Grayson Joslin is a second-year journalism major and writes “Soapbox” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
My start in journalism came in a public education classroom, tucked away down a long hallway of fluorescent light in my high school.
The second-year of my high school experience introduced me to my love for journalism, and I immediately became curious about student journalists like myself. Originally, the journalism hat was one of the many colorful and unique hats I wore around the plain gray halls of my high school, but as time passed, I realized the passion I had for the craft and the importance journalists had.
In high school, my stories rarely got shared to the outside world, and I don’t even know if most of my pieces got above double-digit views. However, some of my stories managed to take on lives of their own when my adviser gave some of my stories to our local newspaper. One story, about my high school gym reclaiming its title as the world’s largest high school gym, grew in popularity after I shared it in a Facebook group about Indiana high school basketball.
Growing up a half an hour away from Ball State’s campus, I heard plenty about the legacy of the Daily News from my teachers who grew up in east central Indiana and went to school at Ball State.
Over the past few years, the livelihood of professional journalists has been threatened by verbal attacks by politicians, conglomerate corporations taking strangleholds of local newspapers and the echo chambers of social media environments. This, naturally, has extended to our student journalists in our high schools and colleges. On this Student Press Freedom Day, it is imperative we look into the impact student journalists have had in this changing journalism world.
I was lucky and fortunate to have been the editor of a high school newspaper that did not have any intervention from our administration; however, I realize some high school newspapers do not have that same privilege. In Feb. 2021, an adviser left Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska after the school’s administration censored an editorial about censorship. Just a few weeks ago, Westside’s student journalists were at the Nebraska Statehouse in favor of Legislative Bill 88, which would give student journalists free press rights. The bill did not pass in 2021, and was shelved in the 2022 legislative session.
Indiana is one of 34 states without protections for student journalists, according to the Student Press Law Center. This is disappointing, considering in 2017 we had the chance to pass legislation allowing for these protections. It’s even more infuriating considering one fourth of journalists in the statehouse reporting pool in Indiana are student journalists, according to the Pew Research Center.
Our Editor-in-Chief Elissa Maudlin and Social Media Editor Olivia Ground, in the early morning this Monday, Feb. 20, went to the Indiana Statehouse to cover the protests of HB 1608, which was heavily inspired by Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The amount of work Elissa and Olivia did to cover this contentious issue is something that should be celebrated; and the work of every student journalist, from middle school up to college, should be celebrated and held in high regard.
The journalism industry is shrinking; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9 percent decrease in jobs in the journalism industry over the next decade. In 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, there were 114,000 newsroom employees. This number has shrunk to almost 85,000 in 12 years. As the number of jobs have depleted, student journalists have taken the mantle to go out in the field and gain experience as journalists.
The greatest example of America’s student journalists in recent times has come in the face of unspeakable tragedy. On Feb. 13, Michigan State University experienced a terrifying scene as three students died in a mass shooting. In the aftermath, the student journalists at the State Times told the stories of those students affected, from international students feeling unsafe to the editorial board proclaiming their intent to not go to class the following Monday.
Their strength and fortitude in a time filled with dread, sadness, fear and anxiety is something that cannot be understated. To quote the editorial board, “We’ll never get back to the school we had before Monday at 8:18 p.m.”
The role of the student journalist has expanded in recent years as mass media companies expanded and purchased previously independent newspapers. This era of consolidation has taken the character out of a local newspaper; a story written by a reporter in Muncie can transfer over to a Lafayette paper with very little, if any accommodations to fit the local market. This is where the student journalist comes in.
Now, more than ever, the student journalist has left the friendly confines of the college campus and has ventured into the community into where their college resides to tell the stories of the at-large community. From stories covering unmarked graves and local projects fighting climate change with many of engaging stories in between, student journalists have been filling in the void left by a consolidated mass media environment.
An example of which is the work we do in the Daily News shows how student journalists have been going out and finding stories in the community and showing readers stories they cannot find anywhere else. Our special sections, which in the past have covered Black History Month, Women’s History Month and the Partnership Project between Muncie Community Schools and Ball State, have provided a unique and firsthand account into the stories that make Muncie a special place.
We are evolving and trying out new things, and we are putting in our elbow grease to make sure every story we write and publish attracts an audience. I am forever grateful for the support the Daily News has behind us for us to be keeping the Ball State and Muncie community informed and updated for the past century. Again, unfortunately, other student-run newspapers do not have that same privilege.
So this is what I ask of you; don’t just support our student journalists, but support all student journalists. Support those close to you or across the county, support those helped by their university or not; as student journalists, we are all in this ride together. The work that we have put out can be considered undervalued and underappreciated due to the fact we are students. However, during our primitive years, we are making sure we can be the best journalists we can be.
After you are done reading this, after you close out of this tab, please support other student journalists. Support everyone who is part of the next generation of protecting democracy. Student journalists are standing in the arena lifting the veil to show the public of what is truly happening. The Founding Fathers put the freedom of the press for a reason; our duty to deliver the public with information should not be interfered with by the government.
The student journalists currently working in newsrooms across this county are doing this same duty passed down from generation since the Bill of Rights was ratified, and we deserve your respect as journalists too.
Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at Grayson.email@example.com or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.