Official site of the Illinois Journalism Education Association, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston

IJEA Blog: We’ve come a long way in Illinois scholastic journalism, but there’s still a long way to go

There’s never been a time when the need for a free and responsible press has been more imperative. As 2017 arrives, make a resolution to recognize that scholastic press rights are for every scholastic journalist and journalism educator in Illinois — and together we can make a difference!

December 21, 2016

As 2016 winds down and Father Time packs up and call it a year, his sack of memories will include a list of amazing news stories from Donald Trump’s unprecedented ascent to the White House to the Cubs making their ascent to the World Series championship after 108 years.

But 2016 was also the year when journalism was itself the center of news coverage — from unheralded fact-checking of presidential candidates, an influx of fake news sites to cries of distrust by the American public in light of political coverage.

Mention that you are a journalist or journalism educator and chances are the response was a sarcastic remark about being a “liberal journalist” or a not-so-subtle roll of the eyes.

It has not been a banner year for the Fourth Estate.

However, there was a ray of sunshine in the journalistic atmosphere.  Two states passed “New Voices” legislation — Maryland and, of course, Illinois.

The passage and ensuing signing of bills in both states were, obviously, huge steps forward in the ongoing battle of scholastic press rights. Our success in Illinois was especially sweet as a similar effort was vetoed 18 years ago by then Gov. Jim Edgar.

Thanks to the legislative support of Rep. Elaine Nekritz, Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Daniel Biss, HB5902 became Public Act 99-0678. The legislative journey of HB5902, which was expected to be a marathon, turned into a sprint, gathering support of legislators on both sides of the aisles in the House and the Senate.

It enhanced the image and awareness of the Illinois Journalism Education Association among legislators, statewide media and journalism educators across the country.

But it’s just a start. Yes, just a start.

While it’s easy to bask in the glory of a significant success, the bar has been raised for journalism educators in Illinois. As 2016 fades and 2017 looms on the horizon, the enactment of HB5902 into law impacts journalism education — not a single journalism educator.

It was surprising that some advisers seemingly questioned the need for a law because “they never had a problem.” HB5902 was designed for scholastic journalists and educators in every corner of the state — from Downers Grove to Taylorville, from Glenview to Harrisburg and all points in between.

You’re encouraged to jump on the bandwagon — the bandwagon of scholastic press rights in Illinois. As 2017 arrives, make a resolution to recognize that scholastic press rights are for every scholastic journalist and journalism educator in Illinois and together we can make a difference — we’ve seen the process work.

So as 2017 approaches, consider some journalism education resolutions:

 

  • Focus on the need for a free and responsible media in your classroom and more importantly, at your school. It’s about a free media in a free society — not any one teacher.
  • Put journalistic fundamentals, ethics and standards at the forefront of your curriculum and student media guidelines.
  • Make sure your student media strives to engage its news consumers in the civic process.

 

As previously noted, there’s never been a time in history when the need for a free and responsible press has been more imperative.

We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

Remember, together we can make a difference.

Stan Zoller, MJE, is a member of the IJEA Board of Directors. He is an at-large director for the JEA Board and a member of its Scholastic Press Right Commission. Zoller is Lecturer of Journalism at Lake Forest College. He is also President of the Chicago Headline Club (the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and a board member of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.

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