You recently interviewed me for your school newspaper regarding my experience living in Paris near where the Charlie Hebdo massacre occurred. Your teacher cut the article, saying that it wasn’t something they did for the school newspaper. Well, interviewing readers isn’t something I do for my blog. But there are these things called BEING FLEXIBLE and DOING THE RIGHT THING that I think are pretty great. However, I am not running a school newspaper, so I should probably shut up and start asking you questions.
Amy: How old are you and what grade are you in?
Chloe: Currently, I am 18 and a senior in high school.
Amy: Is your school public or private? How many students? And is there a lot of cultural and religious diversity or it is mainly one race and/or religion?
Chloe: My school is public and there is a lot of cultural and religious diversity on campus with a student body of 728.
Amy: Have you written for the school newspaper before or was this going to be your break-out article?
Chloe: I have been writing for my school newspaper since I was a junior last year. This year I am actually the section editor of news and opinion, so you would think I would have more freedom in choosing what articles go in our newspaper. Fun fact, I also published an opinion article in England last summer with the Manchester Evening News. I wrote about Manchester United and whether or not their fans are loyal in the U.S. I enjoyed all the comments I got from that ranging from angry sports fans to a lot of happy Brits.
Amy: Are you thinking about a career as a journalist or writer?
Chloe: I am completely committed to the becoming a journalist, more specifically an investigative journalist. I am never quite satisfied with the shallow surface kind of stories, so I am determined to be the one that digs deeper to find the real truth. I actually finished up all my college applications a couple days ago and every single one of them is known specifically for their journalism program. My first-choice school is the American University of Paris :).
Amy: What did your teacher say when you approached her about the interview?
Chloe: When I first proposed the article to my teacher she was hesitant. Her main concern was the “sensitivity” of the issue and she would not want to insult any particular religious groups on campus. (I actually have friends from Iran who are Islamic and they do not stand by the actions of the terrorists and thought that the story should be written.) But the fact that I was able to get first hand photos from someone who was there got her to say yes.
The final decision had to come from the editor in chief. She also agreed with my teacher in regards to the issue being sensitive and potentially insulting. But I already had the whole idea organized with photos, layout, interviews, etc. to pitch to them (most people aren’t organized straight off the bat when it comes to choosing stories and setting it up at our school newspaper). So it was yes, but a shaky yes.
Amy: So what happened to make them change their minds?
Chloe: Days later, I had the article fully put together with all the photos oriented correctly, title done, you name it I had finished everything. I asked them to approve it and my teacher turned to the editor in chief and said, “Didn’t you tell her that we cut it?” to which the editor in chief replied, “I thought you were going to tell her.”
At first they just said that they had to cut a few articles. The newspaper was going to be too long and it was a cost issue. I asked why they were cutting mine when other articles weren’t even finished and didn’t have photos, art, or design. And when I pushed, they admitted it really wouldn’t have been received well and they did not want to create conflict because our school newspaper doesn’t do such sensitive topics.
We kept another article about a school play and soccer game, but got rid of fresh material that would actually get students thinking for once about real world issues. My biggest grievance is the fact that this piece was going to be a student reaction so that the students on campus would actually understand what is going on with the situation and participate in the discussion. My school needs to be informed of a lot of things. I lost count of the students who thought Charlie Hebdo was in Germany.
Amy: What did you feel about having the article rejected?
Chloe: There is a code of ethics that can be found in our school newspaper manual. And in it is a section titled “Minimize Harm”, so I guess I was screwed in the beginning, huh? It says be compassionate for those affected by your actions, be cognizant of the views of your town when writing about sensitive topics, and lastly, show good taste.
I was trying to be compassionate to the best of my ability, but with such a controversial issue like this, it is so hard. My town doesn’t really have an opinion, and I thought I was showing good taste. I can say with absolute certainty that my teacher and editor in chief were just scared of the backlash. My school newspaper has never written an article like this before, so naturally I knew there would be concerns, but such concerns should not have stopped the article from being published.
Amy: What type of content does your school newspaper usually carry? (Give us a couple examples of typical headlines.)
Chloe: Fluff is our typical story in the school newspaper. “New school musical comes out in January”, “Varsity soccer player [insert name here] leads the team to victory”, “New [insert city/town/building name] sign is put up downtown”, “What are your healthy new years resolutions?” are just some of the stories we write. EVERYTHING is about what is going on in our school and only sometimes do we stray away from that with random things going on in town or a short opinion piece about TV shows or something.
Amy: Do you think your school newspaper would be improved if it occasionally touched upon world news or political subjects? And do you think that provoking debate among students would be dangerous in your particular school?
Chloe: YESSS, our school newspaper would be a hundred times more interesting with current events or political stories. Every year there are conventions across the U.S. where school newspapers and yearbooks go to learn in various workshops and also enter their publications in different contests. Our yearbook is doing just fine, winning a couple of awards here and there, but our school newspaper has yet to win anything for a long time.
I go to all these workshops and meet people who cover anything from gum chewing to murder and politics. I have wanted to write about more diverse subjects for as long as I have been in our school newspaper. I currently get to write two small news briefs about events going on in the world for each issue of our school newspaper, but a lot of the ones I pitch get cut.
Most importantly, no one really reads our school newspaper. Maybe if we covered more real world issues, then they would actually start. The Speech and Debate team at our school is one of the top 5 in the nation, so students debating issues is what we win awards for. If there was actually something in our school newspaper that sparked a debate, then people would actually give us feedback.
We have a part of the school newspaper that tells people to write “letters to the editors”, but no one writes because there is nothing to say. Who would take the time to give us feedback on a school play article?
