Last updateWed, 18 Nov 2020 1pm


Defense of Student Journalism

default article imageIn the early 1990s, I was a young burgeoning journalist in the war-torn Croatia lead by, democratic on paper, but in all other way’s autocratic government. Right from the start, in 1991 Croatian Democratic Party and its leadership lead a public campaign against free and independent journalism. My home was a small local newspaper “Otok Ivanic” (Island Ivanic), that covered about 20, 000 inhabitants, in mostly rural areas. We covered local politics and occasionally commented on national politics when they affected the lives of people in our area.

Croatia inherited a communist model of state-controlled system of newspaper printing and distribution. This meant that every newspaper and periodical was printed and distributed by the same company. One day, after a particularly critical report of the then-president of Croatia Fanjo Tudjman we were informed that our printing and distribution service was terminated. After the initial shock, we decided to fight back. We applied for Soros grant to fund our own printing press which we luckily won soon thereafter. We folded each newspaper biweekly on Friday nights. Each one of 5,000 copies. And as far as distribution went? Well, on Saturday mornings we’d load several cars and went door to door, shop to shop, and distributed the newspaper ourselves. If the government intended to shut our voices down, they were in for a surprise.

And why am I telling you this story?

A previous editorial about the sudden “disappearance” of The Outlook student newspaper from the distribution stand in the Student Center shocked me into remembering what it is like to work in the environment without the protection of the First Amendment. I’ve read that editorial with a sense of outrage that something like that is possible on our campus. Even more outrageous is the sense that the community seems to not care that it is not only possible but that it actually happened.

I feel a moral responsibility as a journalist, educator, and the Chair of the Faculty Council to speak in support of The Outlook’s right to not only publish but more importantly to be distributed to their audiences without fear of being removed before those same audiences have had a chance to enjoy the benefits of being informed. Although, private universities, unlike their state counterparts are not directly bound by the First Amendment in their policies, any university as such, is morally bound to provide an environment for expression of free thought, and by the same token, provide free avenues for distribution of the same. Indeed, the Supreme Court since the 1965 Tinker vs. Des Moines Community District has given many protections to student speech, more recently including online speech. I am truly proud of our Outlook student-journalists who have a clear dedication to their calling reflected in the fact that every Wednesday we have the paper! It is possible that most of us who enjoy the pages of Outlook every week don’t contemplate the amount of work that goes into the production of a weekly paper. To support this level of student involvement is imperative. To then condemn those who felt that they have the right to remove the evidence of that hard work because they might have not liked what the paper had to say is equally, an imperative.

I wholly hope that no one person’s action on this campus should ever have to remind me again, of what it was like to live in the world without the protections of the First Amendment.

Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151