Embattled high school newspaper loses a year's worth of archived stories after school officials shut down website

CALIFORNIA — A California high school paper has lost more than a year’s worth of archived stories following an abrupt website shutdown made by administrators, who have been accused of censoring the paper in the past.

San Gabriel High School’s The Matador has had its new website up for at least a month, and since then, the students have been attempting to recover old files from GoDaddy, the paper’s former website host. The earliest content they were able to recover was from February 2014, the last time they backed up their data, co-editor-in-chief Erin Truong said.

Administrators did not notify the paper’s editors about the server change until the day their old domain expired. School officials had shut down the paper’s automatic renewal at GoDaddy, which blocked editors from accessing or saving old content. After contacting GoDaddy to see if their old files were still saved on the company’s servers, the editors realized they missed the window to recover files that were not backed up.

Truong said that everything published after February 2014 has been lost online — including their editorial about the administration’s censorship of an article about a popular teacher’s dismissal, and their coverage of their ongoing fight with the school board.

The new Matador website, thematadorsghs.us, is now housed on the school district’s servers, and the transition has been bumpy. Editors were told that the hosting change would not interfere with editorial control over the operations or content on the site, but so far, Troung is not pleased.

Truong said that because the district’s technology department is unfamiliar with how the students usually ran their site, students were only given access to content, and have no control over the layout or structure of the page. Because of this, The Matador has temporarily ceased publishing new content online until this is resolved.

“Personally, I feel mildly annoyed. The new website was clearly rushed and isn’t suited to allowing us to publish efficiently. I feel it was inconsiderate of them to move our site when the one they were building for us wasn’t even complete,” Truong said in an email.

The website transition is the latest development in a months-long saga of conflict between the paper and its administration. After the then-principal blocked the publication of a story about the dismissal of a first-year teacher, students protested at board meetings and accused the district of censorship. The district then investigated the incident and found there was no intent to censor — but implemented several safeguards for the student press.

Since then, the students’ presence at board meetings has continued, and it has picked up since the newspaper’s adviser, Jennifer Kim, was placed on indefinite administrative leave after an argument with the school’s new principal in August. Alumni of the paper have filed a complaint to the state that the two substitute teachers who have replaced Kim are unqualified and lack journalism experience.

Kim is still on leave, and some alumni and current students have started a blog, Defy Silence Under Alliance, to protest the administration’s actions.

The Matador staff will receive the 2015 Courage in Student Journalism Award this weekend for their in-depth coverage of Alahambra School District board meetings following accusations of censorship, and their continued fight against the administration for the website shutdown and removal of their administrator. The award is presented by the Student Press Law Center, National Scholastic Press Association and the Kent State Center for Scholastic Journalism at the National High School Journalism Convention in Orlando.

Contact SPLC staff writer Allison Kowalski at 202-478-1926 or by email.