Jonathan Richie BW.tif

Censorship is a strong word. Great care should be used before using it. In a newsroom, people tend to get pretty up in arms when they are accused of censorship because it is the opposite of what we try to do each and every day.

Last week a topic got out of control online.

In last week’s edition of the Sentinel we published a story titled “Students unhappy with mask mandate” and I stand behind the reporting of that story 100%.

Our job as journalists is to bring you objective news. The reporter did not slant the article to be pro or anti-mask, because our job is to report what happens, not knowingly lead the reader. I imagine it might be difficult to understand this topic so I will do my best to explain.

At the Grantsburg bi-monthly school board meeting last week, a student spoke about the mask mandate. She said that adults shouldn’t be making decisions for kids and kids should have a say in things.

The story was written, edited and published within 24 hours of the meeting. It was printed in the paper and posted to our website and is still there as it was printed. A link to the story was also posted to our Facebook page.

That is where the issues began - Facebook. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Facebook and social media are ruining our society and will lead to the demise of us all.

When the story was posted to Facebook things escalated. Commenters began debating masks and the state of coronavirus in the Grantsburg schools, some with little or no direct knowledge of the situations they were discussing.

The post was deleted late Thursday after a phone call from the Grantsburg High School principal, who was concerned about the safety of the student who suggested the peaceful protest. My publisher complied with the request because removing a post from Facebook, to ensure the safety of a student, is a common-sense solution that could deescalate a situation.

The story remains on our website. We took the story off of our Facebook page, removing a place for bullying.

This is not censorship.

Censorship would be if the district would have contacted us, ordered us to take the story down from Facebook and remove it from our website.

If you believe this was an instance of censorship you probably throw around words like “fascist” and “socialist” without understanding what these very powerful words actually mean.

This is a societal issue and it won’t be solved today or tomorrow. It would be nice if people could just follow the golden rule.

But they don’t because they hide behind a smoke screen with their keyboard. This smoke screen gives people the illusion they can say whatever they want, including telling a student to “shut the hell up.”

I don’t care what your political views are, but taking rudeness to the level so a minor is concerned about their physical safety is a bridge too far for me and our newspaper.

I would encourage Facebook users to think about their words before hitting “enter.”

Words matter.