Student Journalists are Essential: Support Student Press Freedom Day

First Amendment

The student press’s importance cannot be overstated in the past couple of years, especially during a worldwide pandemic. Student-run media outlets and student journalists often fill the gaps left behind by diminishing or dying local news media in news deserts. 

Student Press Freedom Day 2021 is Journalism Against the Odds

Student journalists are juggling schoolwork and reporting on the news, and interviewing people in their community throughout the week, sometimes at significant personal risk at exposure to COVID-19. Student journalism is part of the function of maintaining a free and open civil society and robust democracy. 

As an adjunct journalism professor and one of the student newspaper faculty advisors, iPulse in the College of Communication and Design at Lynn University, students were tasked with moving an entire print publication to online only. We were fortunate to have already had a fully functional website for our newspaper, so it shifted from printing weekly to posting daily articles online.  

Our editorial team and staff writers continued writing and remained resilient during COVID-19 using Zoom, text, chat, and direct messages in social media to interview and remained socially-distanced. I encouraged students to submit editorials and opinion stories to give student journalists an outlet to express themselves on national and international topics of importance. 

Starting with the summer of racial tension in the United States in 2020, iPulse’s staff writers routinely told me that it was a catharsis to write about and interview other students about various topics about microaggressions, race, and representation. 

During the 2020 presidential election, iPulse’s staff writers and student press’ around the whole country covered historic elections and played a critical role in helping young people push back against voter suppression, obtain accurate information, and make their voices and votes count. iPulse published a voter’s edition right before the election, which included “Your Ballot in Plain English,” written by Distinguished Professor of American History Dr. Robert P. Watson, an author, historian, and political science expert. 

Despite efforts to suppress the youth vote, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 52%-55% of youth voted in 2020, and their impact was decisive in critical races across the country. Youth turnout was much higher than in 2016, with the youth share reaching 17% of the overall vote.  

The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” 

Like professional journalists, student journalists provide an essential, constitutionally protected service to their communities. They should be recognized and fully supported for the service they provide in gathering and delivering vital information on issues of concern to the public, which is why the Student Press Freedom Day was established. 

The theme for Student Press Freedom Day 2021 is Journalism Against the Odds. According to the Student Press Law Center, “in the face of phenomenal news coverage, student journalists have produced despite being faced with incredible challenges of a year consumed by not only a global pandemic but widespread racial justice protests.” Student Press Freedom Day 2021 is on Feb. 26; there are several ways to support the day:

Host or Join a Screening of the Documentary Raise Your Voice 

For three days, from February 25-27, the production company GoodDocs and Maribeth Romslo, the documentary filmmaker behind Raise Your Voice, will be generously making her film available for streaming by the student press community in honor of Student Press Freedom Day. The film follows the student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they navigate their school mass shooting as both survivors and journalists. The documentary explores youth free speech history in America, connecting the Parkland students to a broader story about young voices and their power through social movements.  

Every person who wants to watch the movie must register here: 

Register for the film 

You’ll receive a link on Thursday, Feb. 25 and can stream the film anytime Thursday, Friday or Saturday. We encourage you to host a group screening with your newsroom staff, friends or classmates and chat on your preferred platform (like Slack or Discord). Or join the Student Press Law Center team as they watch the film during our staff lunch on Friday, Feb. 26 at 12:30 p.m. The team will be hosting a live chat on Slack. Make sure to register for the film first, then sign up to join their Slack workspace here.  

Student Journalism Forum 

Feb. 25, 8 p.m. ET 

Join the Student Press Freedom Forum to talk with fellow student journalists from across the country, student-to-student, about the best parts of being a student journalist and the challenges you face. Moderated by a fellow student journalist, this event will be an excellent opportunity to build a community with like-minded people from across the country, share your challenges and successes and find inspiration moving forward.  

Register for the forum 

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