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Empowerment, making a difference,
is REAL news

Censored news is fake news

by Candace Bowen, MJE
Nearly half of U.S. voters think media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released this fall.

Commercial media have been trying to drive that number down, but they’re going to need help from journalists too young to even vote yet. High schools, middle schools and even elementary schools have a new crop of reporters who want to tell real stories – and they might just be the answer to changing such poll results.

Take Hilde Lysiak, at 10 years old the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her Orange Street News covers everything about her hometown in Pennsylvania from new businesses opening (and old ones closing) to crime stories with quotes from the police and exact wording from criminal complaints.

Both former Student Press Law Center director Frank LoMonte and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights website have pointed out that censored news is fake news. If sources give student reporters “facts” meant to deceive, if they withhold information about problems thus preventing an attempt at solving them, if they promote platitudes about a school environment that doesn’t exist, this is surely promoting fake news. And it’s not allowing reporters to cover real news that’s important to them and their communities.

In SPJ’s September/October Quill magazine, she’s the Q & A member profile. Asked to offer one piece of advice, Lysiak said, “I would say that reporters should always do whatever it takes to stay focused on getting the truth. Don’t pay attention to the haters. They just zap your energy.”

She also applauded her parents for letting her ride her bike “all over town” when she started reporting as a 7-year-old. “If they hadn’t given me that freedom, I wouldn’t be able to report the news like I do. Sometimes I think the best thing parents can do is get out of the way.”

Thousands of miles away in such places as Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF has been empowering “child reporters,” 12 to 16. Their Stories of Innovation website says, “Evidence gathered over three years in the 11 provinces shows that once aware of their rights, children join forces and take up social issues in their schools and communities. . . . Furthermore, the continued observation of children as eloquent players of change makes adults more respectful in regards to children’s needs.”

These are just two examples of young people whose reporting can make a difference. It’s REAL news, not the least bit fake. They have been allowed and encouraged to find out what is going on in their parts of the world and convey that to their audiences. So even if a 10-year-old can’t make changes, she can inform those who have to power to do so. Think what our high school reporters can – and when allowed to HAVE done that has impact.

Both former Student Press Law Center director Frank LoMonte and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights website have pointed out that censored news is fake news. If sources give student reporters “facts” meant to deceive, if they withhold information about problems thus preventing an attempt at solving them, if they promote platitudes about a school environment that doesn’t exist, this is surely promoting fake news. And it’s not allowing reporters to cover real news that’s important to them and their communities.

Now just one month shy of 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case (Jan. 13, 1988), it’s time for some administrators and other haters to “get out of the way.” We have a generation wanting to get the truth and report it to others.

 

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