on period and they’re just learning where they can andcan’t push the envelope… When a known journalist criticizes and makes them (The Tattler staff) feel like they havedone something wrong when they haven’t, you endanger the process of thembecoming journalists.”

Lisa said to be a journalist – a public figure in the eyesof the community – and then tell student journalists they can’t publishsomething is a contradiction. Lisa said public figures can’t be “hands off whenI want to be,” and the consequences of her actions should have been thoughtthrough before proceeding.

“I’m embarrassed for the adults with this whole thing butI’m very proud of the kids,” Lisa said.

Heaton said the principal apologized to her and herco-editor during a meeting last week.

“She said it was nothing we did, we didn’t do anythingwrong, and that the administration had acted without thinking,” Heaton said.“We came to the decision that if there was something that could be a potentialproblem to the principal, we would tell her before hand so she knows how tohandle the situation.”