Students around the country join effort to defend free press with editorials





On August 16, more than 380 news outlets across the country responded to President Trump’s anti-media rhetoric with editorials promoting freedom of the press. The effort was organized and led by The Boston Globe. 

Much like their professional counterparts, student publications have been subjected to calls of “fake news” and even physical violence, spurring some to join in with editorials of their own. It is very early in new the academic year and many student publications have not yet convened.

“Student journalists play a vital role in the civic life not only of their schools but of their communities. They are increasingly marginalized and censored as the “war on media” discourse takes hold,“ said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “Journalists should be celebrated for their important contributions, not vilified.  We stand together with student and professional journalists to defend the importance of the free and independent press.”

The Scholastic Press Rights Committee of the Journalism Education Association has good advice for student publications that plan to write an opinion on this topic.

Editor’s note: In the wake of the deadly shootings on June 28 at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, 500 organizations and individuals have signed a statement spearheaded by the Student Press Law Center calling for an end to the environment which threatens journalists. Read about it here.

High schools:

The Nexus — Westview High School, San Diego

The Paw — Tigard (Ore.) High School

  • We are not the enemy — “I am growing up in an age where it is easy and quick to brush aside someone’s efforts simply by claiming they are ‘fake.’”

The Pearl Post — Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, Lake Balboa, California

The Southerner Online — Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta

FHCToday.com —  Francis Howell Central High School, Cottleville, Missouri

  • Giving Journalism a Chance — “I’d never even covered the president’s actions outside of editorials like this one, but I was still called fake news when he visited St. Charles, I was still booed by 1,000 people who had come to see him speak. I was only 16.”
  • Truth in Journalism —  “News organizations today don’t have their priorities straight. The news that we are receiving isn’t news, it’s opinion and ranting.  News, unless it is specifically an opinion piece, needs to be 100 percent unbiased reporting of events.”  

Colleges:

The Breeze — James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

The Daily Athenaeum — West Virginia University, Morgantown

The Daily Californian —  University of California at Berkeley 

The Daily Universe — Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

  • A professional #freepress is the antidote to fake news — It is the responsibility of each news outlet to make sure news pieces are written as unbiased as possible, but the mainstream media is not giving the people any answers, it is providing knowledge, and therefore power. “A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves,” as George Sutherland put it.

Et Cetera — Eastfield College, Texas

Independent Florida Alligator — University of Florida, Gainesville

  • Why the president hates a free press — “We may not be perfect, and may stumble, but we must not and will not falter in illuminating darkness, from Gainesville to Washington, D.C.”

Iowa State Daily — Iowa State University, Ames

  • We’re ready to listen — “We need you, our readership, to understand that the Iowa State Daily wants to serve you. We need you, our readership, to recognize that we cannot exist, nor function, without your support.”

Loquitur — Cabrini University, Pennsylvania

  • Journalists are not the enemy  — “I believe in the power of the press, and am proud of being a part of a newspaper as a student-journalist.”

The Miami Hurricane — University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida

  • The Fake News Falsity  —  “By casting those aspersions so carelessly, Trump creates an environment in which people feel they’re better off consuming no news at all—or maybe getting it from one source and calling it a day. But this breeds media illiteracy, an inability to tell when you’re being misled (as is so often the case with those seedy magazines and extremist political blogs, which feed on “fake news” claims) and a lack of familiarity with what proper sources and reporting look like.”

Missourian — University of Missouri, Columbia

Northwest Missourian — Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, MIssouri

  • Stay engaged, stand with the press —  “On a basic level, without the press, the public wouldn’t know how those with authority are functioning in their positions. No one would be reporting on what elected officials were accomplishing. No one would know if public servants were serving the public as they should. No one would know if those with authority were using their power correctly. Without that knowledge, the public wouldn’t know who to vote for when elections take place.”

The Prospector — University of Texas at El Paso

  • The Enemy of the People — “As a student who is currently learning what it means to be a journalist, it’s scary to witness all the anti-press rhetoric coming out of the White House.”

The Pace Chronicle — Pace University, Pleasantville, New York

The Pioneer — Long Island University Post Campus, Brookville, New York

The Signal — University of Houston Clear Lake, Texas

  • The discrediting of the press places democracy at risk — “While journalists can, and do, make mistakes sometimes, it does not mean their publication is at fault for spreading “fake news.” When a trained journalist working for a legitimate publication makes an error, a correction should be released. Transparency is one of the easiest ways to distinguish “fake news” from the journalists who make mistakes.”

The Signal — Georgia State University, Atlanta

  • Trump: We are not the enemy — “We strive to inform you, the public, of the truth wherever it may be hiding. We are not the enemy.” 

The Horizon — Indiana University Southeast, New Albany

  • A Free Press: The Foundation of Democracy — “The dangers that come with the terms “fake news” and “enemy of the people” seem to be lost with many leaders and citizens. Prominent political figures are more frequently using the terms to describe credible and well-reported stories that in telling the truth might make them look bad. That does not qualify them as fake.”

Did we miss any? Send editorial links to SPLC journalism fellow Danielle Dieterich at ddieterich@splc.org.


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