Student Journalists Deserve First Amendment Rights Too

Student journalists at Central Washington University are speaking out after months of interference from the university’s administration. The university’s student-run newspaper and television station have been trying to prepare for the real world of journalism, but the university has forced them to change the way they go about reporting.

To interview any employee, faculty or student athlete, the university is forcing reporters to give their questions in advance. This poses some pretty obvious problems, including the issues of prior restraint and prior review. When any form of censorship is involved with journalists, it becomes a very tricky situation.

By forcing students to give their questions to interviewees ahead of time it makes the interview less genuine, and it can change the direction of the interview if the questions are not approved by administration. Even faculty is rallying with the students against this prior restraint, recognizing how unfair it is for students.

“They work really hard to get things right, and they do not get accused left and right of getting things wrong. So they did nothing to deserve this,” said Cynthia Mitchell, a Journalism instructor at the university. 

The sad part is that Central Washington University is not the only college dealing with similar issues of censorship. In February 2016, two University of Kansas officials were sued after cutting the budget on the school’s newspaper after a paper was published that they did not like. There are multiple cases like these where student-run newspapers are subject to prior restraint.

It is more important than ever in this atmosphere of fake news to allow any and all journalists to publish factual articles. By censoring these newspapers in any way it takes away the credibility of the information, and restricts journalists from telling important stories.

Furthermore, allowing any kind of official to allow censorship can only lead to a downward spiral. If college newspapers are subject to prior restraint, who is to say that soon enough all newspapers will be censored as well. Censorship is an extremely tricky subject, and not something that should be taken lightly. It is important to support students like the ones at Central Washington University, who are standing up for their rights as journalists. Accurate and factual journalism is a vital part of our society, and one that is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment, and we need to make sure it stays that way.

One thought on “Student Journalists Deserve First Amendment Rights Too

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  1. Ahh this is so infuriating and as an editor for the Simmons Voice––it’s also super close to home for me. I’ve seen plenty of similar situations such as budget cuts and faculty/staff asking for questions prior to interviews here at Simmons, but I always chalk it up to the fact that we’re a private institution; so it’s crazy to me and so sad that this is happening at public universities as well. I think you’re completely right in calling this out as prior restraint and review and I also think there’s a level of patronization going on here as well. Student journalists are often just as accurate if not more than journalists working in corporate newsrooms, but stories like these show that the powerful don’t view us that way. This kind of behavior is exactly what leads us to accept corruption in the media industry as commonplace. If we want to see the next generation save ethical journalism, we can’t stifle it at its roots within learning institutions!

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