by Billy Clouse
Originally published in Revolt — Vol. 1, Issue 1
Since my freshman year of high school, I’ve been studying and practicing journalism. Within the four walls of my favorite class, I encountered censorship for the first time.
Sitting at my computer in the back of the classroom during my junior year, I found out that the school’s administration didn’t like a classmate’s article on LDS missionaries. It talked about alumni from our school in a non-preachy way, but they were afraid it was “too religious.”
We eventually got it published, but it took a lot of work. This first experience with censorship stayed with me, and the number “1” has been important ever since. It’s so important to me that I wrote an article similar to the almost-censored one.
In my first year at SUU, I became the Editor-in-Chief of the University Journal. My first controversial opinion piece got the ball for Thunderground rolling.
“He’s talking about foreskin.” “He’s calling me a bad parent for my decision.” “I’m glad I was circumcised.” These statements floated around campus and on our website. And to clarify: yes, I wrote about why parents shouldn’t circumcise their infants, and no, I didn’t write it to criticize or body-shame.
A former member of that year’s Journal staff told me that high-ranking members of the university’s administration and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences wanted me not to publish the rest of the series, mainly because the articles might offend the alumni.
It is not the job of student media to make the university look good — that’s why the school has a Marketing Communication office. The two should remain separate for the sake of journalistic integrity.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time we experienced attempted censorship. Administrators — or students speaking on behalf of them — tried to block opinion articles that discussed uncomfortable topics or leaned too far left.
I was able to fight against these attempts at violating the Freedom of the Press because the Operations Manager stood with me. However, she was not rehired for the job even though she helped increase the Journal’s print readership between three to four times what it was at the start of the year.
Given the increased likelihood of censorship — a professor in the Communication Department told me that pieces similar to ones we wrote that year would be blocked going forward — and the likelihood of the Journal ditching the print newspaper, I left the organization.
As fate had it, I heard about the original Thunderground from a friend, and reviving it felt like the right thing to do. Seceding was easy, but organizing was tough. I’ll spare you the details and jump forward to today.
Our message, our movement, our values — they have a home now on a website, through social media and in a digital magazine. They tried to silence us, but we have a message for them: we are here to stay, and we are going to talk.
I won’t call out the people who tried diligently to violate the Constitutional rights of student journalists on campus, because doing so would help no one at this point. I do, however, want to end this announcement by speaking directly to those people, all of whom know exactly who they are.
You almost killed my love of journalism. You tried to silence the voices of students. You came close to having total control over all content produced by SUU journalists.
Thank God that didn’t happen.
Thunderground will continue to fight for the Freedom of the Press. The fact that Thunderground exists says a lot about the current state of affairs on campus. Just know, you forced the hand of those who work openly with us and those that must do it in secret.
Do you want to know more about the history of Thunderground? Click here.