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The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

#StudentPressFreedomDay: Archer wins 9th FAFPA, Oracle staff discusses value of press freedom

For the fourth day of National Scholastic Journalism Week Thursday, Feb. 22, the Journalism Education Association celebrates Student Press Freedom Day. Honoring this theme, The Oracle spoke with members of its staff about how press freedom has impacted their reporting.

The Oracle aims to seek truth in its reporting and raise awareness about issues impacting the greater community, a mission that is further enhanced by Archer’s lack of censorship. senior reporter Emily Paschall (‘26) reflected on a story she likely wouldn’t have been able to publish without press freedom. 

“Last year, I wrote my big story about how teens talk about mental health today and how teens often misuse clinical diagnoses and mental health disorders in their daily life, which impacts those who are clinically diagnosed,” Paschall said. “Being at a press-free school allowed me to write about a piece like this about a topic that some may view as controversial.” 

As a free press publication, The Oracle operates without prior review or prior restraint. Editor-in-Chief Audrey Chang (‘24) makes all executive decisions regarding the publication — such as approving and publishing articles — and reporters are equipped with the resources to be persistent with their reporting during training. Taylor said perseverance in a tightly-knit community can be difficult for student journalists, as they may want to self-censor.

“We haven’t had to be powerfully persistent on the regular basis that other schools have, but I believe across the country being persistent in the face of people telling you, ‘No, don’t report on that’ is a really hard thing to do,” Taylor said. “Because students care so much about their relationships with their leaders, sometimes they might want to self-censor if they want to investigate something that doesn’t paint Archer in a perfect light.” 

Archer won the First Amendment Press Freedom Award for the ninth time today. The FAFPA recognizes Archer’s support of a free student media program. Introduction to Journalism students spend their first semester learning about the First Amendment and The Oracle’s values as a publication. Staff reporter Charlotte Burnap (‘27) talked about how the curriculum covers press freedom.

“We talked a lot about what laws are put into place to help student journalists in public schools as well as in private schools,” Burnap said. “We talked about how First Amendment rights play into the work of all journalists, not just student journalists.”

Head of Scholastic Journalism Kristin Taylor, who also serves as JEA’s scholastic press director, discussed the responsibility students with free press have to report on issues they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. She said it’s important that students can take ownership of the publication.

“I believe that students who have a voice and know they aren’t going to be censored are empowered — they are able to explore the topics that are important to them, they are able to ask hard questions, and that was not getting a sanitized version of what’s happening at the school, but a real version,” Taylor said. 

Voices Editor Lucy Williams (‘25) started a series on The Oracle about press freedom, which highlights students at other schools who have experienced censorship. As a part of that series, senior reporter Sydney Tilles (’26) wrote an opinion piece expressing gratitude for press freedom at Archer, and senior reporter Melinda Wang (’26) recorded a podcast episode highlighting a student journalist grappling with censorship. Keeping with that theme, Multimedia Editor Francie Wallack (‘25) spoke about the importance of seeking perspectives outside of Archer through reporting.

“Last year, I wrote a story about the complexity of antidepressants and I was able to interview two psychologists and one psychiatrist,” Wallack said. “The fact that we are a First Amendment school is so incredible.” 

According to The Student Press Law Center, students should be aware of their individual rights and use that to gain confidence in their reporting. Paschall echoed their statement and said she appreciated getting to be a student journalist with free press. 

“I appreciate being able to have our voices shared in the different stories or pieces that we write without prior review and prior restraint,” Paschall said. “Appreciation is what comes to mind when I think about Archer being a [free press] school.”

Additional reporting by senior reporter Sydney Tilles (’26) and staff reporter Katie Ray McKillop (’27).

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About the Contributors
Lola Thomas, Senior Reporter
Lola Thomas joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She is a part of the Ambassador Leadership Team, serves on the Black Student Union Board, and is a member of the Unaccompanied Minors. You can find her listening to music, hanging out with her friends, and playing with her puppy in her free time.
Maia Alvarez, Features Editor
Maia Alvarez joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2021 and became the Multimedia Editor in 2022. In 2023, she became the Features Editor. She is on the leadership board for InvenTeam, leads the Best Buddies club, and is a member of the Speech and Debate team. Outside of classes, she practices taekwondo as a second-degree black belt and volunteers as a tutor.

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As part of Archer’s active and engaged community, the Editorial Board welcomes reader comments and debate and encourages community members to take ownership of their opinions by using their names when commenting. However, in order to ensure a diverse range of opinions, the editorial board does allow anonymous comments on articles as long as the perspective cannot be obtained elsewhere, and they are respectful and relevant. We do require a valid, verified email address, which will not be displayed, but will be used to confirm your comments. Because we are a 6-12 school, the Editorial Board reserves the right to omit profanity and content that we deem inappropriate for our audience. We do not publish comments that serve primarily as an advertisement or to promote a specific product. Comments are moderated and may be edited in accordance with the Oracle’s profanity policy, but the Editorial Board will not change the intent or message of comments. They will appear once approved.
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