Last year, the Playwickian, the newspaper of Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania, made a decision to not publish their school’s mascot name, the Redskins, in their paper because the staff perceived “Redskins” as racist and offensive. This formal decision was backed by two-thirds of the editorial board. But the administration told the students to print the word or not print the paper at all.
After the Playwickian went ahead and published the word as “R——-,” the administration suspended the advisor, Tara Huber, for two days without pay and the EIC, Gillian McGoldrick, from her position for one month. The administration also fined the staff $1200, which was soon made up for through a fundraiser on Indiegogo.
One of the most important principles in journalism is acting independently. As journalists, we are to be independent of prejudice and not publish information that disenfranchises people. The Playwickian Editorial Board should not be punished for making a decision to act independently.
If student journalists are to fulfill their duties responsibly and independently, administrations must give them the space and power to make editorial decisions. Especially in this case, the Playwickian’s decision to not publish the “R” word should not have been punished by the school.
The administration insisted that the Playwickian should publish the word with respect for the school’s pride and history. But this issue is much bigger than that.
In light of these events, the Society of Professional Journalists released a letter to four national school associations, encouraging them to stand up against Neshaminy administration and hold a summit “with the goal of formulating a set of standards for educationally responsible governance of journalism education, and for the ethical treatment of student voices in general.”
As fellow student journalists, the staff of RedEye stands by the Playwickian’s decision to not publish a word they consider inappropriate for the paper. The decision was made after careful evaluation and should serve as an prime example for all journalists to eliminate minority discrimination and ultimately act independently.
To read more on the Playwickian’s ordeal with their administration, read the coverage on Philly.com, the Scholastic Press Rights Commission, and The Washington Post.