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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Goodbye to a good year

Above: Tattoo members at a meeting in July, 2005

Left: Zach Brokenrope and Teague Neal interview Beth Swineford, a marine biologist, aboard a whale watching boat off Provincetown, Mass.

Here at Tattoo Central, it's been quite a year. We've turned out pages, had a couple of big parties, held weekly meetings and generally had a good time despite some busy, busy days.

We've even had visits from Tattoo writers Minha Lee of Minnesota, Teague Neal of Ontario and Zach Brokenrope of Nebraska. Alums Kaishi Lee of Singapore, Joe (Wilbur) Killian of North Carolina, Shaina Zura of Boston, Amanda Lehmert of Cape Cod and many Connecticut old-timers have brightened our days as well.

Here's hoping that in 2006, we see more of our farflung staff -- and produce more great journalism!

Friday, December 30, 2005

One last Tattoo issue for 2005

With today's publication of Samantha Perez's 25th Hurricane Journal entry -- don't miss reading it! -- we've hit the end of the road for an astonishingly productive year.
In 2005, we published 39 issues of The Tattoo, far exceeding what we've done in any previous year.
Since school began in August, when we started counting for our 12th volume, we've had 28 issues (12 devoted to Hurricane Katrina, four to our "Fun and Games" package, five "Insider's Guide to High School" editions and seven regular Tattoos). We've never had more than 21 issues in an entire school year before so already we're 33 percent more productive than ever before -- and we've got almost nine months to go!
While things will slow down a bit over the winter, there's still plenty in the works. The Tattoo is on a roll.
Check it out, as always, at The Tattoo's web site, where we have archived 12 years' worth of stories, cartoons, columns and more. Spend some time digging around in there and you'll be surprised at the gems you'll find.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Halls of Shame, Part 3

Our search for censorious jerks in positions of power takes us now to Columbus, Indiana, where students on the Columbus North High School paper prepared a four-page spread on oral sex and its consequences.
The article was "what you might find in a magazine like Playboy or Hustler but should not be in a school newspaper," Russell Barnard, a school board member in the district, told television station WISH in Indianapolis.
But the school's principal, David Clark, said the students took the issue of oral sex seriously.
Clark told Indianapolis television station WRTV-6 that he trusts the student journalists' judgement.
"I didn't say you can't do it. I didn't say you shouldn't do it. I think it was a trust," Clark said.
Clark told the tv station that he was initially uncomfortable with the story, but came around as he recognized its importance and how well student journalists did their job.
"You got a whole generation of kids with that whole mental attitude, well that's no big deal we can do it. There's no attachment," Clark told the station. "Let's go to lunch. Let's have oral sex. Let's go back to math class."
Clark said the article focused on providing education about oral sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
Sounds reasonable to us. Clark seems like a pretty good principal, in fact.
But Russell Barnard, a school board member, was offended by the story. He's proposing that all material for the school paper gain the approval of the newspaper's sponsor, the high school principal and the district superintendent before it is published.
"The administration needs to have control of what's published with the name of the school appearing on it," Barnard told a local newspaper. "Right now it looks like the children are running the school and can do as they please. It's time that the adults run the school."
The Columbus North journalism advisor, Kim Green, said she'd resign in protest if the school board adopts Barnard's restrictive policy.
"I don't do pretend journalism," Green told the newspaper. "It'll be hard to find good journalism teachers when their expertise is turned over to someone else."
According to The Associated Press, Nikki Shepherd, a senior at North and Triangle tri-editor, said submitting to prior review would be a step backward.
"It wouldn't be our voice anymore. It would be theirs," she said.
So let's praise Shepherd, Green and Clark for standing up for good journalism.
And let's add Barnard to our Hall of Shame and hope that board members with vulgar agendas can't just do what they please.
It's time Americans with a faith in freedom stand up against jackasses like him.

Associated Press: Officials want to restrain school paper after oral sex report

Merry Christmas from Tattoo Central!

After publishing Tattoo pages on December 23 and even on Christmas Eve itself -- further proof of our total insanity -- we're scrambling to get everything in order for The Big Event: Santa.
We'll be hosting dinners with friends, watching our kids in a pageant and all the rest.... somehow.
We hope your holidays are less hectic but at least as happy.

