In the week and a half since the staff of The Famuan at Florida A&M University learned they could not publish the paper as planned without taking part in additional training and reapplying for their position, student journalists at newspapers across the country have spoken up in defense of the Famuan staff in several strongly worded editorials and columns.
Over at The Arizona Daily Wildcat, Editor-in-Chief Kristina Bui criticized the decision by FAMU administrators to shut down the paper’s printing after the filing of a libel lawsuit against the paper last month. Bui also praised Famuan staff members who have started an underground website to publish news on during the official paper’s print suspension. It’s important to let student journalists who are learning make (and learn from) mistakes on their own, Bui wrote:
“Seriously though, there is no better training than firsthand, hands-on experience. The Wildcat’s history is spotted with a wide variety of missteps and mistakes. The history of any student newspaper is pockmarked with them. That’s the great thing about independent student press — there is no handholding.
In much the same way you might brace yourself for some bruises while learning to ride a bike, or a scratch on the car the first time you learn to parallel park, learning something new takes some risk.
If the risk isn’t worth the reward, I do not know what I have been doing with the last three years of my life.”
Nick Fouriezos, the new editor of The Red & Black, lent his own support to the exiled journalists as well this week. Fouriezos knows a little about student media protests, having been part of the group of editors who walked out at The Red & Black last fall after staff feared students were losing their editorial control. “The true power of collegiate journalism lies in the ability to cover a university unflinchingly, without fear of censorship or retribution,” Fouriezos wrote.
“While we must understand the responsibility which comes with such freedom, we also can never forget how great it is to have that freedom.
And when another newspaper is forced to fight for the right to cover its community effectively, others must be willing to rise in defense.”
And this week we also heard from The Oklahoma Daily, who noted that “First Amendment rights cannot be taken away as punishment.” It was student journalists at Oklahoma State, the Daily pointed out, who were responsible for breaking “one of the most impactful stories of governmental cover-up in Oklahoma in the past year.”
“Most stories researched by student media do not result in criminal investigations but providing an open forum for student voices allowed the O’Colly to receive the tip that led to an investigation. A strong student journalism program acts as a watchdog on administrators and an advocate for student concerns.”