Fight against student journalists is at an all time high

Administration’s distrust cuts papers from Nebraska to Illinois


AP Newsroom

Northwest High School’s administration shut down the Viking Saga student newspaper because of what they deemed to be inappropriate LGBTQ stories

633 miles away from New Trier, Northwest High School in Grand Island, Nebraska announced the shutdown of their school newspaper, Viking Saga, in June. This was done with a specific aim of vengeance, marinated with a healthy dose of distrust.

Last March, the Northwest administration ordered student journalists, including the three transgender members of the staff, to refer to themselves by their birth names rather than their preferred names. The students responded to this by adorning the top of their final edition with rainbows, and writing two columns about LGBTQ+ issues alongside an article about the origins of Pride Month. The administrators immediately pounced on the issue, shutting down the paper in retaliation.

Press freedom advocates call this censorship. This censorship comes from a pent up war from both the administration and the mouths of student journalists. The Viking Saga wrote for 54 years before their ship sank. Tension built up for these 54 years, and currently exists far beyond the prairies of Nebraska. 

At our own school, the News has been printing a weekly paper for the better part of 103 years, and over this time school administrations have given students the power to voice our concerns about our school and the larger community. Putting this into practice, however, has been complicated. The administration granted us five print editions last year, and cut that down to four for this year. Next year’s print editions are still being decided.

Student journalism comes down to the idea of trust– specifically having trust in student journalists to voice concerns with the objective of creating change. Oftentimes student journalists are framed as the antagonists–seeking to magnify the cracks in the concrete of our schools. But our work doesn’t stop there. We show the cracks that need to be mended. The reality is that student journalists are the school’s detectors, its eyes and ears.

“The high school newspaper is not the enemy of frightened adults,” The New York Times mentioned in the aftermath of Viking Saga’s shutdown. “It is one of the few windows they will ever have into what is actually happening in their own children’s world, perhaps in their own children’s hearts.”

We will never get to this type of relationship unless student journalists and their administrations can recognize and accept that they have a common goal: to make the school a better place to learn and grow. Student journalists have been given the power to voice their opinions. We give access to the inner workings of the student mind, something our school can truly benefit from. Yes, it’s true that student journalists have enough power to put uncomfortable situations in the limelight. But often, the limelight is the only place where the school can see them and, more importantly, do something about them. 

The 633 mile distance between the Viking Saga and New Trier News couldn’t compensate for the one shared philosophy we hold dear: student journalists shed light on the necessary surveys, the ones that mean significant and valuable change for our school. We simply ask to let us do our job.