For Abraham Moussako, a 2011 graduate, working on the student newspaper at Bronx High School of Science was an exercise in frustration.
Getting an article approved in your school newspaper covering an incident that garnered the institution bad publicity citywide is the sort of thing that probably would be a chore in any circumstance. But it was an even dicier situation at the [Science] Survey, where the administration took its power of prior review over the paper seriously.
Moussako’s description of several run-ins that he and other editors had with the school’s famously hands-on administration fans a longstanding debate about the role of school officials in reviewing student journalism. Reports from advocates of student journalism suggest that many city principals exercise their legal right to review and curb reporting that appears in school newspapers.
Bronx Science Principal Valerie Reidy is one of them. She told GothamSchools she has a responsibility for every word that appears in the Science Survey, so she reviews the paper for grammatical errors, tone, and whether issues are presented in a balanced way. While some students don’t like her involvement, she said it’s no different from the way she works with the student government, where students gain experience in politics but don’t actually make school policy.
Fundamentally, she said, she is involved with the newspaper’s management for educational reasons.
“Good journalism is the scientific process,” Reidy said. “Our goal [at Bronx Science] is that everyone can analyze situations and think clearly and show both sides of an issue objectively before drawing conclusions.”
But sometimes, according to Moussako, the issue for student journalists wasn’t how to cover an issue but whether they could write about it at all. He describes spiking an editorial about widely reported conflicts between Reidy and teachers at the school after Reidy rejected it. Speaking with GothamSchools, Reidy suggested that those conflicts don’t belong in the student paper precisely because they have gotten attention in the city’s professional press.
“In a school newspaper are we going to allow that newspaper to vent every single complaint of a teacher or should it be about student issues?” she asked.