Since 1915, The Stuyvesant Spectator has served not only as an extracurricular activity for thousands of budding journalists, but also as the voice and informant of the student body. We’ve investigated and published groundbreaking articles about the 2012 cheating scandal and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. We’ve won awards for our outstanding journalism and our original reporting has been cited by The New York Times.
Any established newspaper, however, is bound to have conflicts with authority. The Spectator published a series of humor and opinions articles in 1998 criticizing individual teachers and the United Federation of Teachers’ employment practices. In response, the administration changed The Spectator office’s computer passwords and locks, suspending its production until they wrote up a charter.
So, with the help of The Columbia Spectator, The Stuyvesant Spectator editors devised the present charter. This outlines our succession processes, relationship with the administration, and policies in regards to what we can and cannot publish. The charter frees us from review by all school administrators except our faculty adviser. It gives us consistency and legitimacy, and thus, freedom.
As student journalists, we respect the administration, as long as it does the same for us. However, President Donald Trump does not seem to share this respect for the press. Since the Republican primaries, he’s insulted journalists and newspapers, calling The New York Times “failing” and persistently attacking conservative journalist Megyn Kelly. The day after his inauguration, he announced he was engaged in “a running war with the media,” whose members he decided were the “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” He’s called legitimate stories by well-established media outlets “fake news.” Most recently, the White House excluded multiple news outlets from an off-camera press “gaggle.” These outlets were most likely singled out for their role in investigating ties between the Trump administration and Russian leadership.
These icy relations are appalling and unprecedented in America. Since the invention of the printing press and the rise of newspapers, journalism has often been a critical instrument to investigating and exposing societal issues. Especially now, with politics brimming with scandal on both sides, journalism has a duty to exist and thrive. For Trump to dismiss this, at least in part because it threatens him politically, is undemocratic. Indeed, the Committee to Protect Journalists finds that censoring and repression of the press and journalists is characteristic of authoritarian regimes. There is no denying that having journalists who are free to ask controversial questions, investigate politicians, and publish sensitive content is critical to our democracy.
It is also important to note that the relationship between the government and the media should be a two-way street: Trump treats the press with respect, and the press in turn publishes a fair, diverse array of news. Liberal and conservative-leaning outlets must constantly check themselves, making sure they are covering stories that portray both Republicans and Democrats in both positive and negative lights. The Media Research Center, after examining multiple news outlets during the campaign season, found that 91 percent of statements about Trump were negative, while Clinton received far less criticism.
CNN president Jeff Zucker took a step in the right direction when he conceded that CNN aired too few Trump rallies and speeches during the election, and said the organization would make a greater effort to show coverage of both Republican and Democrat rallies in the future. As long as journalists are constantly making a distinct effort to eliminate their personal biases and opinions from their coverage, Trump will have no base in his accusations.
As high schoolers and journalists, we cannot let Trump get away with this. Discourse between the administration and the community media must be maintained; it sets a precedent for larger-scale fair journalism. A vicious cycle is created when press coverage is unjust or when the administration and grassroots media organizations cannot cooperate. Preserving friendly relations is critical.
This makes it imperative to maintain values of free press and speech within our own community. The Spectator must publish articles covering both sides of the political spectrum; we cannot stoop to Trump’s level and see only one side. We cannot let his complaints be well-grounded. High school journalists must use legitimate sources and not descend into the world of fake news just to receive more attention. We also must continue to maintain our independence from outside organizations. The Spectator will continue to make 100 percent of its own money. We will continue to cover controversial topics. We will not let Trump silence us.