Valuing a Free and Responsible Student News Media

My high school journalism teacher and I are Facebook friends.

Roger taught me a lot about journalism – and about life. I am who I am today, in part, because of what I learned in that classroom from Roger and from the hours I spent working on the newspaper.

But what happens when you can’t report the news as a student? How do you cultivate a free and responsible student news media? Those were the questions during a keynote session of the 2010 NFPW Conference in Chicago.

Barbara Thill resigned, as did several of the student newspaper staff, in the face of changes imposed on the Stevenson High School staff in Lincolnshire, Ill. The changes were imposed on the school’s journalism program after a controversial article on student sex life ran in the January 2009 Statemen.

Randy Swikle, Illinois director of the Journalism Education Association, noted, “School officials can’t censor just because they disagree” with the topic.

Despite the actions of the school, there are those who believe in scholastic journalism. The McCormick Foundation produced a booklet to inspire ethical protocol, improved communication and democratic learning among the stakeholders of scholastic journalism.

Among the functions of a student press as listed by Robert Dardenne, chair of the Department of Journalism and Media studies at the University of South Florida, are –

1)      To educate

2)      To inform

3)      To encourage discussion

4)      To share school culture

5)      To persuade

The booklet is a strong reminder of why we must value a free and responsible student news media.

To Roger and all the other student newspaper advisors, “Thank you!”

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