In­form­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and chal­leng­ing

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

News­pa­pers — es­pe­cially com­mu­nity news­pa­pers — are alive and kick­ing, no mat­ter what you may have read on­line. We chron­i­cle the lives and times of our neigh­bors, and keep a close eye on govern­ment. In ad­di­tion to our print prod­ucts, we main­tain an up-to-date web­site to serve the pub­lic.

This is Na­tional News­pa­per Week, Oct. 2 through 8, when news­pa­pers are sup­posed to pro­mote them­selves. Frankly, we don’t do a really good job of self-pro­mo­tion — not nearly as good as tele­vi­sion, prob­a­bly be­cause we don’t try as hard.

Yet we’re con­vinced we have great rea­son to be proud. As a twice-weekly pa­per, we may not be as im­me­di­ate as tele­vi­sion, but the race is not al­ways to the swift. Tele­vi­sion can give you snap­shots and sound bites, but we can give you the big pic­ture — and you can al­ways go back and check the de­tails at your con­ve­nience.

And with the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent’s web­site and bur­geon­ing pres­ence on so­cial me­dia, we can give you a bit of the swift as well. This year’s theme for the week is “Way to Know!” It’s been a pretty good year for the First Amend­ment, but you might have missed one of the im­por­tant rea­sons why.

Among the new state laws that went into ef­fect last week is the New Voices Act. This law pro­tects Mary­land stu­dents from cen­sor­ship and teach­ers from re­tal­i­a­tion while cre­at­ing “school-spon­sored me­dia,” which is de­fined as “any ma­te­rial that is pre­pared, writ­ten, pub­lished, or broad­cast by a stu­dent jour­nal­ist at a pub­lic school” un­der the ad­vise­ment of a school ad­viser and gen­er­ally avail­able to the stu­dents at the school.

The law specif­i­cally states that stu­dents en­joy free­dom of speech and free­dom of the press in these set­tings, ex­cept when con­tent is li­belous, an in­va­sion of pri­vacy, a clear in­cite­ment to un­law­ful con­duct, or vi­o­lates state or fed­eral law.

So it pro­vides jour­nal­is­tic free­dom while al­low­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors rea­son­able con­trol — but not cen­sor­ship. Eight other states have re­cently adopted sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Mont­gomery) pushed this through in An­napo­lis, and it was also strongly backed by the Mary­land, Delaware and D.C. Press As­so­ci­a­tion — of which the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent is a mem­ber — and the So­ci­ety of Pro­fes­sional Jour­nal­ists.

The local im­pe­tus for this law came from Gary Clites, a jour­nal­ism and film teacher at North­ern High School in Calvert County, and pres­i­dent of the Mary­land-D.C. Scholas­tic Press As­so­ci­a­tion.

Clites said while two pre­vi­ous court de­ci­sions gave school and univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors the right to cen­sor stu­dent speech, they pro­vided lit­tle guid­ance as to when that cen­sor­ship was ap­pro­pri­ate, leav­ing stu­dents, teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors con­fused about their rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der the law.

We ap­plaud this hearty en­cour­age­ment to the fu­ture of jour­nal­ism, be it in print, on­line or in some hy­brid form.

And in the spirit of Na­tional News­pa­per Week, con­sider this thought from syn­di­cated colum­nist Bax­ter Black about the value of local pa­pers.

“I think of local pa­pers as the last refuge of un­fil­tered Amer­ica,” he writes. “A run­ning doc­u­men­tary of the warts and tri­umphs of real peo­ple un­fet­tered by the spin, the bias and the opaque pol­ish of to­day’s ho­mog­e­nized jour­nal­ism. It is the dif­fer­ence be­tween homemade bread and Pop Tarts. It gives our lit­tle com­mu­nity a sense of place in the world. We are im­por­tant to some­body. We make a dif­fer­ence. The pa­per rec­og­nizes that.”

We hope you cel­e­brate that with us, twice a week, ev­ery week of the year.

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