Want to develop better news consumers and citizens? Protect student journalism

New Voices aim: expand protection in New Jersey 

By Holly Johnson and Tom McHale

Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, but these days we see legitimate news organizations being called liars on the one hand, and shadowy organizations spreading fake news stories on the other. We need a generation of citizens with a heightened aptitude for telling the difference between fact and fiction. Our democracy depends on it, and those of us who teach journalism to the next generation are doing all we can to ensure our students have that capacity. Our lessons emphasize research, fact checking, ethics and professionalism.

Student journalists who are trusted to make editorial decisions about what their readers need and want to know, and how best to handle controversial topics, develop a capacity to communicate effectively and to think critically. They foster a culture of civic discourse amongst their peers.

Unfortunately, many administrators, worried about the image of their school, have opted to exert editorial control over student newspapers. While their intentions may be good–to cast the school in the most favorable light, to ensure students don’t read about topics that may seem too sensitive for some–the results are often calamitous for all involved. The pedagogical process is undermined, and the administrators open themselves up to criticism from all quarters.

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