Flames of the Torch: On Student Press Freedom Day


Torch Staff

Today, student publications across the country will participate in Student Press Freedom Day, a day dedicated to the right of student publications to report freely on all issues — especially those that directly affect them and their fellow students.

As a student publication, it is our responsibility to provide an outlet for students to speak — freely and responsibly — on the issues that they feel passionate about or affected by. It is our duty to allow students the opportunity to share their own stories if they please so that others can listen. The conversation surrounding such controversial topics must be listened to with great detail so that it can be amplified.

When such issues arise on campus, we, as a publication have a responsibility to report on them. To fail to report on these issues is to be negligent to the community that we seek to inform and support. We also must proceed responsibly. When those impacted by #SurvivingSJU came forward on social media to share their stories earlier this month, we knew we had a story to tell.

There were more than 2,000 tweets detailing alleged experiences of sexual misconduct at St. John’s, a stunning display. But we also couldn’t repeat stories we could not substantiate. And there was a level of sensitivity involved that we had to account for, as well.

In the end, we advanced the story by reporting that the University planned to investigate each claim that appeared on Twitter. But we also chose to not reference any specific claim or identify anyone who posted their accounts.

This is the standard we hold ourselves to. As an independent student newspaper, we have authority over everything that appears in these pages, without any influence or prior review by anyone at the University. This is how it should be at all universities. That’s what today is about.

We call on our fellow students to better understand the role of journalists in this rather interesting time in history we are living in. As people are continually losing faith in the media, know that we take our role as objective student journalists seriously.

Also know that we rely on our readers — as much as our reporters and staff — in the fight for press freedom. Freedom House, an organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy and political freedom and human rights, rates the United States at 23 on a 0-100 scale on press freedom, a number that has the potential to decrease. We know we are fortunate to enjoy the freedom we have at St. John’s.

Today, student publications nationwide will be using #StudentPressFreedom to demonstrate unity. In many ways, the phrase “student journalist” is a misnomer. A journalist is a journalist, regardless of whether they’re a student.

Student publications are expected to report on pressing issues without censorship or intimidation. These are the topics that matter the most to both students and members of their fellow communities. This is why news outlets exist.

Student journalists exercise the same procedures and diligence in their reporting as other independent American newspapers. Censorship and intimidation has no place in student media.

We stand with our fellow student journalists in this cause.