Student Press Freedom Day | Photo by Soham Parikh | Graphic by Dylan Collison | The Wright State Guardian
The Guardian Newsroom on Wright State’s campus has felt different since the March 12 announcement that all university-related events would move online. Unfortunately, that included us.
We packed our things from our office, not knowing it would be six months before we would be allowed back on campus again. Despite all the uncertainty, we refused to back down from our responsibilities to keep the community informed, more important now than ever.
Working as a student journalist is a challenging yet rewarding position held by those with a burning desire to investigate and report on many topics happening simultaneously in the evolving world around us.
As members of the media and as students in our vocation, we overcome obstacles in our professional and collegiate lives that shape us into the writers, editors and reporters that our passion for truth beckons us to be.
At times, it seems as though our titles as “student” journalists render us unable to gain the respect of others, leaving countless hours of preparation, investigation and reporting elementary in the eyes of many.
Student Press Freedom Day, hosted by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), is a day to acknowledge student journalists and the critical work they do.
Student journalists everywhere often experience unfair censorship of their work and are not treated with the same respect as professional journalists.
Student journalists are expected to work and act like professional news publications but are often not treated like “real” journalists.
Student journalists are written off as just participants in a club, but it is much more than that.
Student journalists work hard to report news events on campus, both big and small. Like any other news publication, student newspapers are responsible for providing their audience with unbiased and factual information.
Universities often treat the student newspaper as their personal public relations department. The truth? Student journalists do not work for their universities—they work for their audience.
By recognizing the importance of Student Press Freedom Day, student journalists can earn the respect they deserve and continue reporting on what matters.
The word “student” in front of any word should not make it less worthy of respect, but all the more deserving.
When student journalists cover emotionally taxing or research-heavy stories, they are still expected to stay on top of their college workload. Balancing stories each week along with a college education, personal relationships and other jobs, part-time or not, is difficult.
Each week, student journalists are assigned articles they pitched the week earlier. They must contact their sources, set up interviews, sift through the interviews and then compose articles. Editors have reporters and contributing writers that depend on them to answer questions and assist them when they need help. Students must also carry a minimum of 12 credit hours each semester to be considered full-time students.
A story we published in 2020 covered the recovery of a man’s body in a local lake near Wright State’s Lake Campus in Celina, Ohio. While the article did exceptionally well in outreach, it took a tremendous toll on the reporter who interviewed the grieving family members. If that is not considered “real” reporting, then what is?
Student journalists balance their lives and emotions against what they report. They have to remain unbiased and focused, even if the topics are emotionally charged. Student journalists show more restraint than many politicians these days, yet they are still not taken seriously. This needs to change.
Despite all these struggles, we persevere. We have not only survived but grown from the ashes created by the fires that tried to put us out.
Even without a journalism program, we won three awards from SPJ’s Best of College Journalism: first for Best College Newspaper Daily and second place for both News and Features Writing.
We provided intensive election night coverage for the presidential election from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. We produced more than 20 podcast episodes recorded remotely. We conducted high-profile interviews with the president of WSU and the mayor of Dayton.
All of this during a global pandemic, civil unrest and a heated political environment, but those things don’t scare journalists. In fact, our newspaper has covered these issues and faced them head-on —because that is what journalists do.
We step into the fire and give all that we have to report on what is essential. If we, as student journalists, gave up on a story every time we faced backlash, struggled to uncover information and had to step outside of our comfort zones, then there would be no articles published.
A student journalist’s work is not easy, but it is some of the most rewarding work that we will do.
As we strive to grow as journalists by seeking the truth and working feverishly to inform and educate the communities in which we serve, we ask those who have laid the foundation in which we follow to view our work in a professional light. They can do this by assisting us in our fight against those who diligently seek to demean the fruits of our labor, rather than fuel the fire of those who work to suppress us.
We ask that our hard work and dedication to the craft we so passionately study be recognized rather than downplayed. In doing so, we ensure that future generations of journalists, writers and editors will have a stronger foundation to stand upon, and the communities that they inhabit will be informed by individuals driven by passion in their search for the truth.
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