Why we need to do what journalists do as student journalists?


Archer Liang

In Journalism, Advisor Roland Nipps gives suggestions to Kayla Tom about a story. Managing Editor Josephine Brewer and Feature editor Katie Troske (Background right) collaborate on page layout for the print edition.

Archer Liang, Design Editor / Illustration Head

Hashtag democracy. Hashtag free press. Hashtag student voice. Undeniably, the press plays a vital role in democracy. It pushes America forward by giving access to information, which changes our society.

And now it’s pushing issues on the Mid-Pacific campus.

After the publication of “Student disciplined for racial incident”, a news article reporting a racial incident in Mid-Pacific, the debate has been stirred. Questions about the tough issues that Na Pueo is writing about arouses conflicting opinions. Seldom do I have to pause and explain the importance of student journalists, as the importance of it is common knowledge. However, it is important to understand why the voices of student journalists are important.

Student journalists in Hawaii are lucky – and their free speech rights are protected. In 2022, it became the 16th state in the United State to adapt to the New Voices legislation. The New Voice Law ensures the student journalists’ right to determine the content of school-sponsored media. This also includes protections from censorship.

The law was designed to protect public school journalists; however, despite being a private school, Mid-Pacific also adapted to the law. Mid-Pacific ensures that the journalists’ jobs are “not to make the school look good,” Ms. Julie Yuen, the previous communication manager told Journalists in the Journalism classroom in the 2021-2022 school year. Yuen left Mid-Pacific at the beginning of this year.

The articles that are meant to “make the school look good,” are meant to boost school spirit, like articles in the school magazine and on the weekly news. With this in mind, most people still have this misconception that Journalism is a class that only teaches news writing techniques and the articles it produces shall only address issues that do not hurt school pride.

Writers in Na Pueo produce big portions of their work dedicated to enhancing the student’s knowledge of the school, in a positive way, but some choose to take some risks – to tell the truth, which might affect the reputation of the school.

The student journalists in Mid-Pacific produce professional journalism. In a news story, writers follow the Code of Ethics and AP (Associated Press) style writing. Ethics are the framework of our actions, and behavior. It influences us to act good or harm. Same in Journalism. In ethical journalism, journalists are to release truths that are accurate and fair.

According to the Code of Ethics, journalists should follow these principles when reporting: seek truth and report the truth; minimize harm to sources, subjects, colleagues, and members of the public as human beings; act independently; and be accountable and transparent.

In an interview with a source, journalists will also follow the Code of Ethics. An example of that is to not ask leading questions. Journalists also observe the environment and transcribe the information with accuracy to narrate the full atmosphere of the conversation.

Many issues that Na Pueo journalists wrote about had a lot of juicy information. People love to share their stories and talk about their views on certain issues on campus and in the world. Without journalists chasing after people with questions, many issues would not be addressed; many issues would not be reflected; many issues would not be solved.

In the story “Student disciplined for a racial incident,” all information was sourced from reputable adults who were involved in the incident, and sources were granted anonymity with explanations. The story was subjected to multiple rounds of editing, including review by editors, the writer, and the advisor. The editing process involved careful consideration of word choice, AP style grammar, and tone to ensure that the story presented the incident thoroughly and accurately, without any misleading information and biases. These steps were taken to ensure that the story met the highest journalistic standards and that it would be both informative and trustworthy for its readers.

These are examples of ethical journalism, and acts of integrity. Na Pueo journalists follow these guidelines not just to fulfill the academic requirements, but to truly express journalistic value in an accountable way. Another example is the removal of content from the Na Pueo website.

Recently, Na Pueo launched a new section called the questions of the week (weekly Q&A). Journalists will ask students a question of that week on a relevant topic and the answers from the students will be posted in this section. So far there two weekly Q&As were taken down after they were published. One of them was taken down by Na Pueo staff, the other was taken down upon the request of the Journalism Advisor Roland Nipps. After discussions in the journalism classrooms, journalists don’t think that the quality of the Q&As presents the topic with well-informed answers; they also don’t think the answers fulfill the principles of the code of ethics. Therefore, the Q&As were taken down. These two examples of content removal aren’t the result of censorship but they are the demonstrations of Na Pueo following ethical guidelines.

Sharing the same goals and values the professional journalists share, the Mid-Pacific journalists are real journalists. We research just as real journalists. We report just as real journalists. We fact-check just as real journalists and we take responsibility just as real journalists. Student journalists and real journalists. Therefore, student journalists should not face censorship.

Imagine a school without Journalism; imagine Hawaii without Journalism; imagine democracy without Journalism. Will the foundation of these places or of the ideas still exist? Although young voices from some student journalists are considered bold, they are one of the social factors that push the world forward.

As a journalist who fulfills journalistic values with writing and other media, I think I have pushed communal thoughts forward by producing editorial pieces and cartoons that express my own opinion, which reflect on issues that young journalists see.

Having the same principle and quality as real journalists, student journalists will strengthen the foundation of the school, the state, and the democracy with the voices they share. The voices of student journalists is hence as important, if not, more important than time-served journalists. That is why student journalists will and should voice controversial issues.