Informing, entertaining and challenging
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.