Student Press Freedom Day 2022 – La PRAIRIE

Journalists around the world are facing threats for shedding light on a controversial subject. People who aren’t involved in the news don’t always know how stories are covered and reported to the public – it’s a process.

Student journalists face a difficult task when trying to be honest in their reporting because of the risk of rubbing elbows with school administrators. Student Press Freedom Day is a “national day of action” to raise awareness of issues faced by student journalists, student journalists’ involvement in their communities, and the advancement of the First Amendment. The day was created by the Student Press Law Center “to give student journalists a platform to advocate for press freedom in their communities.”

The First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of any religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or restricting freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble peacefully and seek redress from the government for their grievances.

The United States has recently violated freedoms protected by the Constitution. The Black Lives Matter protests, the Standing Rock protests and the protection of the natural environment have drawn international attention to the mistreatment of journalists. Actions against the federally protected class are an attack on the freedoms America loves to promote.

Journalism is a tipping point of reliability and obligation. The public points to a disconnect between the reporting of media conglomerates and independent news outlets. What makes the headlines in the New York Times is different from the reality most people face in this country. A free press must have the confidence of the public to be of any use. A paywall, like that of the New York Times, can frustrate potential readers.

Journalism can always be used as a bridge between disenfranchised communities and the information used to make those communities stronger. The press functions as an invisible fourth branch of government that provides content to shape opinions. This content can inspire people to make changes to improve the lives of others.

“University administrators have recognized the threat that journalism poses to their power and, at times, suppresses free speech. A recent example of suppression of student journalism was an incident with the Texas A&M University Battalion (TAMU). TAMU President Mr Katherine Banks has demanded that the 129-year-old student publication cease its production of weekly print editions. Banks said she supports “freedom of the press”. With the amount of traditions at TAMU, such as Silver Taps, Ring Days, and Muster and Aggie Graduation, the suppression of an established practice by an overextended administration can be seen as a threat to student journalism.

University administrators used Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier from the 1988 Supreme Court to censor stories for just about any reason. The rollback of free speech comes at the expense of the US Constitution and the constitutional freedoms of students.

The theme for Student Press Freedom Day 2022 is “Turn Off”. Student journalists sometimes face internal conflict when working on a story because of the potential repercussions they may face in publishing it. An adviser is the faculty member in charge of a student press organization and is the first person to hear from disgruntled administrators or influential citizens who might not like a published story.

To combat this threat to journalism, the Student Press Law Center helps student journalists identify what self-censorship is. A problem is easier to solve when you are able to recognize it.

At our last team meeting at The Prairie News, our reporters had a discussion about self-censorship. You can take this quiz to see if you can identify self-censorship in the context of student journalism.

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