More Hurricane Katrina chronicles

Since we hate blogs and detest the notion that people would choose to read these stupid summaries rather than the honest-to-God stories, reviews, columns and more, we won't give much away here. Just go read these terrific Hurricane Journals by Louisiana teen Samantha Perez -- and don't miss the illustrations by Michel Lee in The Tattoo's California bureau!

The Tattoo reviews new Narnia movie

Wondering what to see at the theaters over the holidays? You might want to consider Tattoo writer Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin's review of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Check it out at

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yet another failed effort to attract young readers by insulting them

It doesn't surprise us that The Chicago Sun-Times had to kill off its "youth-focused Red Streak" tabloid that aimed to attract more young readers by offering up news briefs, entertainment nonsense and other crap.
Apparently, Red Streak couldn't find enough young people willing to pay a quarter a day to get something less than a real newspaper.
Here are The Tattoo, which is attracting a global audience of young readers, we will never concede that newspapers should dumb themselves down to pull in new readers. In fact, what they really need to do is beef themselves up.
Newspapers should stop being so dowdy and gray -- and so damn polite all the time -- and begin to take young readers seriously. You don't do that by offering them pablum or briefs, you do that by writing in a style that's intersting and providing news stories that make a difference to their lives.
Newspapers cater so much to their increasingly elderly readers that it's almost as if they have some sort of collective death wish. Let's all go to the grave together or something.
But young people will read newspapers that matter to them.
And you don't do that with Red Streaks and the like. You do it by turning out really good newspapers.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More from Tattoo Christmas Party 2005

Tattoo gang: (left to right) Heather Moher, Jess Norton, Jen Plonski, Stefan Koski, Katie Haire, Rachel Glogowski, Jackie Majerus, Shaina Zura, Kaishi Lee, Joe Killian, Amanda Lehmert, Steve Collins, Brian LaRue. That's Nutmeg on the floor in front, hoping somebody will drop some crumbs for her.

Tattoo Christmas Party 2005

At The Tattoo's annual Christmas Party in Connecticut, the paper's alumni gather --
LEFT TO RIGHT: Jess Norton, Brian LaRue, Shaina Zura, Joe Killian and Amanda Lehmert.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Our ninth special issue devoted to Hurricane Katrina

In our ninth special issue devoted entirely to Louisiana teen Samantha Perez's stunning journal of her post-Katrina odyssey are stories about how the stress can rip at the family fabric -- and how peace can come in the most unexpected places, like a snowy day in the Smoky Mountains.

Hurricane Journal

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My breakfast at Tiffany's

Hanging out near some exclusive Singapore shops, Tattoo writer Geraldine Soon "couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to step through the exclusive doors of Tiffany and Co."
In a new piece for The Tattoo that's online now, she wrote, "I decided against it, because I didn't feel like having someone pull me by the shirt collar, having the words 'GET OUUUUTT!' yelled into my face and getting thrown out through those exclusive doors."
Of course, as she knows, that's pretty darn unlikely to have happened, at least in her case.
But check out her latest ....

Monday, December 12, 2005

YPulse praises The Tattoo

Just ran across a nice commentary about The Tattoo that I thought I'd share here.
Anastasia Goodstein's YPulse, which writes about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals, said last spring that "The Tattoo, an online teen newspaper published in Bristol, CT, features the widest range of online teen journalism we've seen. Check out the comical Saturday night at Wal-Mart for an interesting read on a Nebraska teen's night doing what only seems like nothing. The rant on the cell phone ban in some High Schools talks about teens feeling micro-managed."

Here's the link:

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Our 24th issue of the year available now....

Teague Neal, Santa and Zach Brokenrope at Macy's Santa Land in December 2004.

Our latest issue -- dated December 12, 2005 -- has a news story by Marese Heffernan about crime worries in Limerick, Ireland and a pair of travel stories from Tattoo writers Zach Brokenrope and Teague Neal. Teague takes on the Empire State Building while Zach tells about seeking out Santa at Macy's. Don't miss 'em.
And tomorrow we'll have another issue featuring Samantha Perez's stunning Hurricane Journals.

