Student journalism has kept schools and communities connected and informed through the pandemic, proving itself more vital than ever as a community resource. SPLC is speaking with student editors around the country about their love for journalism, our changing times, and how censorship connects to all of it.
Maya Brown is the Managing Editor of The Statesman. She’s studying Journalism and Political Science at Stony Brook University and expects to graduate in May 2022.
SPLC: In your words, why is student journalism important?
Maya Brown: Student journalism is important because we are the watchdogs for our university and we provide a necessary duty of informing our campus. Student journalists play a role in shedding the light on problems the university may try to hide, challenging authority and telling other students’ stories. We focus on providing a voice for students. Students are also the best ones to report on matters related to their own university because other media outlets often miss important matters. Student journalists also play a pivotal role in maintaining democracy and ensuring a civil campus community. Student journalism is now needed more than ever, as universities are undergoing changes due to COVID-19 and a year of racial reckoning. It is also important because it provides budding journalists with the opportunity to hone and practice the craft of interviewing, reporting and writing.
SPLC: How does self-censorship affect the stories produced by your staff?
MB: Self-censorship affects the stories produced by my staff because it negatively impacts the quality of content, what context is given and how the reporting affects the campus community. When a student journalist decides to censor themself, they are choosing to withhold information that could be vital to the story. This information could also be vital to fueling positive change, which then makes self-censorship a threat to democracy and society. Students, faculty and staff turn to The Statesman to get information on-campus events, news on administration and breaking news. However, when information is withheld, readers are denied the full truth.
SPLC: What are your biggest challenges related to the First Amendment or media law?
Maya Brown: My biggest challenges related to the First Amendment or media law include censorship, as universities often try to censor student journalists. From asking for questions before interviews to not allowing journalists to directly contact university administration, it seems to be almost impossible to get comments or interviews from university officials without going through tons of steps first.
SPLC: Could you share something you’ve learned as a student journalist that could be helpful to other students or something you would like advisers to know?
MB: One of the main things that I have learned as a student journalist is making sure to develop relations with various key players at a university, including Media Relations, administration, clubs and organizations and faculty. Out of these relations, student journalists can often ask about any leads they may have and turn to these key players as sources for various articles. Most importantly, I have learned to be curious. As a student journalist, you should be asking questions, reading ALL university-related documents, sifting through spreadsheets and searching through social media for possible stories. Stories are everywhere and as a student journalist, it is up to us to locate them and start digging.
SPLC: What are some of your favorite stories, videos, graphics, or other content that you or your publication have produced? Why?
MB: My favorite content that my publication has produced includes COVID-19 coverage, as from day one, The Statesman has covered all things related to the coronavirus pandemic and provided students with reliable information that the university was at times not providing.
- Stony Brook University is planning to move classes online after spring break
- Students protest university silence
- SBU closes on-campus housing for the rest of the semester
- Students lose their jobs in the midst of COVID-19 crisis
- COVID-19 causes remote meetings and budget cuts for student organizations
Additionally, The Statesman also produces special issues. My favorite special issues include the COVID-19 Special Issue and our Black History Month Special Issue.
Another one of my favorites is our four-hour live election night special broadcast that was live-streamed on Nov. 3, which included programming interspersed with live news updates as the country waited to hear the winner of the 2020 presidential election.