It’s Student Press Freedom Day, and we at the Kentucky Kernel are celebrating one of our favorite things in the world: the independent student press on campus.
We always celebrate this, but lately we have even more reason to do so. Last week at the 150th Kentucky Press Association Awards Banquet, outgoing KPA president Peter Baniak named all Kentucky student journalists as 2018’s Most Valuable Member. This annual award usually goes to an outstanding journalist, but after a hectic year of fighting battles for press freedom around the state, student journalists proved that they are capable of being the next face of journalism in the years to come.
During the banquet before announcing the award, Baniak praised student journalists for winning individual awards, then said, “Kentucky student journalists have pressed for and won open meetings and records decisions against their administrators. And they fought back loudly as schools tried to cut or take their funding. In other words, Kentucky’s student journalists are raising hell.”
Baniak was referring to the battles student journalists fight across the state, such as the University of Kentucky’s lawsuit against the Kernel, Western Kentucky University's lawsuit against the Kernel and the College Heights Herald, and Kentucky State University’s lawsuit against the Kernel, all over open records. We will continue to fight these fights and others, as will our fellow Kentucky student journalists, because we recognize the long term implications of working to ensure reporters have independence from their institutions and freedom to watch over them.
Baniak’s words remind us that while we are not into “gotcha journalism," we are also careful watchdogs and overseers of our administrators and governments. We are responsible for holding leaders and institutions in check. This invaluable institution is one that must survive all onslaughts and uphold our democracy.
Journalism is one of the most important aspects of free society, and as we train to be the nation’s next watchdogs, we take today to remind our audience that even if you have never taken a journalism class and don’t consider yourself “a journalism person," that journalism represents the freedoms each American enjoys.
It represents the right that we have to publish uncensored truths— a freedom many countries do not have. It represents the right each American has to challenge their government and speak against policies they disagree with. It represents the freedom we each have to express an opinion without fear of being jailed.
In short, there is nothing more American than journalism, because there is nothing more American than the First Amendment freedoms we all love and enjoy.