Responsible Student Journalism
Maintaining Journalistic Ethics & Integrity on College Campuses
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 16:02
Like public high schools, many public colleges exercise the right to censor student publications. Speakers and even campus protests are subject to administrative approval on a number of campuses. In fact, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that school administrators should have full control of student press, with the sentiment of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that censorship of a student paper did not violate high school students’ right to free speech.
As good student journalists, we at The Crusader are staunch defenders of free speech on campus. We oppose censorship in all its forms, and we believe in open and unfettered dialogue, in the pages of our newspaper and in other student publications.
But as recent events have reminded us, opposition to censorship does not constitute an endorsement of all speech. I was appalled to see that another student newspaper recently published a distasteful editorial comparing a student group on this campus to Nazis. This kind of reckless rhetoric shouldn't be censored, but it should be condemned. It has no place in the civil, constructive campus dialogue we at The Crusader try to cultivate.
My high school newspaper was subject to prior review. After spending long afternoons, (which sometimes turned into evenings) in the English department’s computer lab, our faculty advisor submitted a copy of the newspaper for our principal to review.
Looking at her marked copy, I noticed that she tended to look only at certain sections of the paper. She would take a look at the headline and decide whether or not the article shed a positive, negative or questionable light on the school’s reputation.
Sometimes, she would ask our advisor which articles she should “look out for.” She had the power to omit headlines, sentences, paragraphs, pictures or entire articles. As much as our advisor encouraged us to dig deep and find the hard-hitting stories happening at our school, our work was often all for nothing.
As a private college, Holy Cross does not censor its student publications. The Crusader and other student publications are only viewed by their student editors before they go to press.
It is entirely the work and voice of contributing student writers and editors. Students can submit opinion pieces from various political stand points, review their favorite bands and movies, and truthfully report to the campus community inner workings of the administration.
We enjoy the same privilege as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: freedom of the press. Journalists are the watchdogs who hold government accountable. They expose wrongdoing and provide an open forum for civic discourse.
With that privilege, however, comes great responsibility. All student publications must take ethical journalism practices into consideration, remembering that while we are not subject to the kind of public scrutiny of daily newspapers, we should be held to the same moral standards.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics identifies the four standards of journalists’ practices as “seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable.” Student newspapers are not the place for airing of personal grievances and targeting individuals or groups of individuals.
News and opinions pieces published in student publications are not free from lawsuits of libel. The Crusader’s editorial board pays particular attention to this sense of integrity, as the student newspaper with a long and proud history of representing the student voice.
I am afraid that many student journalists have lost sight of the purpose and ethics of journalism, failing to approach the task with maturity and genuine intent.
Journalism is about opening up debate based on factual information. As students, we are learning how to make meaningful contributions to the world outside the gates of Holy Cross. We must remember the high standards to which we are held as well as our commitment to justice and intellectual curiosity.