Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood ruling drew a road map for obtaining heightened First Amendment recognition in student media, hundreds of student publications have attempted to follow it, invoking the incantation “public forum.” Recent legal developments, however, have cast grave doubt on the value and durability of designating a publication — or any piece of government property — as a “forum.”
When professional journalists fail to stand up for the rights of student journalists, it feels to students like a betrayal — like those who themselves suffered censorship have forgotten the disempowering feeling of being distrusted. The word of journalism professionals gives cover to those who censor to deny the public truthful information about their failing schools. When journalists side with censors, that is the side they are taking — the side of lies over truth, the side of less information over more.
For 10 weeks last fall, Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand traveled the country in an RV, talking with students about free speech. They found an audience of teens “hungry for support and encouragement.”
Students and civil rights groups have protested the lack of due process protections in universities’ student conduct process. For journalists, that can leave them vulnerable to frivolous charges from irate sources.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been cracking down on unregulated drone usage, but many journalists aren’t letting that stop them. It could be years though, before some are allowed to fly legally.
As more high school athletic associations enter into agreements granting third parties exclusive broadcasting rights, journalists are figuring out how to deal with the restrictions.
Citing concerns about cyberbullying, schools have begun monitoring students’ online activity. Opponents say the tracking is unnecessarily invasive and could violate students’ First Amendment rights.
After two high-profile incidents where student journalists alleged censorship last year, the National Association of Black Journalists has convened a panel to look into concerns.