The New Voices Movement: Paving the way for a future of uncensored journalism
"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker." -Frederick Douglass, 1860.
November 17, 2017
You pour hours and hours into interviewing the victim, her family, and her researched psychologists trying to better understand the recent rise in suicide rates at your school. After months of intense research, you realize you have finally reached the culmination of your detective work: getting approved by school administration. Unfortunately, it only takes the school principal one look at the headline for him to disapprove its print in the upcoming issue altogether. Still only a developing newspaper, this was the first time the board decided to cover a more controversial issue, and already, any prospect of doing so was tarnished. The controversial issue was intended to spark conversations in students, to spread word of the newspaper’s courageous act covering an issue so big. Without the right to publish the news as it is, many high-schools students are fixed. Multiple student journalists feel as if there is little room for themselves to understand what it means to be a journalist. And, there is absolutely no room for the news to maintain the integrity it was intended to have.
Situations such as the above have lead to the creation of the New Voices USA, a network of movements that strives to give more rights to student journalists. Specifically, the law aims to end administrative censorship, allowing students to experience the professional end of journalism; This mainly affects students in three sectors: high schools, public universities, and private universities. Each of these three divergent educational systems is independent of one another with different case law and situations; however, the aforementioned movement for these three institutions were all inspired by the 2015 movement in North Dakota that influenced the John Wall New Voices Act of North Dakota, which passed unanimously. This law gave rise to the overarching New Voices movement.
In high schools, the New Voices legislation will restore the Tinker Standard of 1967, which protects high school student’s speech unless it is deemed libelous, a clear invasion of one’s privacy, or a present danger or disruption of the school in which it is published. However, the Hazelwood decision of 1988 bestowed censorship rights for administrators by allowing them to easily justify censorship of legitimate speech in curricular settings.
Not only does this clearly pertain to high school students, but it also affects college students bound for professional careers in journalism. Specifically, this law will foster a more welcoming environment for student voices and expression. Currently, the Hazelwood standard applies only to high school students and treats college students as professional journalists. This creates the possibility for college students to get entangled in complicated court cases, as a result of incorrect interpretations of their writing. During the Hosty vs. Carter case, Dean Patricia Carter ordered that the printer of their college newspaper, The Innovator, stop printing unless the stories are pre-approved by administration. This ruling helped in reversing some of the negative consequences of the Hazelwood standard, which offered no protection to college students.
Students all across 50 states of America are reporting with a bad incentive that consequence is just around the corner, sitting at a desk with a red stamp of disapproval. New Voices strives to be the future; it strives to reinvent journalism.
Student Perspectives: What the New Voices Legislation mean to me?
I am a minority. I am a transgender individual. I am one of many minorities at Cherry Hill East. I constantly live in fear of assault or discrimination. And I know that I am not the only one.
The New Voices Legislation protects student journalistic expression from being deterred by school administration. As a student journalist in New Jersey where the legislation has not yet been passed, I have faced many issues with censorship from administrative figures. I believe that the New Voices Legislation should be a country-wide mandate. The legislation covers three different aspects: high schools, public colleges, and private colleges. Regarding the high school legislation, New Voices has only been passed in Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Colorado, Oregon, California, North Dakota, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, and Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, the legislation has previously been denied, and it again being brought up for reconsideration.
I believe that it is so important for this legislation to be passed because it plays a significant role in the quality and content of the publications. Controversial issues such as sexual assault, suicide, drug abuse, and many others need to written about. Although many may argue that such topics are inappropriate for high school students or that it may reflect poorly on the school, I believe that educating audiences takes priority. Controversial topics must be discussed explicitly; progressive improvements can only be made if people are educated on what is happening. How can changes be made if no one knows the true side of the story?
By allowing administrative boards to censor publications, we are not revealing the full, extensive truth of the topic at hand. I personally don’t believe that age plays a role in controversial topics. Especially given that serious topics can occur even in high schools. It is not uncommon to see drug abuse or even rape occur within high schools or to high school students. Only by educating people in full, without censorship, can students understand and learn about what is happening in the world.
This now even becomes a matter of safety. For example, if we are unable to educate people on the dangers of sexual assault, then how can we protect them? I believe that schools are too concerned about preserving a good reputation and that should not be taking priority over the potential safety of not only the students, but the whole audience of the publication. Regardless of the severity of the topic, it is extremely important to keep the audience informed, as each publication acts as a main source of news and information for many. By passing the New Voice Legislation in all states as a country-wide mandate, the benefits clearly outweigh any harms.
Student Perspectives: Read what other student journalists had to say
The New Voices Legislation strives to give young people the legally protected right to gather information and share ideas about issues of concerns. It strives to eliminate administrative censorship in high schools and colleges. Do you think this legislation should be passed?
— Eastside Online (@EastsideOnline) November 17, 2017
Track the progress of the New Voices Movement
Meet some of the leaders behind the movement
Since its inception in 2015, the New Voices Movement has inspired many dedicated journalists across the nation to fight for student’s First Amendment Rights. And due to their continued devotion to the cause, the New Voices Movement has successfully spread their impact to over half the states, and only seems to be growing. The large impact in these states derives from a “behind the scenes” group working to further the journalistic limits of students in high schools and universities. Namely, three advocates for the New Voice Legislation devote countless hours for the future: Diana Mitsu Klos, Student Press Law Center Representative, Mark Goodman, Kent State University Representative, and Steven Listopad, Henderson State University Representative.
At the premiere of its existence, the New Voice Movement and Legislation was assisted by Listopad; his students were the original writers of the bill in North Dakota. As a big advocate for the New Voices Legislation, Listopad feels strongly about future journalists.
“If the most important thing and controversial thing you can report on is the food in the cafeteria, then we are not teaching you anything,” said Listopad. “The laws don’t change people’s feeling or perspective… but they give students recourse and advisors legal recourse to stop censorship that they didn’t have before.”
Although the certain stance for the New Voices Movement is not perfect, Listopad remains optimistic for the future, feeling that the momentum is fantastic and that it must remain progressing.
Along with Listopad, Klos feels as if reform may be the only reasonable, valuable option. She disapproves the Hazelwood decision of 1988 and wants to combat this at any cost.
“New Voices is of great importance,” said Klos when responding to the importance she feels for the New Voices Legislation. “Since the terrible 1988 Hazelwood decision, there’s been misinterpretation of that law. What New Voices seeks to do is state by state ensure that student media is able to practice journalism without intimidation, without censorship.”
Klos distinguishes that people should not be harmed for doing their job, such as journalists need to voice their opinions and speak out about ills in the world.
Finally, Goodman issued a resolution to the New Voices Movement, a way for students to get aid and assist the movement that is rapidly growing.
“We host the national center for scholastic journalism which focuses on issues surrounding high school journalism,” said Goodman when speaking of the impact he and Kent State University make on the movement. “We work very closely with high school students and teachers who really care about these issues and are impacted by them day to day.”
Goodman believes that those who enter college with this legislation already enacted and with an uncensored journalistic career are more open-minded, more experienced, and overall better journalists when entering college.
Along with the aforementioned leaders in change, there are many across the nation constantly working to better the future of the next generation journalists. And, you too can help enact change. To learn how, continue onto the next story.
Time for you to make a change!
Thank you for taking the time to read Eastside’s coverage on “The New Voices Movement: Paving the way for a future of uncensored journalism”. We hope that after reading this package you have learned more about what your rights are as a journalist and what they could be in the future with the enactment of the New Voices Legislation. As a student journalist, stand up for controversial issues that deserve more attention; your opinions matter. To help out with this movement, join a local student chapter fighting for this vital cause. The journalistic world need you.