The Importance of Freedom

For Scholastic Journalism Week, publications on campus reflect on what press freedom means to them


Natalie Ryder

During Scholastic Journalism Week, The Muse staff attended a proofing stay-after for their upcoming third issue on Feb. 21 after school. The staff edited proofs — large, printed versions of the pages. This process allowed everyone to provide feedback on designs, photos, and stories before sending the issue off to print.

Gavin Leser, Writer

In 1789, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America signed the Bill of Rights, the first document to guarantee rights to United States citizens and to the press.

Today, students across the country reflected on the freedom of the press for the fourth day of Scholastic Journalism Week, which is dedicated to educating students and the general public about the importance of scholastic journalism.

“Student press freedom means, to me, having a student publication that is not censored by administration,” Marquee yearbook co-editor-in-chief and communications senior Faith Parkinson said. “It is (being) able to tackle stories that may be more controversial but still applicable to our student body.”

For the past 200 years, the First Amendment guaranteed the freedom of the press because the Founding Fathers thought it was necessary for accountability and democracy in government. Throughout American history, this protection has allowed journalists to expose corruption, campaign against civil wrongdoing, and fuel progressive change

“I think that every student deserves the right to express their opinions freely,” DSOA Today crew member and communications sophomore Christian Triay said. “I think that student press journalism is really important for amplifying the voice of our students.”

For some, press freedom is important because of its ability to provide representation for groups, especially young individuals since they can be underrepresented in more established news media.

“I feel like at our school, because it’s an arts school, and we have all these publications, it’s important that we’re able to properly represent the students here,” said Seeds submissions staffer, Marquee co-editor-in-chief, and communications senior Brighton Moffitt. “If we’re censored in any way or things are taken out of our publication to change the accuracy of it or change the way that we’re telling the story, then it kind of hinders our ability to properly represent the student body here.”

For others, press freedom is the ability to have creative control and cover subjects without fear of censorship.

“Press freedom, to me, is having the ability to tell stories that you believe are relevant to the school,” Marquee coverage staffer and communications sophomore Ava McCaulley said. “It means not having to be scared to publish something and not having to be scared of what’s gonna happen afterwards.”

A variety of student and professional publications face censorship. 16 states have New Voices laws, protecting the rights of student journalists against censorship. Florida is not one of these states. 

While students have different connections and interpretations of student press freedom, with recent legislation changes in Florida, some student journalists have encountered situations in which they have to work with and around restrictions to that freedom. All publications on campus now need to abide by district name records, which means not being able to publish preferred names and pronouns unless they are registered with the school.

“This has obviously been a huge issue as a yearbook because we wanna be able to support trans students and students who have other preferred names who may not be comfortable coming out to their parents yet,” Parkinson said.

Freedom of the press for students leads to transparency of information and impacts campus locally. Following a story by The Muse that highlighted the decline of students’ mental health, data from the article was used in staff training to learn to improve student support. Multimedia staffer on The Muse and communications senior Isaac Wright believes The Muse uses press freedom through coverage on campus to aim for “journalistic integrity” and “publish the stories that matter” to the students here.

“It’s where limited student journalist freedom would be, like censorship and stories (and) cutting things that reflect poorly on the school,” Wright said. “The opposite of that would be freedom where you report on the stories that matter, and you can really be an arbiter of positive change.”

In honor of Student Press Freedom Day, please consider taking action to help protect student press freedoms at the link here.