With Student Press Freedom Day on February 26, now more than ever seems an appropriate time to recognize student journalists and the lengths we go to for our pursuit of honest reporting, even despite those who deem us too young to make an impact. 

This year’s theme for the celebration focuses on journalism against the odds: a struggle known all too well to students working in the field during 2020.

A feverishly mentioned frustration that spurred from 2020’s impact seemed common amongst student journalists: people didn’t take us seriously. There was a grand sense of illegitimacy surrounding the field throughout 2020, as more than a few people began attributing journalists to be nothing more than liars and crooked media with biased agendas. 

As a student who has had plans of pursuing journalism since 8th grade, this stereotype was a reminder at every family function and during every fleeting phone call with relatives. By fall of 2020, I had heard every single attempt to convince me to pursue something else. 

To those around me, journalism was a dying media and anybody could write what I could. It wasn’t something worth “wasting time” on. 

You could imagine how discouraging that got. More than that, it felt insulting for young me to get ridiculed before I even got started. 

When I speak to most people about journalism, there is still always this pressure added to the conversation. They feel the need to always remind me of what “real” journalism is. They feel the need to remind me that the media today is biased and fake. To them, I’m a child bound to be corrupted. To them, I’m not capable of understanding what's fact and fiction. 

To clarify for those who resemble those remarks, I’d like to tell you that the “media” is not out to get you. Students journalists are also not lost lambs you need to save with your facebook articles. 

Student journalists are not incapable and we are certainly not blank canvases waiting to be ruined by our mentors and peers.

As young journalists it feels impossible to not be seen as inferior or naive. For most of us, our own families don't even find validity in our pursuits. To them, we are simply too young to know anything about politics, or racial inequality, or health or any other critical aspect of today. We aren't allowed to provide commentary on the bad around us because we just aren’t old enough to get it, right?

Realistically, there are no qualifications to pass in order to be a good journalist. That is something you learn on your own, through personal curiosity and thirst for truth. You don’t have to be a certain age, or have a specific degree or certificate.

While to some we might not be the type of journalist they want to see or hear from, we aren’t a journalist any less.

To those making the journey to be that young and honest reporter, keep your head up. 

To those who have doubted and invalidated those on that journey, you can change. 

The most honest and easy way to support the motive of Student Press Freedom Day is to celebrate the journalists around you. We’ve spent so long trying to wash away those trying to keep our world honest. Make 2021 and all years after, a place to promote positive student commentary. Give a platform to young reporters and trash the notion that education and insight is only achievable after certain checkpoints in life. 

To become more involved with Student Press Freedom Day on February 26, you can visit studentpressfreedom.org for plenty of ways to take action. 

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