Parkview senior wins First Amendment Essay Contest

A Parkview High School senior won first place in the annual First Amendment Essay Contest, sponsored by the University of Georgia's Georgia Scholastic Press Association, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Cox Institute for Newspaper Management Studies.

Michael Cranford won a $100 cash prize and $100 for his school newspaper, The Pantera.

Cranford's essay discussed the history of the First Amendment and applied it to the regular prior review and censorship of his publication.

"The fact that our school newspaper is not a public forum per se has huge ramifications on how we go about compiling the newspaper, what can be said, what cannot be said and our protection of freedom of the press under the First Amendment," Cranford wrote. "Even once an article gets to the drawing board and is completed, the principal still has a very final and nonchalant way of keeping a story from print by strongly suggesting some materials not to be placed in the newspaper."

Cranford explained articles discussing "real" solutions to move the drinking age to 18 were stopped before publication. Around the same time, similar topics popped up in another local high school newspaper.

"The main point of a high school newspaper is not to push the bounds of seniority review in scandalous reporting, however, its purpose is to teach the art of journalism to students, and for students to understand the good and controversial aspects of the trade," he said. "As students find out, the First Amendment and its rights bestowed upon Americans are just as much an integral part of a high school newspaper's staff with an audience of 2,000 as they are vital for a big city publication with readers in the millions."

His essay, along with those of second place winner Amber Leone of North Forsyth High School in Cumming and third place winner Jessica Norton of Decatur High School, can be read at www.grady.uga.edu/gspa/1stAmendmentEssay.

The winners of the fourth annual contest will be recognized at the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards Ceremony on May 1 in Athens.

Heather Darenberg writes about education for the Gwinnett Daily Post. More Good News From Schools appears online Monday.