Student Press Saves Democracy

Jose Valdivia, Op-Ed Editor

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   In recent years, free press has increasingly been under unwarranted attack, paralleling a dangerous culture like that of An Enemy of the People. It seems like across the country, anything mildly unfavorable or controversial is labeled as fake news. Most concerning is that attacks on the press are spearheaded by the President of the United States and his fear regime.  

  In Jan. 2019, op/ed writer Jackson Zyskowski wrote an article titled, “What Dying Journalists Mean for Free Media.” He discussed the implications of journalist deaths on young, aspiring writers, stating that “the next generation [needs] to… fight [against] suppression of [the First Amendment].”

  High schools are the loci for sprouting democracy in which young adults come together in public spaces discussing local, state, national, and global issues. Today, the role of student press in our society has become paramount to the protection of free speech and democracy. If children and teens are raised in a world in which nothing can be trusted because everything is questioned, then what basis do we have for the truth?

  Justice William Brennan of the US Supreme Court believed that free press must be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks.”

  It is imperative that high school students understand their rights. According to California Education Code, “pupils of the public schools… shall have the right to exercise freedom… of the press… whether or not the publications… are supported… by the school.”

  This means that students have the right to not only create publications but also to act independently from schools. No matter how critical or unfavorable an article may be, as long as it complies to journalism ethics and laws, a school cannot censor a fact or opinion.

  The influence of a school newspaper becomes important when a people cannot trust their government. A student publication is not meant to rally school spirit, that is the job of ASB. A school newspaper reports the truth and upholds free speech. It is the training ground for democracy in our increasingly uncertain world.