Banned student work finds home on Web





NEW YORK — Beware, high school administrators: With the explosion of the information superhighway, censorship of the student press has been transformed from a dead-end avenue into a mere roadblock that can be hurdled by editors and reporters who have a new outlet to publish their work.

Now students can have their work posted on www.boltreporter.com, a World Wide Web site devoted to high school journalism.

“Got a story that your high school newspaper won’t print because it’s too controversial?” asks the Bolt Reporter, which bills itself as “America’s Online High School Newspaper” and is on the lookout for solid student journalism that has been censored.

But the site is more than just a place to reprint banned stories; “Banned on Bolt” aims to tell the whole experience of censored reporters and editors. “It’s about their stories: how they felt, how nervous they were and the resources they used to make change happen,” explained Parker Stanzione, senior editor of the Web site.

“Banned on Bolt” works with student journalists from around the nation to publish their censored work and the accompanying stories of struggles with administrators and other opponents of free expression. “The site offers a forum for students. We really encourage them to follow up with us about the process they’re going through,” said Stanzione, who tries to keep students interested in telling their stories.

Not all of the stories on the site have been banned from local high school newspapers; some stretch the boundaries of what school officials might feel comfortable publishing. The articles range from opinions about pagers and news about the White House scandals to ones exploring bias against gay students and teen suicide.

However the new outlet to sidestep school censorship raises concerns for some.

Candace Perkins Bowen, the coordinator of scholastic-media programs at Kent State University and a former president of the Journalism Education Association, expressed her concern about a possible effect that the Web site might have on high school journalism. “One thing that worries me, if kids are too willing to publish controversial articles elsewhere,” Bowen told Education Week, “then they’re not going to fight the good fight in their own back yard.”

The site’s editor said that she is also interested in helping students change things in their own communities. Stanzione directs censored student journalists to the Student Press Law Center or their local American Civil Liberties Union.

Stanzione said that the “Banned” site was conceived by the executive staff of Concete Media Inc., the New York City-based for-profit company that produces the Bolt Reporter. When asked to describe the origins of the section championing censored work, she noted, “It just needed to happen.” According to Stanzione, “Banned on Bolt” was a reaction to students sending the Bolt staff underground newspapers and directing them to Web sites where underground work was published.

Bolt is a Web site devoted to teen issues as students make the transition from high school to college. The Bolt Reporter was developed with the “intention to work with the community of teenagers visiting the Bolt site,” said Stanzione.

Concrete Media plans to expand “Banned on Bolt” in the future.


reports, Spring 1998