Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cooperation Brings Statewide Exposure to Teen Violence

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cooperation Brings Statewide Exposure to Teen Violence

Article excerpt

When Scott Sines was making his pitch to fellow Washington State newspaper editors about launching a series on school safety and teen violence, he had a powerful weapon of persuasion in his corner: Alice Fritz.

Fritz, who attended last fall's annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association (PNNA) spoke about the tragic experience of losing her 14-year-old son, Arnold, who, along with another student and teacher, was killed in a classroom at Moses Lake Frontier Junior High a little more than three years ago by Barry Loukaitis, who was also 14 at the time.

"If they [editors] could find a person who is directly involved in the topic, an outsider, a nonnewspaper person to come in and really give you that reality check and say this is why this is important... She recounted the death of her son, and it just riveted the room and when she left everybody was charged up to do it," says Sines, managing editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane.

Project editor Kevin Graman, who is also news editor at The Spokesman-Review, echoes Sines' belief that having Fritz at the editors meeting gave the issue a human face and more meaning that just looking at crime or school safety statistics.

"She was really eloquent and kind of moved everybody. I think that everyone who showed up at that meeting was a little skeptical about what this was all about, and she sort of got everybody motivated," says Graman.

Her first-hand account, coupled with Sines' persistence, culminated in a dozen Washington State news organizations pooling their resources and publishing a three-day series - Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 focusing on the growing problem of youth violence and school safety in the wake of the shootings in Jonesboro, Ark.; Paducah, Ky.; Perl, Miss.; Bethel, Alaska; Fayetteville, Tenn.; and Springfield, Ore.

What sparked Sines' interest in doing a statewide series was his appointment by the governor to a special youth task force to examine the issue. The group held a series of public meetings around the state and produced a lengthy report, and Sines feared that after the panel disbanded the report would be relegated to some government dustbin.

"I had very little faith that anything would come from the public forums. They were pretty much stacked with bureaucrats, educators, people who had a stake in it, and the real representation from the public was not that great," says Sines.

He decided to propose his idea for the series at the annual editors meeting last November. While some papers were enthusiastic, others declined. …

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