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Students turn to Web after school newspaper closed

By The Associated Press
01.12.09

FARIBAULT, Minn. — About a month after the Faribault High School student newspaper was shut down by the district's superintendent, student journalists are taking their stories to the Internet.

The owner of a company that creates Web sites for student publications is offering student editors of the Echo a free site.

"We wanted to make sure they had a chance to keep publishing," said Jason Wallestad, owner of School Newspapers Online. "Our goal is to help student journalism as much as we can."

Superintendent Bob Stepaniak stopped the newspaper from being printed Dec. 14 after student editors refused to let him see an article before publication about an investigation of a middle school teacher.

The Web site — truthwithecho.com — is under development and its name will likely change, Echo Editor Christen Hildebrandt said. It will cover school news and events, but won't have any association with the district or use any of its resources, he said.

Hildebrandt said the Web site would be updated more frequently than the newspaper — the Echo was published monthly. In addition, it will include creative writing, columns and photography.

Because the Web site isn't funded by the district, administrators have no control over content. Stepaniak said he wasn't surprised that a Web site was created.

"It's well within their right," he said. "Any group of students could put together a Web site like that. That's the way life is in this electronic age."

Kelly Zwagerman, a teacher at the high school and adviser for the Echo, will help the students outside of her school duties. The site, she said, will be run by the students and her role will be minimal — she'll attend meetings and edit stories or offer guidelines for ethics.

"I'm very excited to see what students can do without the threat of censorship," she said. "Still, there [have] to be guidelines."

Meanwhile, the district is looking at the policy governing the Echo. Stepaniak and the Echo staff have each claimed the policy supports their view.

The Faribault Daily News reported that Echo staffers were planning a Jan. 26 presentation to the school board to try to persuade them to overturn Stepaniak’s decision shutting down the paper.


Related

High school newspapers squelched in 2 states

Student newspapers shut down after school administrators object to editorial material. 12.23.08

K-12 newspapers & yearbooks


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