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Originally published Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Letters to the editor

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

Paper tigers

Of all people, journalists should know care informs judgment

Editor, The Times:

After reading "Editing young journalists" [Times editorial, Feb. 1], I couldn't believe how much you sounded like all of the administrators who testified against House Bill 1307 ["regarding freedom of speech and press for high school and college students"], saying that students aren't responsible enough to be in charge of the content of their publications.

You are journalists so you, of all people, should know that when we, students, care about our publications and are given the authority to make all content decisions, we will make the right ones.

You are, as Jeff Nusser said at the hearing, "afraid of what they might do wrong."

I urge you to think about what we might do right. We are journalists; all we are asking is to be treated as such.

— Matt Anderson, Tacoma

Watchdog prep

As a journalism educator at Emerald Ridge High School, I am shocked and dismayed by The Times' total lack of effort to understand the complexities of the relationship between student journalists and the administrators they cover.

The relationship of student-journalist to administration is not one of writer to editor, as you suggest. That analogy works in a commercial environment, where each party's goal is to work in the best interest of the publication and the readers it serves.

A better parallel in a school environment is one of journalist to government. As state employees, administrators are the government in schools. They are the primary decision-makers of that community, and they often are the subject of the stories these journalists write — not the case with professional editors.

Student newspapers serve a watchdog role within their schools, and administrators who insist on taking an intimate role in the publication process not only cause major credibility issues for these journalists, but they create an inevitable chilling effect on the free flow of information.

My principal operates our school in a free-press environment, and it's how my students have won numerous national journalism awards, including the NSPA Pacemaker Award.

I fear for the future of a democracy where our own journalists are advocating for government to determine the content of our press.

— Jeff Nusser, Orting

To be accurate

"Editing young journalists" is factually wrong. House Bill 1307 would not "strip high-school and college educators of the ability to make editorial decisions," since educators don't have that right under current law.

This bill clarifies existing law, allowing student editors to make content decisions without arbitrary administrative censorship. The administrative oversight defined by this bill is rooted in specifics, not generalities.

The Washington Journalism Education Association (WJEA) and its national counterpart, the Journalism Education Association (JEA) provide training to student media advisers in journalism standards and media law. In Washington state, advisers gather annually for a three-day intensive summer training workshop at Central Washington University.

These devoted teachers are advisers. Yes, advisers. Not publishers. Not editors. And more important, not censors.

This new legislation is supported by many enlightened administrators.

Each year, WJEA honors an Administrator of the Year, who expects the very best from his/her students and does not degrade them by insisting that they march to the main office with their work before it goes public.

We at WJEA urge critics to take a closer look at this bill and the clarity it provides for administrators, advisers and especially for students.

— Kathy Schrier, president, Washington Journalism Education Association, Seattle

A success story

As a journalism teacher and the adviser to a high-school student newspaper in Colorado, one of the six states to have a student freedom-of-expression law, every day I see students exercise their First Amendment rights and responsibilities in an educational setting.

Since 1990, Colorado high-school journalism students have thoughtfully practiced responsible journalism under a law similar to the one currently being proposed in Washington. During that time — and contrary to The Times' assertion — I have taught essential journalistic intangibles such as editorial judgment.

In fact, I would argue that such intangibles are taught — and practiced — even more because students must take more ownership of the content of their publications when they are legally and ethically responsible for that content.

In my view, students are certainly able to responsibly handle determining the content of their publications and broadcasts. When presented with the opportunity, students — with advice from their teachers and administrators — will deliver thoughtful, insightful and responsible journalism. We have in Colorado and, knowing the quality of high-school journalism students, advisers and programs in Washington, so will they.

— Mark Newton, adviser, The Orange & Black student newsmagazine; chair, Certification Commission, Journalism Education Association; journalism teacher, Grand Junction (Colorado) High School

Indulging ourselves

How can we resist

Regarding "Climate scientists surer than ever: Man's to blame" [page one, Feb. 2]: Now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the final say on global warming (yep, it's real), why are we in this heated debate over tunnel vs. Alaskan Way Viaduct?

If we don't stop burning fossil fuels, we'll permanently cripple life on Earth.

It's time to start making sense. The monorail made sense (it still does), but fear was used to kill it. We were scared off by horror stories of its ultimate costs 50 years down the road (or rail).

Where are the 50-year boogeyman tales about the waterfront projects? Or highway expansions?

The future demands mass transit. No other consideration is credible.

— Bill Fisher, Seattle

More where that came from

This latest study on global warming has changed my mind. I thought we should be reducing greenhouse gases, but if it will take hundreds or even thousands of years, it doesn't make sense to even try. Nuclear war, biological outbreaks or something else will end civilization by that time.

— John Tyson, Bellevue

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