EDITORIAL: Today and every day should be Student Press Freedom Day

Sunflower+Managing+Editor+Matthew+Kelly+interviews+Mayor+Jeff+Longwell+during+his+watch+party+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+5+at+WAVE+in+downtown+Wichita.

Easton Thompson

Sunflower Managing Editor Matthew Kelly interviews Mayor Jeff Longwell during his watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at WAVE in downtown Wichita.

This Student Press Freedom Day, The Sunflower staff is grateful for the courageous high school students and teachers who lobbied for the Kansas Student Publications Act more than 25 years ago.

Kansas was one of the first states to enact such a law to protect the freedoms of journalism students and their publications, and even today, we’re one of just 14 states with such legal protections.

Student journalists in Kansas are fortunate, and The Sunflower staff sees it as our responsibility to shine a light on the issues that matter most to the Wichita State community.

The Kansas Student Publications Act allows us to report on controversial topics, such as when supposedly “student-driven” initiatives are squelching student opinion and when a mysterious donor funds powerful political actors’ visit to campus.

Sunflower reporter Lindsay Smith conducts an interview with junior Saniya Ahmed regarding her passion for starting the first Muslim-based sorority, Mu Delta Alpha, at Wichita State University.

Morgan Anderson
Sunflower reporter Lindsay Smith conducts an interview with junior Saniya Ahmed regarding her passion for starting the first Muslim-based sorority, Mu Delta Alpha, at Wichita State University.

This reporting holds power accountable and highlights the importance of a free press and this vital applied-learning experience.

In this era of hostility towards journalists, the work we do is even more critical. The truth is not always pretty. The truth is not always convenient. It must be told anyways.

College journalists are the watchdogs when local news outlets are being cut left and right due to corporate greed. Our newsrooms serve the community surrounding our respective campuses and fill in the gaps, and then some, for local media to better serve the public. We’re often the first ones there when a tragedy hits on campus. We’re also the first ones to listen.

Eudora, Kansas, lost its only newspaper several years ago. As part of a class, student journalists from the University of Kansas began covering local government meetings and other happenings in the town. This is just one of many examples where student journalists fill in the gaps.

Not every article we publish is on a controversial topic. Light news has its place too. Ultimately, it’s our mission to inform the community, because that’s what journalists do. 

The Sunflower's Joseph Barringhaus photographs Morris Udeze during media day at Koch Arena in 2018.

Kenzie Borland
The Sunflower’s Joseph Barringhaus photographs Morris Udeze during media day at Koch Arena in 2018.

It’s also our responsibility to share the stories of the vibrant, diverse group of people who make this university community special. We make a point of doing this year-round, and we look forward to our Feb. 10 Day in the Life special section, which will be devoted exclusively to telling these stories.

Finally, student press represents a forum for discussion and debate on matters of interest in university communities. The Sunflower staff strongly believes that WSU students, faculty, and staff should be not passive spectators but active participants in university proceedings.

An informed and involved society is essential to a free and healthy democracy. The Washington Post’s slogan says it best: “Democracy dies in darkness.”

Today and every day should be Student Press Freedom Day.