Student journalists are still journalists


Jon S | Flickr

The Editorial Board

As an independent student-run newspaper, The Ticker takes matters of student journalism very seriously, as well as slights against student journalists.

Reporters for professional publications and outlets, whether freelancers or staff personnel, face distrust from large swaths of the population, backlash for pieces they publish and interviews with difficult sources.

While student journalists might not encounter all of the obstacles professional journalists may encounter, it would be untruthful to say that student reporters don’t face any hurdles.

Student reporters deal with some of the issues that professional journalists have to work with — criticism over controversial articles, unamenable sources and, often, inadequate pay for their work, if any at all. Student journalists also have to deal with obstacles particular to student journalists.

For one, elementary, middle and high school student newspapers are supervised by their school administrations, which is a setup that often leads to censorship.

There have been instances in which faculty advisors or school administrations have stopped articles from being published because they felt the pieces paint an inaccurate picture of the school culture or found the articles’ subject matter inappropriate.

School control over K-12 newspapers can also lead to schools not only telling students what they can’t cover, but also what they have to cover.

Administrations sometimes also have the power to make print newspapers go online, cut funding and to decide whether the papers are run by students in journalism and English classes or by after-school and lunch clubs.

“High school students are producing brave and important journalism, reporting on the impact of COVID-19 or issues of racial justice and Black Lives Matter. But we know that this brave reporting is often being censored by administrators who are undermining the students’ First Amendment rights because the content makes them uncomfortable or is controversial,” co- founders of Teens for Press Freedom said about a “Stand for Speech” rally on June 13. “This needs to stop.”

In college, school administrations don’t always have as much control over student publications as with primary and secondary schools — or any control at all.

At Baruch College, the administration doesn’t have a hand in The Ticker, though it works with the paper to disseminate important information and resources to students. The Ticker does not have a faculty advisor, though it does have an Office of Student Life advisor who does not affect the content.

Other colleges, however, have faculty advisors for their student newspapers. In the case of one of New York University’s publications, The Washington Square News, the entire editorial staff quit after a new faculty advisor was appointed and started making major changes to the paper’s staff and its way of running.

Beyond the issue of school control over student publications is the fact that student journalists don’t have the same access to public records that professional journalists have, and this is a problem that affects both K-12 and collegiate journalists.

Without access to public records, often due to lack of respect toward student journalists, student reporters lose a critical vein of information that can be used both in their stories and to come up with story ideas.

This issue also reinforces the idea that student journalists are not real journalists. That is not true.

As long as student journalists are following journalistic ethics and standards, they are “real” journalists, professional or not. It is high time that they started being treated as such.