New Voices Act and student journalism

Elizabeth Bonin, A&E Editor

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This past weekend I attended the Best of the Midwest Associated Collegiate Press conference in Minneapolis. At the conference the Chips staff had the opportunity to attend sessions and receive critiques on how to improve our content and design. While we learned about how to enhance a paper’s structure, localize the news, and develop an interesting story, what motivated me even more was the topic the keynote speaker addressed: the New Voices Act.

I had never heard of the New Voices Act. It began when a group of college students in North Dakota wrote legislation in response to the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case. The Supreme Court ruling of this case decided that school officials may censor or prevent the publication of student media content without having violated First Amendment rights. The New Voices Act is striving to protect the rights of students in high school, public universities, and private colleges such as Luther. Since 2013, the New Voices Act has made  headway. But the point of this piece isn’t to detail the New Voices Act. The point is that I truly realized how important the media as a whole and the freedom of the press is, especially in the era of the Trump presidency.

President Trump (I hate writing that) has claimed journalists are the “enemy of the American people.” He has called out specific politicians and newspapers that disagree with him. As a result, he has created fear among people. While at the conference, the keynote speaker stated that a news station in Texas changed their broadcast material because they feared backlash. This is the kind of fear and censorship Trump has created. Without even having to create new legislation, Trump has already increased censorship of the media.

As students, we know we are the future. If we want to promote future change, it is our duty to educate ourselves about the world around us. But how can we fully do so if cases such as Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier allow censorship, and if our president is causing censorship as well? This is why journalism and the freedom of the press is vital. Not only as students, but as Americans, we deserve the right to know what is happening around us and how these events affect us. We cannot be the change if we do not know enough.

Trump has also made many claims of “fake news.” As a journalist, I can’t say that every single news story is 100 percent true. There is always the risk of bias and occasionally facts can be misconstrued. As news consumers, we must take the responsibility of being smart consumers. We must read and watch as many news outlets as we can. This gives us a wide variety of perspectives and can shed light on potential contradictions. As a journalist, I can also disagree with Trump that journalists are not out to get anyone by printing and broadcasting lies. Our responsibility is to inform the people, but we can not do that if we are censored not only be legislation, but by fear of repercussion. Repercussions are scary. But ignorance is far worse.

The media arguably needs more support at this period in time than any other. This can be as big as calling your legislators about the New Voices Act or submitting a story idea, or simply subscribing to a local paper and talking about the issues with your community. Freedom and national support of the press is a vital way to create change and awareness.

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