Limerick's dangers worry teens

By Marese Heffernan

Beneath the surface of a seemingly friendly and productive Irish city lies the grim reality of drug scandals, assault and murder.
Construction of impressive new buildings, efforts to preserve scenic places of interest and the creation of new tourist attractions often conceal the bleak truth about Limerick, Ireland’s third largest city.
But for many teens living in the city and its suburbs, Limerick’s dangers cannot be smoothed over so easily – they’re a part of life.
“When I'm on my own [in Limerick] I feel quite nervous,” said Leah Hughes, 15. “I feel really aware of the fact that I might be robbed or attacked. When you've lived here as long as I have, you tend to know what kind of people to be wary of.”
Crime in Limerick city frequently dominates the news, and around Ireland, the county has gained the unfavorable nickname “Stab City.”
Catch the rest in the latest issue of The Tattoo at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Halls of Shame, Part 2

In Harrisburg, Penn., school administrators yanked an advertisement from student papers from a group called Common Roads, which aims to provide a safe place for young gays and lesbians to meet.
Robert Frick, superintendent of the Lampeter Strasburg school district, told televison station WGAL in Harrisburg that the ads encouraged students to attend "something we know nothing about."
Instead of, say, making a phone call, he pulled the ads.
Had he phoned Common Roads, its director, Carol Reisinger, executive director of Common Roads., he would have learned that it's harmless.
Evan Macy, editor of The Limelight, which was ready to print the ad but could not, told the tv station he's upset.
"The fact our school is going out of its way to take an advertisement, meant to help homosexuals, out of the newspaper is alarming," Macy said.
Indeed it is. Frick could use a lesson in why censorhip is a bad idea.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Playing Scattergories

Playing Scattergories in July were, left, Zach Brokenrope, Katie Jordan and Teague Neal.
Below, playing the same game, were Stefan Koski, left, and Heather Moher, right.

Man Bites Dog with Minha Lee

Playing Man Bites Dog are Stefan Koski, left, and Minha Lee, right.

Still playing games with The Tattoo

Playing Cranium are, left to right, Julia Cocca, Stefan Koski, Josh Blackler and Katie Haire.

Playing games with The Tattoo

Here's a photos from the day in April that Julia Cocca (right), Stefan Koski, Katie Haire (left) and Josh Blackler gave Cranium a try.

More game reviews online now

The fourth and final issue of The Tattoo's "Fun and Games" series is online now. With reviews of Taboo, My Word!, Catch Phrase, Scattergories and Man Bites Dog, the new issue has plenty to offer -- including another great new cartoon by Justin Skaradosky.
So check it out at

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What happens when it snows on a teen from New Orleans?

Find out in Samantha Perez's latest Hurricane Journal at
The answer might surprise you.

Halls of Shame, Part 1

After school administrators ripped a column about birth control out of their school paper, students at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee instead got to read a piece about a play. Photographs accompanying a story about body piercings and tattoos were also stripped out of 1,800 copies of the Oak Leaf newspaper.
Blame it on Principal Becky Ervin and Thomas Bailey, the district superintendent.
Bailey said, in a press release, "The administration felt that the interests of the student population would not be served by certain content of the articles" that they censored.
He told the local paper, "The action of the principal was totally appropriate. I would have done the same thing as a principal all the way to the end, whatever the end may be. We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing. We've got 14-year-olds that read the newspaper."
Yes, a free press is a terrible thing for students to read. Why if these folks aren't careful, those teens might even learn a thing or two outside the carefully screened curriculum.
Far better to teach students that censorship is the answer when journalists don't kowtow to the school administration's absurdly strict line.
So let's put Becky Ervin and Thomas Bailey in our new Halls of Shame feature here -- congratulations to them both -- and remind young readers that one good reason to write for The Tattoo is that we take teens seriously.
If a story is true, fair and interesting, we'll print it. We have high standards, as we should, but we begin with the fundamental premise that students are not idiots. About the only things they need protection from are narrow-minded, censoring jerks like Ervin and Bailey.
Feel free, by the way, to send us other examples of middle and high school censorship. It's time to showcase some of the absurdities that young journalists face when they try to learn the craft at school.

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