Mountain View student newspaper controversy reinforces significance of speech rights

April 7, 2013 — by Rohan Rajeev

The headline reads “sex and relationships,” but this time it actually focuses a lot on the sex.

The headline reads “sex and relationships,” but this time it actually focuses a lot on the sex.

Recently, The Oracle, the student newspaper for Mountain View High School, became embroiled in controversy after publishing an explicit section on sex and relationship advice. The stories included polls describing the surprisingly large number of teens engaging in sexual activity as well as descriptions of physical feelings during sex.

The package angered many adults and parents of children at the school. To them, the publication seemed to promote underage, unsafe sex. They believed the entire package was inappropriate and did not abide by journalism ethics.

These critics forget the entire reason for journalism in the first place. The whole point of journalism is to garner attention and, especially, to stir up discussion, which is exactly what The Oracle has done.

With articles entitled “Abstinence only? Please, girl” and “What they teach you in health, and what you really need to know,” it is no surprise the section has earned a lot of negative attention. There’s no such thing as bad press, though.

Parents unwillingly brought a lot of attention to themselves as well as the controversial section; the San Jose Mercury News even covered the brouhaha. Journalism feeds off of attention, and The Oracle probably gained many readers with this package, further facilitating the flow of information. In the midst of the commotion, the student editors bravely welcomed the adversity, stating that they’d like to discuss the reasons for publishing the pages.

Parents do not usually expect student journalists to distribute information like this; a section with this much explicit detail is usually censored or left out of print publication, as advisers try to refrain from drawing excessive criticism. (The photo of the baseball team shirtless and nearly pantless may have been overdoing it a bit).

The students of The Oracle valiantly stepped out into the line of fire by publishing the section. While the staff endures the hailstorm of parental complaints, they can take comfort in the fact that they proved the existence of a certain power that is retained by all student journalists. Like all journalists, we are morally obligated to spread the truth, regardless of how direct it is.

The articles include mentions of reproductive parts and discusses sex and love as regular aspects of many teenagers’ lives, which is what the protesting parents have the biggest problem with. However, the stories tell much more than most health teachers feel comfortable admitting, like the fact that 50 percent of teenagers have sex before they turn 19.

The information presented represents a rawer truth than what is usually presented to teenagers, making it that much more interesting to read. In health class, sex education is taught with the mindset that most teenagers will not engage in sexual activity until they are of legal age.

However, many teenagers “experiment” before their 18th birthdays, and teaching them with this fact in mind is much more effective. While the publication doesn’t necessarily teach its readership, it does present information in a more down-to-earth and easier to grasp tone.

The sign of good journalism is that it raises awareness and tells the truth. Mountain View parents may think the Oracle made a mistake with a scandalous package, but they’ve exercised our very rights as student journalists.


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