Remembering Our Rights: Rights and Responsibilities of Student Journalist and Why We Report

Before the three bullets pierced his chest and killed him, before he walked almost 400 kilometers and fasted for days, before he was the leader of the nonviolent protests against British imperialization in India, Mahatma Gandhi was a journalist. After more than forty years of working to express the voice of his fellow countrymen in South Africa and India, he concluded that “A journalist’s peculiar function is to read the mind of the country and to give definite and fearless expression to that mind.”

What India was to Gandhi, the student body is to us. As the student publication of our school, we strive to represent the opinions, the matters and the minds of our peers in our stories. It is our duty to stay relevant to students’ lives, voice their concerns and facilitate their discussions. Sometimes, the impact of our reporting may be small and light, as when we cover athletic achievements or test changes; other times, the blow may be heavier with the weight of illness or controversy, which can cause anger or discomfort. However, our reporting must be complete in order to fulfill our duty of representation and information and our rights to do so are protected under five important digits: 48907.

California Education Code 48907, also known as the California Student Free Expression Law, gives high school journalists control over the content that they publish. Our freedom of speech, our First Amendment right, is protected, and any unreasonable interference with the distribution of our paper or the well-being of our staff members is prohibited by this law. The new addition of the CVUSD Student Publication Guidelines this year further define these rights by outlining them in specific rules and regulations, ensuring that the concerns of the student body are heard, and heard undeniably.

With rights, however, come responsibilities. We will hold our publication to standards higher than merely avoiding obscene, libelous or slanderous contents. As Gandhi further claimed, “The sole aim of journalism should be service.” We aim to not only report the facts, but to do so in a fair and balanced manner so we can service the community as a provider of accurate information and a participant of meaningful conversations. In our news articles, we interview sources from a variety of different positions in a situation; in our opinion pieces, our diverse staff offers their multitude of perspectives. We are here to present the facts and to be service, not to extol or oppress certain points of view or ideology. We will therefore strive to carry the year with integrity and responsibility.

But why are the facts so important? Why do they matter? Our high school life is more than the day to day classes we take: it’s a time of discovering what it means to be a sensible adult making our own decisions. As a publication, we assist in this discovery process by presenting information and discussion which students can use to develop their beliefs and values. As Gandhi said, “Newspapers should be read for the study of facts. They should not be allowed to kill the habit of independent thinking.” To all our schoolmates: be proud of who you are, speak up for your beliefs and yet stay open minded to the variety of thoughts out there. In this way, we can establish a nurturing, diverse campus environment unrestricted by prejudice and then we will be prepared to embark on the journey to adulthood.

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