Cigarette story pulled from student paper
MISSOURI — “Two area businesses sell cigarettes to minors,” read the Jaguar Journal headline. Underneath was only a large white space with a logo saying it was an investigative report.
The story did not run because the principal at Blue Springs South High School censored it. Now, the school district is involved in a censorship struggle with the newspaper.
After students attended an American Cancer Society press conference on the dangers of smoking, they decided to create a special edition of the student newspaper on the topic.
The plan was to include a story on minors’ ability to purchase cigarettes from local businesses in violation of the law. Before the students began the investigation they contacted the police to get permission to buy the cigarettes. A 15-year-old freshman and a 16-year-old junior went to eight local businesses. Two of the eight illegally sold cigarettes to the minors.
Editor Jeremy Gates said the students wanted to run the story with names of the businesses and comments from the owners.
According to Gates, Principal Dennis Littrell censored the paper because businesses had allegedly called and were afraid the story would hurt their business. The superintendent said he would allow the paper to run the article if the business names were delete, Gates said.
The staff decided to run the entire issue with the white space because of their committments to advertisers. Other articles, ads and cartoons about smoking were printed.
After the local paper ran the story printing the businesses’ names, the principal allowed the student paper to print their story, Gates said.
reports, Spring 1996