WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Strengthening the Rights of Student Journalists

Aug 25, 2016

The Student Law Press Center reported new state laws in Illinois, Maryland, and North Dakota provide new protections to college and high-school journalists.

The Illinois law is the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act (HB 5902).

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton works with student journalists at Western Illinois University. She said while the Illinois bill is for K-12 schools, it's an important piece of legislation because it supports faculty members who advise student journalists. Crighton said there are too many instances of advisors being let go and/or student journalists being told they cannot report a story.

Panelist Jonathan Ahl said he is thrilled to see protections for young reporters, but he added such laws also raise the bar for advisors to ensure they are active and engaged in their students' work.

Ahl said today's students have grown up in a culture in which there are few restrictions on what's said on social media, so good teachers are needed as advisors to ensure young reporters engage in principled journalism. Ahl said even opinion and commentary pieces should be well-researched.

Panelist Rich Egger said when he was a high school journalist he didn't understand the amount of work that went into being a columnist. He eventually learned that legendary Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko didn't just sit at the typewriter all day and rant - he did research and had a team of reporters digging up information to back up Royko's take on stories.