Endorsement by School Newspaper Is Questioned

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2006

The May 25 edition of Silver Chips, the award-winning Montgomery Blair High School newspaper, featured fairly standard fare:

A piece on Blair students fighting for immigrant rights. A profile of the new student board representative.

But an editorial endorsing Jamin Raskin, an American University law professor running for the Democratic nomination for state Senate in District 20, has rankled the district's longtime incumbent, Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D-Montgomery).

Ruben said the paper's staff members failed to give her an opportunity to talk to them. Students at Silver Chips say the state senator did not respond to their requests for an interview. Now some are questioning whether high school newspapers should even be in the business of endorsing political candidates.

The disputed endorsement, written by the paper's six-person editorial board, says Raskin's "steadfast dedication to protecting the voice of students, especially our own Blazers, makes him the ideal choice for students in the State Senate race." In 1997, Raskin defended Blair students fighting to air a documentary featuring a debate on same-sex marriage.

After Ruben's staff spotted the endorsement on the Internet and told the senator, she contacted Blair Principal Phillip Gainous and complained that she had not been allowed to participate.

Isaac Arnsdorf, 16, the incoming co-editor, said a staff member called both candidates to arrange interviews. He also called Ruben and spoke to her briefly. He said the reporter told Ruben that he was writing an editorial and wanted to interview her. The senator said she was not able to talk at that moment but would call the reporter back.

The reporter left four messages over three days, but his calls were not returned, Arnsdorf said.

Ruben said she does not recall a conversation about the editorial and did not receive any follow-up messages. She believes that the editorial, with the headline "The Right Choice for District 20," distorts many of her positions.

But Silver Chips staffers said the endorsement was based on extensive research.

"We stand by our story, and we hope it speaks for itself," Arnsdorf said.

Ruben has asked the paper's adviser, Maureen Freeman, for a follow-up interview.

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