For most of us at the Foghorn, journalism is an outlet that allows us to explore our passions and use our voices. Because of our freedom of press, we are able to do what we do — publish breaking news, hold the university accountable, and feature local artists. Wednesday, Jan. 29 is Student Press Freedom Day, a national day of action for student journalists to band together and advocate for press independence on the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. Hazelwood reverses the Tinker v. Des Moines ruling, which had guaranteed that “students do not shed their rights when they enter the schoolhouse gate,” stating instead that administration has the right to limit articles they deem inappropriate.
Although we at the Foghorn are lucky to be publishing in a state where student journalists have protections (California was the first state to pass a reverse-Hazelwood law in 1977), and the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 2001 that Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier did not apply to colleges, it is essential that those of us who have press freedom use our voices to fight for those that don’t. Currently only 14 states have laws protecting student journalists from censorship, with the newest addition being Washington state.
Student journalists serve a crucial function; oftentimes, student newspapers are the only sources of hyperlocal information for the schools they serve, which makes them a precious resource for their campus community for years to come. When freedom of student press is compromised, so is part of their institution’s written record.
Student press is no less important than professional press and shouldn’t be treated any differently. Since many young journalists are hoping to pursue a career in the field, we all must be held to the same standards and guidelines as professionals. It is necessary to have practice in a more forgiving environment than that of a national paper such as The New York Times.
As student journalists, it’s our duty to diligently report on what is happening in our school and community, as well as relay national news as it affects our student body. If stories are written journalistically and ethically, despite potential controversy, they deserve to be published. Most school newspapers have been around for decades or centuries and have standardized themselves as reputable news sources; therefore, students should be able to rely on them for accurate information, as opposed to turning to sources such as Twitter for the latest updates. In this way, student press freedom benefits not just the journalists themselves, but the entire community, as they allow voices to be heard and different identities to be involved.
This year, the Foghorn has covered a plethora of groundbreaking stories, from reporting on the caf’s health score, diving into USF’s admissions data tracking strategy, exploring iWallet’s involvement with the University, and releasing news about the no-confidence petition for Provost Donald Heller. Many student papers across the country would not be able to publish stories similar to these. It’s upsetting to think that the hours put into planning, reporting, writing, and editing controversial stories are put to waste when stories get cut by administrations. Not to mention the shortage of news that reaches the student body. And this is the unfortunate fate of students across the 36 states that lack laws protecting student journalism.
Student journalists deserve the right to be heard. They deserve the right to use their voices and First Amendment rights. They deserve the right to write without fear of backlash or censorship. At the Foghorn, we aim to follow journalistic standards and report with transparency, ethics, and a focus on what our community needs to know, wants to know, and should know. We aim to publish the stories that affect students the most, thoroughly investigate our stories, and use our voices for good — because that’s what student press freedom looks like.