For many young journalists worldwide, there are obstructions to publishing freely. India’s inroads into media education and journalism were initiated in 1920 by none other than Dr Annie Besant. It started by educating the people on the basics of reporting, writing, and editing, which were the bare necessities for publication during that time. This is a far cry from modern times when there are approximately 900 institutions offering mass communication and journalism courses in India.
“Student journalists play a key role in the civic life of their community. Not only do they report important issues of a school or school district, but as the number of professional journalists has dwindled, student journalists often also fill the gap in reporting on national, state and regional issues”.SPLC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HADAR HARRIS
Student journalism is any sort of media outlet in the form of a publication, magazine, show or news club organised by students to serve as a platform for societal discussions and a place for those interested in journalism to gain good experience and enhance their skills.
With proper guidance, student journalists can become the potential “eyes and ears of the nation”. Covering stories as individual reporters to record what is often brushed aside, lay bare the misdeeds and tragedies within the student community, and focus attention on the underrepresented voices; student journalism highlights our institutions’ offerings and needed improvements. Serving academic institutions as a student-run publication opens room for informed change, accountability, and influence. Students generally feel more confident and comfortable sharing notable, newsworthy or controversial information with those they think will better understand or comprehend the data, i.e. other students. The voice of a student journalist holds unique value on a college campus. They secure numerous opportunities to acquire experience and exposure and propagate the otherwise hushed student viewpoints to be heard. Behind the walls of the institutions are the safest grounds for the student reporters to learn and grow as good journalists, additionally instilling them with self-reliance and confidence. Student journalism can potentially be the closest opportunity to real-world experience before one begins their professional career, and the journalism pursuit only further prepares them.
Instead of holding back the students from gaining experience before they step into the professional world, academic institutions should learn responsible journalism. Student publications, along with the support of the institutions, should put rigorous training programs in place to ensure that reporters understand journalistic standards and ethics. Student journalism also aids in shaping the campus climate. As such, the supervisors of the publication must include diverse voices. They should make enthusiastic efforts to hire a diversified range of reporters, editors and writers. Additionally, government bodies and public institutions should ensure that student publications at the university level are entitled to full press freedom protections.
Considering our own country, it is worth examining that in 2020, India dropped two places and was ranked 142 among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, compiled annually by Reporters Without Borders. In the current conflicting environment, journalism is more divided than ever before. Education in this field is required to develop informed beliefs in future journalists and help them attain all essential skills. But this also needs a supportive administration where students can freely opine their thoughts and perspectives. There shouldn’t be any sort of pressure until they’re ethically or morally wrong. But on the contrary, student journalists face severe and grave concerns, specifically on-campus journalism, which continues to face struggles and are oppressed in various situations. The concerned authorities should also give the student press the right to cover compelling matters in the community without being censored unreasonably. The flaws, shortcomings, and the needed improvements promoting the general welfare of the students can also be best undertaken by student reporters since they are the ones most closely associated with them. They should be allowed to cover pressing matters independently without severe threats and violence.
Most students are not comfortable taking trivial issues to court or an external body outside the campus. Even the elected student bodies do not appear to succeed in solving these matters. The decision mostly favours the administration rather than the students– since the conclusion of the administration has to be abided by the council members even in the worst of scenarios. Young student reporters can play a crucial role in representing the students and their genuine grievances.
Hence, when we debate for press freedom, we should also be considering student journalists, for they play a pivotal role in the future of Indian democracy and eventually express the truth to power.
Samreen Khan is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Diptarka Chatterjee