The Paper's Mrs. Weiss: Unedited Version

Some viewers have recently expressed strong opinions about Mrs. Weiss -- "she needs to take control of her class," "bad teacher," yada this and that. I asked The Paper teach, who also created the journalism program at Cypress Bay High, to respond to all the criticism...

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Imagine having months of your life cut down and compressed into eight blocks of approximately 25 minutes. What would stay in? What would get tossed out? Hmm. Hard to make that call, isn’t it?

Now add another twist: whatever stays in has to entertain a national audience. Ouch! That’s even tougher. From a student journalist or journalism teacher’s life, the treasured topics that may have to get painfully deleted could be endearing stories about autism or Vietnam veterans. Or, the investigation into money lost on unpaid book dues. Or, the… Hey! Was I losing you already? Snap out of it! I saw your eyes starting to roll back into your head when you saw the words unpaid book dues.

There are many worthwhile, interesting topics out there, but it’s hard to give them the showcase they deserve in a matter of minutes. An audience needs time to develop a connection with characters – in our case, real people – and time is one resource that’s in high demand on television.

So here’s some of what you haven’t gotten to see us do: badger school board officials with phone calls to get an important answer; climb up on the roof to get a photo; shut off the lights in the newspaper room at the end of deadline and walk out just in time to catch the start of the homecoming game. Cut, cut, cut. The film editing room is a cruel place, apparently. This is something The Circuit staff and I have learned the hard way.

But there’s also the compressing part. Angry words spoken last week and angry words spoken a month later get mashed together in one giant angst-filled montage. A declaration of revolt seems to be announced to a full classroom, when it was said into a mike, and muttered to the person in the next seat. The teacher – that’s me! – seems to ignore something said RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER! What’s wrong with that woman, anyway?

It wasn’t in front of me. It wasn’t even that same day, perhaps. The magic of television! Is our show real? Well, yes. Is it whole? Well, not even close. Life is just too big for television. Life is even too big for blogs, since it’s not possible for me to tell you all that you’ve missed.

So, when you witness what may seem to be an excessive amount of woe, know that we’ve been accomplishing a great deal out of your sight. And what you’ve been witnessing is as complete a picture of us as a snapshot of your foot would be of you.

But, you know what? If MTV gets a bunch of people to see just how cool journalism really is, then I don’t mind if you’re only getting to see my foot – or my extremely edited face.

Rhonda Weiss