The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

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Confronting censorship

As an editorial board, we believe it is imperative that our audience is made aware that in Issue IV of The Standard, an article was censored by the administration.

We won’t discuss in detail what was censored, instead, we will outline the trepidations we have with the decision certain administrators made.

As a paper it is our duty to publish exemplary student news media according to the strictest standards of journalistic integrity. In Issue IV, we failed to deliver this standard due to this censorship. Hours before we sent to press a section of an article had to be removed, resulting in the publication of a story that did not fully encapsulate all the details of the event, despite the fact that we had obtained this information.

While this was the most egregious case, it wasn’t the only one. In the past The Standard has attempted to contact sources outside of school that the school contacted for industrial projects. Although we were only attempting to provide the best information from an expert on the project, the school explicitly told the source outside of school not to speak to us. That decision left us unable to deliver the most accurate article possible and gave us only the school to trust for their own information. The school insisting that we rely on them and solely them for our data sets another uncomfortable precedence: one where the school constructs the only narrative.

In another instance this issue, we were denied information that we requested because the school was afraid we would misinterpret the data. We take issue with this because just because an interpretation of information that differs from the one the school has is not inherently incorrect. Data allows for multiple, correct interpretations. Also, it does the school no justice to withhold the information. The Standard is one of the main forms of communication within the community. Our job as journalists is to answer the questions people have about what the school does. The philosophy that what the community doesn’t know doesn’t hurt them is sincerely ingenuine.

This is an all too frequent occurrence and one that threatens not only our legitimacy, but that of the administration. If there is so much the administration wishes to withhold, one must wonder about their actions and transparency with the community.

Publishing an article that is missing critical facts is an offense that skirts on the line of neglect and misinformation. From your perspective as the reader, you should be skeptical of what it means when your news is incomplete. Of course historians will argue there is no one correct narrative, but to receive news from a publication that is wholly incomplete is inexcusable.

Especially in an age where social media is being used as a news outlet, and fake news and biased news organizations are on the rise, it is necessary that readers question the stories they are reading.

As an editorial board, we cannot stress enough the importance of the autonomy of the press. Without the capability to freely uncover and report the truth, in whatever form the truth takes, we cannot inform our community of the real issues taking place on campus. To limit the scope of what this staff can report on is a major concern for us as staff members and for the wider community. Restricting the topics we can and cannot discuss hinders our community’s ability to accurately self reflect on matters of grave concern. If The Standard’s ability to print the truth is hindered, our readers will not be able to trust the journalistic integrity of our publication.

From the perspective of a well functioning democracy, the press plays the invaluable role of the watchdog, holding the government accountable. Simply stated, when the press is restricted in any capacity, there is no guarantee executives are being held to the standards they ought to be.

We also feel it necessary to discuss why the administration censored the article in Issue IV and the concerns we have with their logic.

This decision came down to the balance of two rights: The freedom of the press and parents’ right to privacy. Ultimately, their decision came in response to parents pressuring the school to withhold the article. The issues with the article were not raised by students, nor was the information in question damaging to any individual’s reputation. 

This editorial board believes firmly that the administration should defend its students before catering to the demands of parents.

Finally, with a new Head of School starting next year, we hope that this issue does not set a negative precedent. Although this case of censorship is almost entirely isolated, its existence cannot be denied and if continued, will limit The Standard’s ability to produce a newspaper with integrity. We hope, in the future, that the school will respect the autonomy of the newspaper and allow The Standard to report the truth.

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