“New Voices” Laws and Student Press Freedom

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

Currently featured on the website of University Business magazine is an article by Matt Zalaznick titled “‘New Voices’ Laws Aim to Ensure Student Press Freedoms in Higher Ed: College Media Outlets, However, Face More Threats than Just Censorship.”

Zalaznick reports: “Campus newspapers face many of the same challenges confronting the professional media—inconsistent readership, dwindling financial resources, and competition with bloggers and social media. And when it comes to the involvement of administrators in editorial decisions, a movement now spreading across the country is pushing state legislatures to reaffirm the press freedoms of student journalists—particularly at public institutions. . . .

“In April 2016, Maryland became the third state in the last two years to pass a “New Voices” law that protects journalists at public colleges and universities from being told what to cover—and what not to cover—by administrators. It should also protect campus newspaper advisers from retaliation, should a story be seen as too critical of the institution. . . .

“’Administrators should keep in mind that campus media outlets provide the training grounds for the nation’s next generation of journalists,’ says Steven Listopad, the journalism professor who launched the New Voices movement while teaching at the University of Jamestown, a private institution in North Dakota.

“Listopad’s students drafted the bill that became law in the state in 2015.

“’We’ve taught upcoming students that journalism is for public relations and community-building—not for confronting serious issues,’ he says. ‘A lot of students don’t know it’s OK to report on politics or criticize their schools.’”

Beyond the value that student newspapers have in training that next generation of professional journalists, Zalaznick quotes a number of journalism professors who emphasize that student newspapers are often the primary sources of information about campus issues and therefore can be important mechanisms in insuring that all voices are heard and a true consensus is being reached in addressing issues.

The article’s focus then shifts to identifying the challenges created by moving student newspapers online—specifically, the considerable risk that the newspapers may become much less visible, less widely read, and therefore less relevant. To insure that a student newspaper continues to serve its mission, an aggressive strategy for promoting its content on social media has become absolutely essential.

 

Zalaznick’s complete article is available at: https://www.universitybusiness.com/article/new-voices-laws-aim-ensure-student-press-freedoms.

 

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