EDITORIAL: Freedom of press should start in schools
Bill to rid student journalists of censorship should be passed
As a University that has a daily newspaper, Rutgers should be extremely involved in any advancement made in the world of collegiate newspaper production. And with New Voices of New Jersey making efforts to pass a bill regarding the freedoms of college (and high school) newspapers, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Rutgers to make its voice heard.
New Voices of New Jersey describes itself as a movement to help ensure the fear-free freedoms of student journalists. Recently, it has made a pledge to support Assembly Bill 4028, which was put into motion on June 30 last year and encompasses the ideals of the organization entirely. This bill is made to protect high school and college journalists against censorship as well as forbidding retaliatory personnel actions against faculty advisors. This essentially means this bill is supposed to keep students and their advisers from getting in trouble for publishing something that the newspaper’s institution does not want them to publish.
Being members of The Daily Targum, we are lucky to not just be independent and free from restrictions or censorship but also have the unconditional support of the administration in our work. Although some of the news we report on does not always put the University in a positive light, we are dedicated to our reporting and are grateful to have an administration that cares about this. But unfortunately, this is not always the case with other universities.
Just a few weeks ago, Melanie Perez, the editor-in-chief of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s newspaper The Equinox, put out an opinions piece on how she felt that her liberties as a student journalist were being threatened by her university. In her piece, she emphasized that as editor-in-chief she had the right to “speak (her) mind” even if that necessarily did not paint the university in a positive light. She also said that when she attempted to make this point clear to the representatives from the university, they emphasized that The Equinox ran off of the funding that the university provided. In the world of journalism, despite its level, this is dangerous.
The entire reason that high schools and colleges have school newspapers is to build experience for those students interested in getting involved in a journalistic field when they are older. They want to be exposed to the real-life world of journalism. When you put limitations on their writing and censor what they can and cannot say, you are not only barring them from speaking their truths, but also stripping them of the experience of the real world.
The media is often referred to as the “fourth branch of government,” and this is to imply that the truths that people report are the ones that keep the government and its systems in check. This is the same thing that student journalists should be doing with their institutions of education. And these institutions should be letting them do this. No high school or university is perfect, and it is necessary for its student body to be given the right to hold them responsible for when they make mistakes. Not only this but, allowing students to seek out the truths, even if they are negative, makes them better investigative journalists. Plus, the unconditional support of an administration gives its students greater confidence in their work and their words. It is difficult imagining a newspaper such as The Daily Targum with such restrictions because it would no longer be the same newspaper. Every other newspaper deserves the right to have its own distinct voice, and if this will only be done through this bill, then this bill should be passed as soon as possible.