Our freedom of expression gives us the duty to make a difference


Brynn Lundy/The Lion's Roar

“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” This frequently-quoted phrase represents the purpose of journalism: to share stories, tell the truth and keep those in positions of power on their toes. This is not only the intent for professionals working in the industry, but student journalists as well.

On Feb. 26, student journalists everywhere get to celebrate and advocate for their freedom of expression in the form of published news media on campuses across the nation.

The theme for this year’s Student Press Freedom Day is “Journalism Against the Odds.” It will be of the utmost significance for student journalists after enduring almost 365 days of unprecedented circumstances, hardships and pushbacks.

Last March, being one of many, The Lion’s Roar halted its weekly printing and distribution of newspapers after the campus experienced a mass exodus due to the pandemic outbreak, and we have yet to revive that routine.

In many ways, the paper has flourished. We have shifted our focus to our online content at lionsroarnews.com, as well as our social media presence and promotion of our app, College News Source. We have gained traffic on our digital platforms and grown our overall audience. 

The reason we were able to continue our processes, write about the myriad of experiences throughout the community and address every story idea we felt was newsworthy is because of the freedoms we have as student journalists. As watchdogs for the student body, we have the responsibility to publish news that keeps students informed on important campus issues and news.

I am able to write this opinion piece and publish it online free from censorship for all to see because of student press freedom laws. 

While our staff has not experienced targeted censorship when writing about hard-hitting news and holding the university and community accountable over the past year, other high school and college newspapers across the country have had to deal with such issues. 

The Student Press Law Center addressed one incident last June when student journalists from Ohio State University were forcefully confronted by police while lawfully covering a protest in Columbus. The SPLC, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the College Media Association all signed off on a letter urging the university’s president to take a stand for student news media and also sent a copy to the chief of police.

Incidents like this occurred in abundance last year and continue to happen. According to SPLC.org, “only 14 states have laws protecting student press freedom.” SPLC describes the jobs of student journalists as an essential service because they provide information and act as a voice for communities. 

The SPLC protects and defends student journalists from unconstitutional censorship and other behavior, but we should also be fighting for ourselves. Issues such as these do not only affect the students who are staff members of student publications. The entire campus community is impacted. When a student outside of staff reaches out to the publication seeking to get an important story out there and administrators attempt to prevent it, that is when lines are crossed.

The Freedom of Expression is not exclusive to “adults,” people out of college, professionals, etc. We have a voice too, and we deserve to be heard. We deserve to help others be heard. 

We must not compromise our own integrity to protect reputations. It may get complicated, but we should keep fighting. If you are dealing with attacks on your freedom of expression, keep publishing stories your campus community deserves to know. You are doing legendary work that will be on record for years to come for history to see.