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Respectable Journalism

What is the purpose of this newspaper? The editors tell me that "the purpose is to provide an open forum in which the students can voice their opinions". I don't think so. This paper was formed so that a select few could slam their school in the name of free speech. The first issue of this newspaper was written by three people. In the editors' column of the first issue, they admit to this fact. The column states that the articles of the paper "represent the efforts of a few very dedicated writers." I thought this newspaper was supposed to represent the thoughts and opinions of the student body! In fact, the paper is the result of a few sour individuals who took the time to shove their negative thoughts on the entire school.

I would love to confirm the fact that there were only a couple students writing the first issue; I can't. The writers have refused to sign their articles. They are afraid for their safety, and would like to ensure their protection. I would be too. They have been saying some extremely controversial stuff, and have refused to take responsibility for it. From the way the articles have been written, it seems to me that these writers are not interested in making constructive criticism; rather, they want a reaction. In order to get it, they have said some outrageous, grossly inappropriate things. Probably the best example I can think of concerns the article in the second issue which discusses the Amanda MacDonald Student Center . Although I could write a lot about this subject, I won't elaborate on it too much because I don't want to belabor the subject. But, to say the least, it made me sick. I can respect a student's right to free speech, but some things are sanctimonious (to use Mr. Colb's adjective). There are some things which we should have a general respect for; the student center is definitely one of them. I cannot understand why the editors of this paper didn't cut it out. I also cannot understand why they allow writers to make personal attacks on people. In a couple articles, I have been attacked personally. What gives that person the right to attack me, then refuse to sign his name and take responsibility for doing it?

Another problem I have with this publication is that in many instances it has just circulated lies. Just one example of this, is in the article, "Council Breaks Constituents' Trust!" in the first issue. The article starts with, "The Student Council is truly in a sorry state. At their meeting (called secretly for Monday, the 23rd of October, . . .)." I would like to refute this first statement and elaborate on our present situation, but my space is limited. However, I will say that I have been involved with the Menlo Student Council for four years. In my opinion, I have never seen the council so committed to improving the school. The second statement, that the meeting on Monday was secret, is just a lie. The reason we had the extra meeting was to vote again on a controversial motion. On Wednesday there were not enough council members to make the original vote official, so on Monday we voted again, and talked about Spirit Week. Later, the writer states, "Student Council members attempted at least once to remove our source, since he was not a member of the Council." This comment is a joke! Student Council meetings have always been open to everyone in the school. The meeting on the 23rd was no exception. As I said before, this is just one example of the false facts which can be found throughout the first two issues of the Subterranean. Using false facts like these is probably the only way the writers can support some of their ridiculous arguments.

I do not mean to give the impression that I think the paper is a waste and publication should be halted. However, I do think the first two issues should be burned. The purpose of the paper is supposedly to provide a forum in which the students (not just two or three) can express their thoughts (not just negative ones). The first two issues represented nearly the antithesis of this "goal". As a result, I am afraid that the "Subterranean Crusader" may have already lost all of its credibility. After reading, or even just hearing about the comments regarding the student center and the council, some students have already pushed the paper aside. Following comments like those, it is hard to believe anything else in the paper.

I think the Crusader could be a good addition to our school provided it made some changes. First. The tone of the paper needs to change. It has been entirely negative. The title of the newspaper, The Subterranean Crusader: "Sedition in the Ranks" immediately suggests that the paper is a compilation of complaints. It certainly does not encourage any positive articles! Second. The paper needs to be purged of all false facts. Third. Writers need to be respectful, use common sense to judge what they should say, and remember who will be reading their articles. Fourth. Each writer should sign his article, and take responsibility for his comments. (I think by-lines will be present in this issue) If these four steps are taken, I think this publication can become an effective forum for discussion. The right to free speech is a part of the foundation upon which this nation was formed. It can wield tremendous power, and therefore should be used responsibly! It isn't something to use as an excuse to slander everything in sight! If this paper wants to be anything more than just a complaint box, writers are going to have to start being more constructive and responsible.

from President Bobby Beaver

Response from the Editors:

The author of this article, while often quite correct, has made a few factual errors. One personal attack was made against this individual, to our knowledge, in the article "Message to the Council on Free Speech;" any further ones were inadvertent or unclear. The statement that only three students contributed to the first issue is incorrect. Four students contributed, in writing six articles. For the second issue, six students contributed for eight articles. For the current issue, nine people have contributed to the development.

The claims in "Council Breaks Constituents' Trust" have all been confirmed. Upon the writer's entering Mr. Perkins' room, Patterson 230 (an abnormal place for a meeting anyway), a certain senior class officer said, "I don't think you're supposed to be here. This is a special meeting." This quote can be verified. Furthermore, the writer would have had to leave were it not for the fact that the constitution makes all meetings fully open.

The meeting on Monday, contrary to the requirements in the Menlo Constitution of the Assembled Students, did not have proper notification. Most members were notified, not 24 hours in advance, but less than fifteen hours in advance. In fact, at least one member of the council was not notified until Monday morning on the day of the meeting. No proper notification was made available to students, either through the announcements or another form of communication. Finally, the Student Council was not meeting in the normal location and its meeting could, for all these reasons, be termed "secret".

The author's statement that "some students have pushed the paper aside" is not necessarily true. In fact, demand for certain copies of the previous issue was so high that originals were being sold. The paper has obviously been well-read, and readership has continued to climb. The fact that writership is also increasing denotes the truth that the paper is still high in the esteem of the student body and various parts of the administration.

As other writers have noted, part of this paper's function is as a "complaint box". It is effective this way -- many of the complaints brought up in this and other papers have been new to the school in terms of the fact that they had not previously been heard. Of course, the paper has other functions as well, all of which must be served equally. Therefore, we are attempting to strike a delicate balance between raving, rampaging, "venomous" articles and those a little more subtle and thoughtful. The various reforms the author mentions have already been instituted. However, by-lines will not be present on all articles. This particular article was originally submitted without a by-line.

John Earl, Nick Feamster, Editors.

This page created for The Subterranean Crusader by John W. Earl. Last modified January 28, 1996.