Freedom of student press is an issue we ran into recently regarding Ohio State women’s soccer player Jillian McVicker.
McVicker suffered a terrible injury on the field. After a collision with a Minnesota player, McVicker sustained a fractured rib, a punctured lung, and a lacerated kidney.
It was an injury so severe that it she was immediately taken to the hospital and was put in intensive care for two days before being downgraded to standard care.
Something of this nature in any professional sport would have resulted in hundreds and hundreds of articles written by every news source under the sun about the specifics of the injury, how the player is doing, and what is the impact on that player and the team moving forward.
But how many articles were written about this incident in the few days that passed after it occurred? 0.
Why was there no article written? Because student journalists were told no.
A coach told one of the journalists to give no specifics of the injury, just to say that the player was in a collision and is expected to make a full recovery.
I think this was so very very wrong.
In some cases regarding medical diagnoses, you have to worry about HIPPA violations. However, in this case, McVicker posted herself the exact specifics of what happened to her in a Facebook post.
This was not secret information that the university did not want getting out. It was now public information made public by the very person the story was about.
Even further, when the journalist asked McVicker herself if it would be okay to write an article about her and use the information she put out on her Facebook, she responded yes and seemed more than happy to have a story written about her.
I do not understand why the coaches on the team tried to specify what information the journalist could and could not use.
It makes it really hard on student journalists because we want to write the best stories with as much information as we can provide to the public, but at the same time we don’t want to write stuff that is going to make our outlets to more information turn us away and no longer provide us with the information we need.
It becomes a delicate balance that should not exist.
As students, we should not have to worry about our access to a team being cut off just because we wrote a story a coach did not want us to write as long as it is entirely based in fact and all the information is accurate.
This kind of thing really encroaches on the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.
While we are not official paid journalists, we are still journalists just the same.
The work that student journalists do is the exact same as the professionals do. We gather information, we talk to people, and we write stories to inform others.
Why should we have our freedoms as journalists limited just because we are still studying the field? If anything, limiting student journalists’ freedoms inhibits our abilities to learn and become better as we aspire to become professionals.
I wonder if a big news corporation like the Dispatch or NBC News would have come down and asked the coaches about the injury if they would have tried to curtail there information in the same way they tried to alter the information the student could use.
I guarantee the professionals would have had no issues in writing their story.