Your Humble Scribe is fortunate to be in a line of work that is 800 parts perspiration & 1 part inspiration. OK, we may be exaggerating just a tad here, but if this dissertation makes the situation look like the job has gone to our Pretty Blond Head, we can only thank JJ.
Julia Jeffress Toiled in the Trenches of the Dallas Independent School District from the mid-'60s 'til the mid-'80s. We stumbled into her Journalism Program at Hillcrest High School almost Totally By Accident. And we've learned over the years that some Accidents aren't just Waiting to Happen; They're On Purpose.
To say that JJ demanded a lot would be to minimize the actual circumstances. No exaggeration buried in this Lone Star State Metaphor: She wrangled a herd of 14-18-year olds with a quiet voice and, at times, a disquieting manner.
JJ was an anachronism while remaining up-to-date on the latest Best Practices in Scholastic Journalism. She was deeply devout, socially conservative & politically, we imagined, quite a bit to the "right" of many of her Young Scribes. We say "imagined," because she never talked about herself. Her family, yes. Herself, no. But, as far as JJ was concerned, her views on things weren't the point. We wanted to Change the World; she wanted to Adjust our Attitudes so that we would always know to Do the Right Thing.
A quick story illustrates just the way JJ rolled. Lee Park, a lovely turn-of-the-last century green space sometimes known as Dallas' Front Lawn, was a gathering place Back in the Day for all sorts of folks. Located in the Turtle Creek neighborhood, Lee Park hosted some Pretty Ritzy Neighbors over the decades. Greer Garson, Mickey Mantle & Joey Heatherton (yes, Dallas has always been Home to Has Beens & Wannabes) lived in high-rises surrounding this lovely open space. But Lee Park also hosted a few, shall we say, Unsavory Types.
Faux Hippies, Hookers & Junkies inhabited the Lee Park acreage alongside Mrs. Miniver, the former Yankees Slugger & the Fading Sex Kitten. So the Dallas PD decided that Drastic Measures Were Needed. Indeed.
One Xmas Eve, the DPD set up a Drag Net around the park, and closed in quickly. They netted lots of Bad Guys, along with dozens of College Students, Young Republicans, Babies in Strollers, and more than one Grandmama.
What, do you ask, does all this have to do with High School Journalism? Well, we had a Wicked Cartoonist, named David, on the staff. He sketched out a Funny for our next edition. Something about Joseph & a Quite Noticeably Preggers Mary, in Full Hippie Regalia, standing before a Dallas Magistrate. Joseph & Mary even looked like they'd partaken in Forbidden Fruits, of the Herb Variety. David made it clear that the Heavenly Duo had been nabbed in the Lee Park Janx. The bubble above Joseph's head said something like, "We were just looking for an Inn, man!"
JJ said one word.
"No." Quiet. To the Point. The Law.
We didn't question twice. Frankly, we thought David had hit it out of the Proverbial Cartooning Ballpark. Amusing, urbane (We're not sure we even knew that term back then, but how much High School Humor, seriously, can be categorized as "urbane"?). JJ deemed the cartoon "inappropriate." We didn't argue with her. JJ was The Woman. It didn't matter that we disagreed.
The lesson here? David's cartoon probably would make it onto Today's Pages of The Student Newspaper at Our Humble High School. But that's not the point. One of the rules in the OHHS Journalism Code of Ethics (#16, to be exact) states: "We respect religion, nationality, race, creed and political beliefs." David wasn't trying to disparage Joseph & Mary. He wanted to peg the DPD for the patent ridiculousness of their Xmas Eve Dragnet. But JJ wanted to make a point, too. And she did just that.
That lesson remains with Your Intrepid Scribe, as she now Toils in the Trenches of Scholastic Journalism at Our Humble High School. As a Journalist--in High School or Otherwise--integrity is the most important ingredient. Without our integrity, the Chattering Class--whether on the Campaign Trail or on Fox Noise--will gain the upper hand. And that's not what Thomas Jefferson, our Third President, had in mind when he said, "...were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
JJ died of cancer in 1986. The hundreds of kids who served on Her Watch at Hillcrest High School all learned the same lesson. Don't sacrifice your integrity in an effort to communicate your opinion to others.