The practice of journalism is an important part of the democratic process. High school newspapers are where many young journalists get their first experiences in the art of journalism. At The Northern Light we encourage our journalism staff to pursue topics of interest and relevance to high school readers. However, as advisers to these students, it is our duty to guide those pursuits while not crossing the line into censorship.
In the case of recent articles published in The Northern Light and posted online, we, as advisors have failed our students – first by not adequately reviewing the content; by not anticipating that these articles would be perceived as exhibiting hatred, dislike, and mistreatment of certain groups of people; and finally by not adhering to sound journalism practice of labeling opinion as such.
“As the advisor of The Northern Light, I apologize that I did not foresee that the opinions expressed in these articles would bring negative backlash against the students involved. Going forward, the editorial review process will be much more rigorous and used as an educational opportunity to discuss with student journalists the potential impact of their articles and words quoted within them. As The Northern Light adviser, I take full responsibility for what has happened and ask that all negative feedback be directed at me, and not our student journalists or the students they interviewed,” said Ben Neal.
Portage Northern values the rights of free speech and expression and does not condone the bullying and harassment of students who share their thoughts and ideas. In the case of these articles, however, the students involved have received hateful messages, posts, and other negative feedback. These actions have led us to the decision to retract the article. It was never the intent of The Northern Light, Portage Northern High School, or Portage Public Schools to publish content that was perceived to be targeting any person, group, or gender. We are truly sorry and will use this situation as a learning experience for all involved.
Jim French, Principal