Administrative honesty key to bridging communication gap between faculty, students


Cartoon by Abby Ferry ’16

For the past 88 years, “The Tower” has been a public forum for student expression in which the diverse voices of South can be broadcast to the community with unflinching honesty and a dedication to journalistic ethics.

From stories about students recovering from drug abuse to the controversy surrounding Rick Santorum’s 2013 speech, “The Tower” has never shied away from addressing contentious issues with a mature and objective voice. This commitment to the truth has lead us to many awards and accolades, including the respect and trust of our community.

As a weekly publication, the success and general function of “The Tower” depends on the cooperation and support of our school, especially the administrative team. South’s staff is comprised of dependable sources with reputable information necessary for us to report the entire, multi-sided truth.

However, throughout the beginning of the school year, “The Tower” encountered frequent opposition and obfuscation from the administration when the news we need to report is not positive. For example, we encountered many obstacles when trying to report on the detection dogs and struggled to obtain factual information from the administration that was necessary to properly inform the school.

Our objective is and always has been to report news. The detection dog story, just like any story of a controversial nature, allows us to dispel many rumors within the school.

While we understand staff and administrators must protect their credibility and ultimately their jobs, we believe open and honest communication should be something our district rewards instead of discourages. Sooner or later, negative news bubbles to the surface regardless of our journalistic efforts, as in the case of former principal Al Diver in 2012 who left in the midst of a scandal. We believe it is more proactive to foster an open forum so our community does not feel as if administrators have something nefarious to hide or avoid, as a printed “no comment” response implies.

Generally, there is no reason for school officials to withhold information from us, especially when it is not legally sensitive or controversial. For instance, when we tried to cover issues earlier in the year such as the boys’ bathrooms being vandalized, the administration’s initial response should not have been “no comment.”

Recently, the administration has been more considerate when it comes to sharing sensitive and helpful information, which we greatly appreciate. For example, when covering the shooting threat last week for this issue, Principal Moussa Hamka went out of his way to collaborate productively with us. He made time for last-minute interviews that were crucial to the validity of an essential article. This is the type of relationship we want to foster throughout the school year and beyond. In addition, Assistant Principal Terry Flint went above and beyond what we asked of him when finding resources and fact-checking for our sexual harassment feature.

We aim to be a resource for both administrators and students that helps mend the communication gap. We offer the administration a voice that is more personal than mass e-mails sent to the student body. Not to mention, e-mails are only sent out under extreme circumstances. “The Tower” allows administration to comment on the multitude of other facets of the school.

In addition, covering challenging, controversial stories gives us an advantageous background in journalism that many schools do not offer. As a school prided on its college preparatory and pre-professional training, South’s journalism program equips its students with the tools necessary to model future careers, not only as journalists, but in any field that requires critical thinking and an ability to ask difficult questions.

Of course, as all students do, we make mistakes. Sometimes we misspell names or confuse dates. But when we make critical errors, we do what every newspaper from “The New York Times” to the “Wall Street Journal” does: we apologize, retract and correct.

We have been taught since we first entered the Grosse Pointe Public School System that we, as American citizens, are granted certain liberties and freedoms. Among those, included in the very First Amendment of the Constitution so proudly hung outside of our school’s library, is freedom of press. While “The Tower” understands our privilege when it comes to not being subjected to prior-review, this advantage is almost rendered pointless when we experience censorship via “the silent treatment.”

As journalists, it is our job to report the truth. We are not trying to stir the pot, nor are we trying to damage the reputation of the South administrative team. Instead, we value the input administration gives us and appreciate when they take time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. In order for our students to be the best for the world, we need to be well-informed individuals who foster healthy and open relationships with administration.