Out Loud: Our Idyllwild School coverage

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More and more, we in the newsroom at the TC have experienced an impediment to covering local students at Idyllwild School: parents or guardians.

Last week, one of our freelance photographers went to Open House at the school and took lots of photos. He turned in four photos of the school concert without getting names. JP forwarded them to the front office for identification. Of the six performers’ photos taken that evening, we were not given names of four of the students.

Their parents had denied this request the school district provides at the beginning of the year:

“Granted Media Release — I give permission for my student to be interviewed, photographed, or filmed by members of the media or other agencies.”

No law currently exists in California denying journalists access to this information. And we realize that the front office must follow district rules and deny this information.

But, if we want to, we can get the names through another source, such as another parent. But we choose not to do so.

Primarily because we realize that some children may be endangered by having their names published in a newspaper — maybe because of a domestic violence issue or potential domestic abduction.

But it’s difficult to believe four out of six children randomly photographed all are in such a situation.

What we don’t think parents realize when they deny that school district — not media — release is that their kids don’t get to appear in their local newspaper. They’re denied the opportunity to be a student of the week. They’re denied the opportunity to celebrate being published in the local newspaper.

That child is denied the opportunity to feel pride in being published in the local newspaper that thousands of people read, including fellow students.

After my mother passed away, we found a scrapbook full of newspaper clipping about her children, grandchildren and other family members. Newspaper clippings celebrate life.

The parents/guardians who deny media access probably post photos of their children on social media, such as Facebook, for all to see. A fleeting moment; nothing tangible to hold onto as precious as that indelible, eternal newsprint captured for all time.

What inevitably will occur sometime soon is that we will take a photo of a group of students, send it to the front office for identification and be told that a kid somewhere in the front row has a parent who denied publication. What do we do then? Photoshop out the image? No, that’s not ethical. Then, do we discard the photo and deny all the other kids the opportunity to be published in their local newspaper? Yes, that’s what we will have to do.

In essence, this is creating a chilling effect on our coverage of Idyllwild School. We will stop photographing the open houses, the school sports programs, the book sales, the smARTS events, the concerts, the plays, the barbecue days, back-to-school nights, Back to the Future nights, school dances, first day of school, etc., etc.

I put this out there to other newspaper editors this week and already, some of them have pulled away from local school coverage because of this issue.

Is this the age we live in now or is it just that parents/guardians don’t know what they denied? I will be glad to continue this conversation with any of you, anonymously or not. Looking forward to it.

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