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Student's Article on Football Team Sacked

Journalism: High school editor's views on the team's future are held from campus paper after pressure from principal, coach.

November 08, 1997|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — When Notre Dame High's top-ranked football team lost back-to-back games last month, the sports editor of the school newspaper decided to write a commentary examining the Knights' future. The team could be headed for difficult times, he argued, when it moves to a tougher league next year.

The story was never published.

The school newspaper advisor, Helen Chen, said she made the decision to hold the story after pressure from Principal Stephanie Connelly and football Coach Kevin Rooney, who said it would have hurt team morale after two straight losses.

"They wanted us to wait until the football season ended," Chen said. "It was really hard for us. They're [the students] supposed to be learning what true journalism is about."

Rooney said the story, written by Notre Dame student Arash Markazi, was completely accurate but he did not like its timing.

"I felt it would be in the best interest of the school not to print it," Rooney said.

The Knights of Notre Dame, a private Catholic school, are scheduled to join a league with Division I powers Loyola, St. John Bosco and Bishop Amat in 1998.

Notre Dame, now in Division III, is considered one of the Valley's top programs, and school officials have bitterly fought the move.

Connelly, who serves as publisher of the newspaper, said the story was held for "the best interest of my school and faculty."

"I'm the publisher," Connelly said. "The story was pulled. It happens and that's the way it is."

The school newspaper is published 20 times a year. Stories, which are held on occasion, cannot conflict with the school's "religious tenets."

Markazi said the Knights have been victims of their own success, forcing the move to the tougher Division I next season.

"I worked hard on the story and before we went to press, they gave a copy to Connelly and Rooney, and they didn't like it very much," Markazi said. "Most of the players on the team read my column and it might have affected their confidence next year going to Division I."

Chen said she held the story "out of respect for Rooney."

"My concern is if there's some kind of major controversy, we're going to be told we can't do a story," Chen said.

"I told him [Rooney] you don't see [USC Coach] John Robinson going onto the field telling reporters, 'We've lost six games and don't print a story.' "

Chen said she has no problems working with Connelly.

"She believes students can be creative," Chen said. "She realizes the facts of the story were accurate, but the timing was wrong in her opinion."

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