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Expand coverage of issues while celebrating Student Press Freedom Day, SJW this week


by John Bowen, MJE

Hopefully, scholastic journalism will be a week of celebration of student achievements and planned educational activities for those in various local communities.

If you haven’t already engaged your communities about how national issues affect local stories, this week would be a good time to create more awareness of important local issues, some of which might be considered controversial –– or part of student media’s social responsibility.

During this week student journalists will live and breathe Scholastic Press Freedom Day, Feb. 24. and the Journalism Education Association’s celebration of Scholastic Journalism Week starting Feb. 21.

Why add content some term “controversial,” “negative” or “divisive?” Inappropriate or hurtful?

Events or incidents like:
• Catholic school advisers fired two student media advisers over a student’s pro-choice column
• A Michigan adviser said parents included him on a “dangerous teachers” because he spoke to the local board of education about topics the parents did not agree with.
• Since January 2021, researcher Jeffrey Sachs says 35 states have introduced 137 bills limiting what schools can teach with regard to race, American history, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity….reported by NPR.
• In October 2021 a Georgia high school banned all protests on campus after a student carried a Confederate flag on campus.
• The mayor of an Ohio city this fall threatened to charge the entire school board with distribution of pornography and jail them if they did not resign. They did not. The mayor did in February.

Student media should report this kind of story because such issues and incidents can interfere with or prevent educational success.

Stories needed are ones that impact communities on many levels:
• Growing pressure on school boards by groups which say they represent parents, on issues of….posting curriculum for parental involvement, book banning and potential punishment of teachers for any discussion of “controversial” ideas, groups and principles
• Continuing pressure on schools, government and business over the Covid quandary surrounding vaccination, mask wearing and their impact on children.
• Ongoing questions of communities, adult and student, not only to recognize but to counteract disinformation and misleading information potentially creating false and harmful actions
• Feb. 21, the start of celebrating scholastic journalism, NBC News reported this story about parents who dump sham legal claims on schools to distract them from pandemic issues and more.


Why are events and issues like this for student journalists?
Student news media should report on topics like these so audiences have accurate information, which translates into local action and perspective, so community members can discuss, act and vote appropriately. So communities have credible sources of information for communities to make intelligent and informed decisions on key societal issues. So audiences feel confident journalists verify what they present, or explain how reporters did not use a source who uses erroneous information or deliberate misinformation.

Celebrate Student Press Freedom Day and Scholastic Journalism Week. Continue to present essential reporting and verification. Provide leadership with trusted and credible information citizens need to know to make informed decisions.

Scholastic journalism is at its best when reporting local issues of importance.