I have quite a few goals for the Arts and Entertainment section in the second semester. I think that the best thing that we can do is have a calendar that shows upcoming events and releases. This would not only benefit our readers who want to know what is going on in Ventura, but it would help our staff writers come up with new story ideas, because often the hardest part of writing a story is finding a solid idea. I also want to cover the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I just received an e-mail that stated that the Foothill Dragon Press would not be receiving any press passes, but I have already gotten tickets to see films and I would love to review them for the paper. I also want to have a stronger focus on doing stories about events being put on by students of Foothill, because there are a lot of people in plays or in bands that are not currently being covered by our staff.
My personal highlight from this year would have to be all of the food. Sometimes I forget to eat breakfast and I am really hungry in the morning, and there is a large cinnamon bun waiting for me or a doughnut. I also really enjoyed the DIY Christmas cookies, because putting sprinkles on things is pretty much the most fun that anyone can have.
Outside of the Dragon Press, I am the President of the Speech and Debate Team for the second year in a row (a Foothill Technology High School first). I will be spending most of my weekends for the rest of the year at tournaments, so that's something to look forward to. I am also the former (and hopefully future) President, or Administrator of Magical Games, of the Quidditch Club at FTHS. Outside of school I do community service at Aegis Assisted Living and Memory Care of Ventura just down the street from Foothill.
As the United States Supreme Court said in the 1969 case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate.” This means that students, and therefore student-run newspapers, are protected under the First Amendment. This does not mean, however, that students have the right to print fallacious lies. Libel, attempted defamation by written or printed words, is illegal and any press can be sued for libel. However, further protection for all newspapers occurred in the 1964 Supreme Court Case New York Times v Sullivan, when the ruling stated that the publication must be shown to have "actual malice" in order to be sued for libel. But in the case of Hazelwood School District v Kuhlmeier, the Supreme Court ruled that public school officials could have greater authority to censor some school-sponsored student publications. The ruling does not apply to publications that have been opened as "public forums for student expression". California and six other states have since passed laws that gave students stronger free expression protection than Hazelwood. In California particularly, students have the right and the ability to print just about anything, but student journalists have the responsibility to print news that is fair and without prejudice towards anyone. Student publications also have the responsibility to print things that will shed new light on an issue or impact a community, because the primary importance of the news is to inform people.
Although creating a "Best Of" list was not exactly a new idea, the Foothill Dragon Press has never really done anything like it before. I worked with my staff to come up with a comprehensive list, and wrote several sections myself. It was difficult when members of my staff said that they were going to write something for the list and then did not, and it was perhaps even more difficult when students wrote about how much they did not like the movie or album that was put on the list in their assigned section, but I worked through it and got the articles posted to the site. I know that people read it because they would come up to me and complain that a certain album or movie was not on the list. But I also got positive responses from other people and think that it was a valuable addition to the Arts & Entertainment section and the site. I also went to Los Angeles to catch a screening of the film I'm Still Here, the Juaquin Pheonix faux documentary. Although the movie did not exactly make a lot of money, it is still known as a somewhat infamous take on celebrity, and I reviewed the film before it came to Ventura in theaters and well before it came out on DVD.
The Arts and Entertainment section has not been afraid to give bad reviews to events or movies that staff members have felt were sub-par. I have not turned down an article or made someone rewrite it because it has been negative. The stories "A night of jazz that lacked pizzazz", "Barefoot and boring, Buena play drags" and the Season of the Witch review were all negative, but at the same time were not overly critical. The jazz story literally singles out a person who gave a sub-par performance, but the A&E staff was unafraid to post it to the site anyway. The Buena play had cast members that people on the staff knew personally, but the writers stayed true to what they thought of the performance without going on a blog-like rant. Furthermore, the review of the movie The Social Network was negative, and even though it has been essentially universally acclaimed with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and it has won the Golden Globe for Best Film, we posted what an A&E staff member thought, even though it was obviously different than the majority opinion. We have had a good balance of positive and negative reviews, we have not just been saying bad things about people. My own reviews have been positive, but it has been because I have written what I actually felt about entertainment.