In April 2018, a movement kicked off in support of student newsrooms across the nation. A small group of editors from The Independent Alligator at the University of Florida decided to save student newsrooms by creating awareness of censorship from universities.
Student newsrooms are important. While many journalism students get their start in classes, it’s in the student newsrooms that students get their experience.
It’s because of Spinnaker that I, a psychology major, was able to get experience reporting crime scenes, court cases, investigative long-term pieces and even helping out a weekly newscast.
I owe so much to Spinnaker and the experience I have gotten here that I get so frustrated when I hear that other student newspapers are getting censored for criticizing their university. I am so grateful that during my time at Spinnaker, our newspaper has not been censored. I’m also aware that it can be very easy for universities to censor papers.
The Flor-Ala student newspaper at the University of Northern Alabama was punished for writing a story critical of the administration. The story was talking about how the administration denied giving out public records. Soon afterwards, their newspaper advisor was then told he was going to be fired and the administration wants to replace the role with a tenure-track faculty member with a Ph.D. While this sounds good, this means that the new advisor wouldn’t have long-term experience as a journalist and won’t know how to better help students. The University also told all faculty and staff to not speak to media without the University examining the questions beforehand. While more information about this story is currently being revealed, the fact that a university conveniently took action after a controversial topic is nothing new or to be overlooked.
We don’t criticize just to criticize—we criticize and look deep at a university administration because we genuinely care about the University. We care about our students, we care about our professors, we care if UNF succeeds or fails. We dig deep to help the University to be better.
Without student media, student journalists wouldn’t get the experience and the campus would suffer. After all, student newspapers focus on their universities. While there may be other news stations that cover university news, none do so with a focus on and for students. Student newsrooms have to keep up with local news stations and sometimes compete for breaking news. And, while some papers may break certain news, you can trust in student newspapers to follow up on that news. How did it impact students? How did it impact teachers? What are the long-term results? That’s where we come in.
Support student newspapers by reading them. Follow them on social media, donate to them if they are independent, and support them, even when they mess up. We are students first, and everything is a learning opportunity.
This editorial was published in honor of Student Press Freedom Day, organized by Student Press Law Center.
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