Monday, March 04, 2024|
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Photo courtesy of the office of the Governor
Students from McKinley stand with Gov. Ige after signing the Student Journalism Protection Act into law.
Photo courtesy of the office of the Governor
Speaker Scott Saiki who introduced the bill speaks at the signing of the bill ceremony on Monday.
A bill designed to support and protect journalism programs at Hawaii’s public and private schools was signed into law Monday by Gov. David Ige.
“This is one of the most progressive shield laws for student journalists in the nation,” said University of Hawaii at Hilo and Keaau Middle School newspaper adviser Tiffany Edwards Hunt. “I want to commend our legislators for being pioneers in something like this.”
The law protects student journalists at schools and universities against censorship from their administrations.
“The Hawaii Student Journalism Protection Act provides important freedom of speech and freedom of the press protection for student journalists, a cornerstone of our democracy,” saidIge during the signing ceremony on Monday, adding he once served as a Page 1 editor for his high school newspaper. “I do recognize that student journalists have an important role to play in the high school community, and more importantly, in the community at large.”
The bill also protects advisers and faculty from facing retaliation for refusing to censor students. This includes state agencies, members of the Board of Regents, and officers of universities and other employees who could suffer from civil or criminal action for the publication of student material.
“Those involved in production will also be protected,” said state House Speaker Scott Saiki, who introduced the bill. “I believe the journalism teachers, from what I’ve seen at McKinley High School, really want their students to learn and grow and be better journalists. This gives an incentive to work with their students.”
Support came from students at McKinley High School on Oahu, who persuaded Saiki to introduce the bill. Led by adviser Cindy Reves, the group of students attended the signing of the bill.
“Our voice matters,” said McKinley student Shane Kaneshiro in a written testimony. “We tell the school what is happening from the perspective of the students, not the adults. We need to be able to do our job. This bill allows us to do that.”
The law applies to all school-sponsored media outlets, which often have their own rules related to libel, personal privacy, obscenities and other incidents that might harm students.
“High school journalism is an opportunity to learn about research, communication and verification in ways that can’t be replicated in the classroom,” said Jay Hartwell, president of the Hawaii Publishers Association. “When students have the freedom to report on issues that are important to students, they are more engaged in their learning and better able to serve their audience. The passage of HB 1848 guarantees them that freedom, which is essential to their learning.”
Nelson Jacinto advises the Waiakea High School student-led media outlet Ka Leo O Ke Koa, which updates bi-weekly and features written work and video interviews along with student achievements.
“We want to be the voice of the school,” Jacinto said. “But there’s also a segment of writers that want to venture into topics like student life and controversies, and I think this new law gives students not just at our school but at university, public and private schools a little more leeway.”
As the format of news media changes to adapt to the digital space, the law will still protect students and encourage their investigative work.
“We’re definitely switching into the digital side of things,” said Edwards Hunt. “But that doesn’t mean that all the ethics and principles and the way of designing a newspaper and pursuing a story changes. As people really hone in on their rights and responsibilities, they can see that they can be as innovative as they want to with the technology.”
The diversity of careers in modern journalism is also something Jacinto encourages his students to explore.
“Next year, we’re combining the yearbook and news writing staff,” said Jacinto of the Ka Leo O Ke Koa program. “We want to utilize photography talents, interviewing talents, graphic design talents. These can go a long way down the road for students to be able to get their voices out, design websites, work for social media and news media. It’s much more diversified now. We’re just widening the array of talents at our schools.”
Testimonies in support of the bill came from the Hawaii Publishers Association, Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter and Big Island Press Club in addition to students, teachers, professional journalists and others.
“We’re volunteers and we’re doing it after school on our own time,” said Edwards Hunt. “If we have the ability to teach students how to practice student journalism, we want to not feel demoralized when we hand it over to the principal. That helps to keep the people who are volunteering their time really vested in the purpose of promoting student journalism.”
The bill will also help prepare students for a career in journalism, added Saiki.
“The protections they will receive will be the same protections enjoyed by professional journalists,” he said. “It will give them a taste of what journalists go through on a daily basis, and will give them an incentive to pursue journalism. They play an important role in our society.”
The new law goes into effect immediately.
Email Grant Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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