As a convergent media student, there’s one commonplace phrase that makes me cringe more than any other: “It’s the media’s fault.”
The phrase has been used extensively in criticizing media coverage of protests after Ferguson, coverage of mass shootings for “glamorizing” gun violence and even international activity like global terrorism.
The validity of the phrase, however, is not the focus of this column. It’s what we as students from a small, public university in Northwest Missouri can do about it.
New Missouri legislation, proposed by Western alum Rep. Elijah Haahr and originally drafted by Western journalism professor Dr. Robert Bergland, intends to change the trajectory of status quo journalism.
If you are one of those people who blames the media for all of America’s structural issues, then here is your chance to do something to revolutionize journalism.
HB 2058, named the “Walter Cronkite New Voices Act,” would give high school journalist the same free speech protections that professional journalists enjoy.
Currently, student journalists in Missouri are at the whim of high school administrators, and often receive pressure to ignore coverage of topics that are deemed inappropriate for high school. Stories discussing ideas like sex, drugs and politics never see the light of day because principals desire control more than an informed student body.
However, if student journalists are given first amendment protections, two process will begin.
First, that generation of journalist and every journalist thereafter will be given a chance to explore fundamental journalistic ethics that are rarely experienced in Missouri schools. Concepts like reporting only the facts and minimizing harm, the same ethics that society at large believes “the media” has faltered with, would be introduced when journalists are younger.
Second, youth will have the opportunity to discuss adult topics at a younger age, in a public forum that actually results in conversations based on facts. From a young age, students could gain a foundation of facts derived from their school newspapers instead of the walls of non-fact-checked social media pages.
In order to push this issue further into Missouri’s congress, it needs more attention: more social media posts, more discussion from student journalists and more support from the general public. The Cronkite New Voices Act needs to be a movement of people who want a better future for “the media” and for America.