The editors of the Wilson High School newspaper, the Beacon, won’t have to submit their articles to their principal for review before publication anymore under a tentative agreement between the publication and school administrators. Wilson Principal Kimberly Martin and the Beacon’s faculty advisers met Monday to talk down Martin from her policy of prior review, which Beacon staffers saw as a layer of censorship.
“Principal Martin is in the process of reconsidering her prior review policy,” a statement from the Beacon reads.
But just because Martin won’t be playing editor anymore doesn’t mean she’s not divorcing herself entirely from the Beacon‘s production process. While prior review is apparently off the table, Martin’s trade-off is that people interviewed by the Beacon will be allowed to approve their quotes before articles go to press. “The editors are revisiting their editorial policies to instate a clearly outlined chain of responsibilities and verify quotes in all future articles,” the newspaper’s statement continues.
The Beacon‘s staff clearly see Martin’s dropping her demand for prior review as a victory, and the “clearly outlined chain of responsibilities” that Martin wants is easy to grant. Beacon co-editor Erin Doherty says Martin simply wants a written statement of the paper’s editorial workflow stating that content is seen by section editors, top editors, and faculty advisers before it is published.
Martin’s demand for quote approval, though, opens a path for the Beacon‘s subjects to clean up their on-the-record statements, a condition at which most reporters and editors would blanch. But Doherty says ther’s an easy-enough workaround. “We’ll try to encourage every reporter to record their conversations,” she tells Washingtonian.
Public opinion was overwhelmingly with the Beacon, which has been published since 1935, almost entirely without interference from school administrators. While the paper’s relationship with Wilson’s principal—undoubtedly one of its most covered subjects—is frayed, Doherty does not believe it has become completely antagonistic.
“If she trusts us and knows we publish quality articles I believe she’ll be willing to work with us and let us report on her,” Doherty says. “Maybe not super-soon.”