The importance behind celebrating Student Press Freedom Day

The world of student journalists changed forever Feb. 24, 1969, when the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that students have the right to freedom of speech in public schools. This year marks the sixth annual Student Press Freedom Day with the theme “Powerfully Persistent.” Mason Britton | Sun News Daily

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The celebration of Student Press Freedom Day is being written in history for the sixth time Feb. 22 with the theme being “Powerfully persistent.”

This day holds a strong importance to those student journalists who work hard every day to get countless interviews, write hundreds of articles and spread important information not only to the schools they attend but to the public surrounding them. The jobs of student journalists include real-world experiences and opportunities for these students to practice their First Amendment freedoms.

Rhiannon Bent, assistant professor of communication and department chair, said, “People in power need to be held accountable, and journalism was created for the state of government to be able to scrutinize what’s happening.”

The First Amendment protects people’s rights to free speech as well as the freedom of the press in journalistic practices. This allows the public and press to have reasonably uncensored opinions and to publish credible and factual information without the fear of getting into trouble with the government. There are many stories that are written by students in college and high school that leave a lasting impact on the school and the community.

News corporations such as KSL News and St. George News cover topics pertaining to subjects in the government, but so do student journalists. The information and reporting is not limited to those bigger companies, and student journalists are learning to be able to share that same information, just on a different scale. That does not mean that they are any less important within society.

Bent said, “You’ve got to have grit to persist in a difficult career, and this [journalism] is one of them.”

Avril Kester, a junior marketing major from Los Angeles, is the president of the club, Creatives Anonymous. Kester works to get a group of students together throughout each month to allow them to share their written stories within a safe environment. She also gives them a chance to get feedback and help from their peers.

“Once you limit what one person can say, then eventually everyone and everything will be limited,” Kester said. “If you give someone an inch, they’ll go a mile. Allowing people to speak freely about topics and give factual information is so important.”

In other cases, articles that are in student publications are some of the only ways that students or the community are able to get information. This also gives students the chance to research and report on stories they feel are important and impactful. Finding newsworthy stories is just another important factor in what these students are able to accomplish.

Freedom of the press allows news publications to not be limited to what information they can and can not share. This also allows the public to be more knowledgeable about what is happening. If there is information about something that directly impacts someone, it is in the public’s best interest for news publications to announce that information. 

Owen Johnson, a junior English major from Washington, is a part-time IT web technical writer and fiction editor for the Southern Quill, a literary publication at Utah Tech University. This publication allows students to submit poetry, creative non-fiction pieces, artwork and stories to be published.

“Without freedom of press, there is no way for people to create and share their own new ideas,” Johnson said. “People need to be able to gather information from all sides of a topic to form an opinion, not just one controlled side.” 

Student Press Freedom Day is about bringing awareness to those student journalists who go through the effort and stress of writing and publishing stories that won’t always be accepted by the public. These students are commended on this day for their hard work and efforts put into interviewing, writing, publishing and staying powerfully persistent to make impactful and newsworthy stories.