OPINION: Why I Became the 2021-2022 New Voices Student Leader of Georgia?

Freedoms for Student Journalists are Vital

Nakia Harmon , Opinions Editor

Before I became a student journalist for the McIntosh Trail, I had no idea how much courage it takes for someone to be a journalist. Being faced with the task of seeking the truth and reporting it, minimizing harm, acting independently, and being accountable and transparent (which are the SPJ Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists) is daunting even to those who are professional journalists. Student journalists are also faced with this task as well which makes perfectly good sense because student journalism is the training grounds of future professional journalists. If student journalists are held to the same standards as professional journalists, then why don’t all student journalists in the United States have the same freedoms as professional journalists? The answer to that question, of course, is New Voices legislation which are state laws that are directed towards strengthening the rights of the First Amendment for students and in particular for student journalists who belong to publications of schools where administrators are able to review content before it is officially published. The new voices legislation has only been passed in 14 states as of now.
When you subtract 50 from 14, the difference that results is 36. The difference that resulted is the reason why I am serving as the 2021-2022 New Voices Student Leader of Georgia because Georgia is one out of 36 states that have not passed New Voices legislation. I wanted to become an advocate for New Voices in Georgia because I knew that the 36 state difference would help the lives of Georgia student journalists tremendously. The feeling of telling yourself that you are capable of writing an article then telling yourself that you should not due to your fear of prior review by the administrators of your school is saddening which is an inescapable feeling currently for Georgia student journalists. The only difference that I plan on seeing is the difference that I intend on making in the increase of high school publications in Georgia that will learn about New Voices legislation as well as how they can support the passing of New Voices in Georgia.

In order for you to support New Voices (now that you are aware of my passion for it), you now need to know the history behind this legislation in the United States to be just as passionate as I am about New Voices advocacy. New Voices arose from the 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court Decision which substantially changed the balance of student press rights. It was a 5-3 decision that held that the First Amendment did not require schools to favorably endorse specific types of student speech. That Supreme Court Decision brings us to where we are today at a time where student journalists are demanding the same freedoms as professional journalists. Becoming a New Voices advocate is something that you should base off on my words, but you should base your decision off of the words that will not be allowed to published or allowed to be published by the next generation of Georgia student journalists which is what will happen if you do not choose to support it.

Sources:

New Voices Student Leadership Institute 2021

New Voices