Student Press Freedom day motivates staff at The Echo

Wednesday, January 29 is Student Press Freedom day. In honor of this day, it is only right to reflect on what this day actually means for us as student journalists.

Journalism is not an easy field. We are often scrutinized, disrespected, underpaid, and overworked. However, we continue to do the civic duty of journalism because we have a passion for writing, reporting, and delivering truth to the public. It is no different for student journalists. I would actually argue that student journalists are given unfair treatment even more than a professional journalist. 

Since we are students still learning the field, we are often not taken seriously. People can be less willing to talk to us or give us information. There have also been cases where schools have tried to silence or censor different forms of student media because they exposed truths unflattering to their institution’s public image. However, as journalists, it is our job to report these things to the public. 

 In fact, the students The Echo have showcased impressive journalism by breaking news of controversies on UCA’s campus. At the end of the 2019 fall semester, The Echo was the first to report a story exposing hazing and drug use in Sigma Phi Epsilon. The Echo has also gotten exclusive interviews. When former assistant professor of general music and UCA administrator Gilbert Baker was indicted for funneling money to local circuit judge to influence a ruling, Baker refused to talk to any media outlets other than The Echo. 

The Echo not only reports controversial news, we also break news that highlights positive aspects of the university. We showcase students doing exceptional things with our weekly column, “People of UCA”. The Echo gives students a voice by getting their opinions on things that affect college students such as minimum wage and athletic fees that are a part of our tuition. When professors on campus get their work published, The Echo often features it in a story, often interviewing the author from UCA. The student press not only prepares student journalists for “real world” journalism, but it also allows the important happenings on campus to be brought to light.

There are, however , specific guidelines student journalists should follow. Just like professional journalists, we should follow the SPJ Code of Ethics. The SPJ Code of Ethics states that journalists should seek truth and report it, minimize harm, and be accountable and transparent. The main reason journalists have such a bad reputation with the public is because of the few journalists that go against these ethics in order for personal gain. Some journalists cross boundaries in order to get the next hot story and often are not considerate of the harmful effects it can have. Also, we live in a day and age where “fake news” spreads like wildfire, and irresponsible journalists and news outlets add fuel to that fire. The desire to be the first to publish stories in this digital age can lead to neglecting accuracy and failing to seek out reliable sources. Irresponsible and neglectful journalists represent only a small portion of us. Nevertheless, we have to be mindful of this and ensure we do everything in our power to stick to the code of ethics.

As student journalists, we represent the next generation of journalists. We determine the future of our field. With that being said, it is important to have the freedom to explore all aspects of our field. This means we should have the right to thoroughly report by having access to information and engaging with people of all statutes. That is why we celebrate student press freedom. It is a wonderful right that allows us to train to be greats in our field and we need to protect it at all costs.

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