[dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]“D[/dropcap]on’t talk to him,” “He’s a journalist out to get us,” these are the words Asa Lory, a fifth year journalism student at the University of Missouri, pursuing degrees in photojournalism and art, heard while snapping pictures at President Trump’s rally in Springfield, Mo.
Out in the open with his camera, but unafraid, Lory ignored the people who had negative things to say about him and instead focused on his job and tried to establish connections with people.
“If I️ spent five or ten minutes with a group, we could always find something to talk about, and pretty soon I️ could ask them about anything,” Lory said. “I️ think that the anti-press rhetoric is easy to spout off in a general sense, and even though some people in Springfield would never give me their names or ask me not to publish anything they said, most of them opened up and were glad to have someone tell their story.”
While Lory was able to relieve some of the tensions of the crowd, freedom of press and speech are still an ongoing issue for journalists. According to the newvoicesus.com ,the New Voices is a student-powered movement aiming to obtain the legal right for student journalists to have the ability to report freely.
Although the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, there is no added protection against administrative censorship in high school and college journalism programs. Without this protection, journalists can be censored by their school.
Passing this legislation was attempted in Missouri, but the senate was unable to call the New Voices reform legislation for a final floor vote for two years in a row, despite the approval of the bill. On Jan. 5, representative Kevin Corlew introduced a new version of the Cronkite New Voices Act, HB 441, which addressed the concerns of whether or not schools and colleges should be immune from legal liability for the speech of their students in journalistic publications. This act passed the House on March 15 and went to the senate, and was supported by the Missouri Journalism Education Association, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri College Media Association all supported the bill.
[quote]“Under prior restraint, too many student journalists are censored by their schools, which means that they’re not getting the training they need to cover controversial topics, which is obviously something that they are going to need to know how to handle in their work,” Lory said.[/quote]
Associate Professor of Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, Jackie Bell, believes freedom of speech is one of the most important rights Americans have and is the glue that holds our democracy together.
“We need people to speak about things of concern to tell the public what’s going on [and] to be the voice for the voiceless,” Bell said. “If we don’t have the protection to do that, we may not be able to. We are one of the few countries that actually has that type of protection and so many different countries journalists are jailed for trying to speak out.”
Freedom of speech allows for important information to spread, whether it is controversial or not, does not matter. As a participator of the Oklahoma Institute for Diversity in Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, as a high schooler, and a University of Missouri Journalism student, Huong Truong strongly believes the New Voices movement is important to high school students. Truong says that legally being able to gather information and sharing it due to public concern is important for high schools.
“It’s also important to foster that capability at an early stage to build stronger voices in youth that will go on to lead our country,” Huong said.
Both Lory and Huong were in high school journalism programs with Lory in the RBHS Newspaper staff and Huong as a staff member of Southmoore High School’s Yearbook and Newspaper. Due to the experience, they both understand the importance of their right to speech. They are concerned about the restrictions students can face in high school because it does not prepare them to be high quality and professional journalists in the future.
“We need to give these students the tools and preparation to cover controversial topics, and the freedom to learn how to handle these situations,” Lory said. “I️ know that I️ personally learned a lot about life and the industry of journalism and navigating tense situations when covering controversial topics. If we hadn’t had the freedom to pursue these topics, I️ never would have had those experiences as a student, in a relatively safe environment.”
As part of the same high school journalism staff as Lory, sophomore University of Missouri Journalism student, Alice Yu notices the differences between high school and college journalism. As a high school student Yu thought there was a need to know how to check information that was already public, but in her school district there were times that certain documents were unavailable and she wasn’t sure they were supposed to be. It wasn’t until Yu got to college that she realized there were a lot more documents available that she believed.
“This next generation needs to know how to properly report news so that we can dispel the ‘fake news’ perception of the media,” Yu said. “This [New Voices] movement is important because it will help train the journalists of tomorrow on how to find information that is impertinent to whatever they are reporting on by having access to documents primary documents, because that is a primary source, if they can get it then good journalism is happening.”
With school censorship, Huong says the lack of right to information and right to speech are counterproductive to fostering student’s educations by denying them information while also teaching them to do research and speak up for what they believe is right or wrong.
“I believe that school administrators should challenge students to do quality reporting that relates not just to school but also the the community,” Huong said. “Although the final product will be edited and potentially censored by school administrators, journalism should not be downplayed by administrators. Instead, school administrators should be promoting student press and investing in student journalism.”
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