Good news for student journalists: Your work matters

By Editorial Board

Somewhere in a U.S. classroom, there is a student who will one day break a news story that will change the world. Schools nationwide are training the up-and-coming voices in journalism, and some new legislative efforts are ensuring they are heard.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed the Cronkite New Voices Act, a bill that would guarantee protections from censorship for student journalists in public high schools, universities and colleges.

Students would be protected from administrative interference, with the bill stating that “material in school-sponsored media shall not be suppressed solely because it involves political or controversial subject matter.”

The provision exempts student articles that are libelous or slanderous, invade privacy, threaten violence or use vulgar or offensive language, allowing teachers and administrators to use some level of prior restraint. Nine states, including Illinois, already have laws in place that are similar to the Cronkite New Voices Act. 

If this bill becomes law, student journalists in the state’s schools will finally be given the protection they need to inform their peers and act as the watchdogs of their campuses.

Student publications are not lesser than the national papers that produce powerful journalism for the public on a daily basis. But students are rarely given validation that the work they do is important.

Dismissing student-produced journalism is a thoughtless oversight of the effort young people put into writing important stories that can spur needed change on their campuses. Most concerning, it can discourage aspiring journalists from delving into the stories that need to be told.

In January, students at Herriman High School in Utah were forced to start a newspaper independent from their school after administrators took down an article about alleged misconduct by a teacher from the original school-sponsored newspaper’s website.

If we want our news to be reported with a high standard of integrity, accuracy and depth, aspiring journalists must be encouraged to strive for those values early in life rather than be conditioned to create work that follows the status quo and unquestioningly suits leaders who do not want to be held accountable for their actions.

Missouri is taking steps to let student journalists at public institutions be heard, but this effort must continue until every student journalist in the country is afforded the right to publish news that matters.

At The Chronicle, we are well aware of the importance of having editorial freedom from the college. We spend our days in the newsroom reporting, writing articles and carefully editing and fact-checking to ensure we deliver well-reported, hard-hitting news to the campus community. We know much of our coverage reveals information the college may find unfavorable.

We use our freedom to create strong journalism that follows the ethical guidelines we uphold and that holds powerful people accountable. Every student should be afforded this right, and schools across the country should support the young minds who will be the future change-makers of our nation.