Last week, The Observer, the student newspaper at Central Washington University (CWU), publicly shared the difficulties it has faced working with different administrative branches of CWU in the past year. The expectations imposed on The Observer staff are unacceptable and devalue the work of student journalism across the country.
As stated by Observer contributors, the paper “works under the same ethical standards and strives for the same credibility as any professional outlet.” Despite maintaining these standards, administrators have asked that student journalists disclose interview questions to secure an interview.
This practice violates industry-wide journalistic standard. Revealing questions prior to an interview allows sources time to prepare answers and consult outside sources. This changes the power dynamic between sources and journalists, giving sources the upper hand. In this case, CWU administrators are reinforcing power over the student press.
Student journalists face censorship and external regulation, compromising our ability to report stories fully and completely. Despite the passage of Washington’s New Voices Act in 2018, which guaranteed rights to student journalists at the university level, this phenomenon is not isolated to CWU.
When an institution such as CWU denies freedom of the press to student journalists, they are denying support to the future of the journalism industry. Our media is filled with misinformation, and the only way to fix that is by encouraging a new generation of journalists to practice ethically, and giving them the tools to do so.
Student newspapers shouldn’t be working with the caveat that they are not professional media outlets. Student newsrooms are undoubtedly providing the public with pertinent information, just with a much younger staff.
As a student newspaper, The Daily strives to serve the UW and U-District communities by publishing stories that our reporters have unique access to. We have the ability to tell stories that we find on our campus that would otherwise remain untold by a larger, professional media outlet.
Since 1861, The Daily has stood as a respected institution on the Seattle campus. We stand with The Observer staff in support of a transparent and ethical student journalism industry that is respected by the universities we cover.
Editorials are written, edited, and approved by Opinion Editor Rachel Morgan, Engagement Editor Hailey Robinson, Development Editor Devon McBride, Health and Wellness Editor McKenzie Murray, and Co-Copy Chief Sam Steele, and reflect the opinions of The Daily Editorial Staff. Reach the Editorial Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.