Amy: What interested you in holding this interview with me?
Chloe: I was determined to get someone in Paris who was passionate about the issue and you fit the bill perfectly. I also wanted find someone who spoke English, so the fact that you are American is a bonus! (Ha ha!) In order to give real credibility to the article, I wanted perspectives of a person (or persons) who was there and could actually give accounts of it all. Anyone can read an article from Fox News and get their “insider” information from there, ughhh. But who can say they talked about Charlie Hebdo with someone in Paris? Students at my school would have loved to see your quotes in the article and the photos you took. I know I did.
Amy: Are you involved or interested in other political subjects?
Chloe: Its hard to be involved in issues and politics when your town’s biggest concern is surfing, but I am definitely interested.
I would say that I am more liberal in my political views, but I try to remain open minded. In presidential elections, I always pay attention to both candidates and learn about their stances on issues. A new California senate seat is opening up and I want to know who California will have represent us.
One issue that I am still fuming about is Obama not going to support France in the unity walk with the other world leaders. We need to support our allies. It is hypocritical not to when they are giving us all their support.
A smaller issue that I am passionate about is animals. I have been working at an animal shelter for two years and the only reason I work there is because they do not euthanize animals. I think that it is the most inhumane thing that you can do to an animal that cannot fight for its reason to live. I hate animal abusers. These creatures who put so much faith and trust in us unconditionally should never be abused. They should never be in dog fights. They should never be left on the street because you are too lazy to care for them. And dogs should never be subjected to spiked training collars or shock collars. My friend used to have those very collars on his dog and a very very persuasive person put an end to that. I could go on for ever, but I am going to cut myself off here before I start a full-on rant.
Amy: Do you think that teenagers can make a difference in the world? Do you feel like you (and your fellow young adults) have a voice?
Chloe: My favorite quote is the perfect way to answer this. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” No matter what age you are, you can make a difference if you want to. Just because we are young does not mean that we can not be heard. It is just about wanting it enough. You cannot just go halfway or else what is the point?
Amy: Thank you Chloe for giving us a glimpse into your experience.
Amy to readers: Give this girl a scholarship! Is she awesome, or what? This is going to be one investigative journalist I think we’re all going to want to watch for in the future.
Officially a fan of Chloe from California, Amy Plum
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO READ CHLOE’S SUPER-CONTROVERSIAL INTERVIEW WITH ME, HERE IT IS:
Chloe: As a Paris resident, how has the Charlie Hebdo attacks impacted your daily life?
Amy: The last week has been exceptional, because the murders are all everyone has been talking about, people have been worried about their safety and the safety of their children, and we’ve ALL been worried about how this might affect our children emotionally. Besides that, you hear sirens all the time, and there is a huge police presence in the street. However, going forward, I’m not sure how it will affect my daily life. I know that I won’t ever feel as safe here again. I never worried about violence in Paris. In the 8 years I’ve lived here, I had two drunk teenagers shove me once, and had a guy grab me between the legs as he skated past. But I’ve never really felt in danger until now. Knowing that something like that can happen in my safe little neighborhood has really shaken me.
Chloe: What is your stance on the whole situation? Did Charlie Hebdo provoke such attacks?
Amy: Charlie Hebdo’s role has always been to be provocative. Their goal was to make people re-think what they took for granted—to shake them from becoming numb to fixed (and perhaps flawed) ways of thinking. Yes, they made people angry. They offended people. But nothing justifies violence. To say that they provoked the attack is saying that responding to someone offending you by shooting them in the face is a logical, justifiable action. Which is just crazy and wrong.
Chloe: No U.S. leaders were present at the unity walk, even the French ambassador who was in Paris at the time, what message do you think that gives?
Amy: Before people even commented on that, I looked at the group of leaders and said, “Where’s Obama?” It was a noticeable absence from one of France’s biggest allies. I won’t say what message I think that gave, but I can honestly say that, as an American, I was ashamed.
Chloe: Why did you decide to write all those notes from people of facebook for the memorial? I think you said there was about 300 that you wrote out.
Amy: As soon as news got out about the massacre, the outpouring of support from my readers was overwhelming. For many, I am the only person they know who lives in Paris. For a few, I had the honor of introducing Paris to them through my books. Everyone who has read the DIE FOR ME series knows how I feel about the city. My love for it is jam-packed into every page of those books. So the messages of support and love and care started pouring in.
And in many of the notes, I recognized the same desperation I was feeling. People wanted to DO something. But what is a teenager in Missouri going to do? Or a grandmother in Canada? Or a college student in India? Without really thinking it through, I offered to write down personal messages and take them to the memorial where the people of Paris could read them.
In the end, I posted 344 messages from 31 different countries. And the response of those who came to the memorial was overwhelming. People were standing around reading each and every message, truly touched that people from all around the world had written them. They took photos and videos of the notecards. And it was on the news and in the newspapers in several countries. My readers are truly awesome. I was so honored to be able to be their messenger.
Chloe: Lastly, is there anything else you would want to say or add to students who will be reading this?
Amy: We are all humans, no matter what color our skin or what religion we practice. No matter how cool or dorky, no matter our jean size, no matter what part of town we’re from or how much money we make. We all have the same hearts beating in our chests, the same minds, the same emotions. Take care of each other. Love each other. Support each other. You are the hope for the world.
P.S. When the following bloggers heard that Chloe couldn’t publish her article, they did it for her. Check out the people who supported Chloe’s effort!
Shadow Hunters Unite
Cody Pimps Authors
and 2 others who haven’t sent me links yet (one in German).