As both students and journalists, we have protections that are meant to help make our jobs easier, but these freedoms are consistently ignored or denied, and we often find ourselves without sources or sometimes a story.
Throughout this semester, reporters have been kicked out of open meetings, GRAMA requests have been ignored, and sources have demanded what we should write and when; we have been told we need special permission to access open events, endured sources trivializing stories we think the public needs as not being newsworthy, and wrapped up interviews only to be told crucial information is “off the record.”
Members of the Dixie State University community have acted unconstitutionally. They should be reminded that as a public entity, DSU is held to certain standards set forth by Constitutional freedoms and government laws.
The Government Records Access and Management Act allows every person, journalist or otherwise, to request access to public records. Institutions have a maximum of 10 days to respond, yet DSU has a history of denying requests without contacting reporters or providing a reason.
Open meetings are gatherings held on public property and events advertised for the public, including government meetings, like faculty senate and DSUSA. We have been kicked out of such open meetings and even told that any information we gathered is not to be used.
Freedom of the press, represented within the First Amendment, prohibits government entities from obstructing the distribution of information and opinions, which is what Dixie Sun News does on a daily basis.
Our job is to report the news as objectively as we can and to the best of our abilities. When we are denied access to open meetings, which could be imperative to stories, sources are not simply being difficult, but they are limiting our freedoms.
The laws and freedoms we are granted give us a lot of power, which we don’t take for granted. Our attempts to use this power responsibly include assigning more-experienced reporters to stories with more sensitive or complex topics and drawing a clear line between commentary and news.
As the idea of “fake news” has become more prominent and news outlets are more vilified, our job has become increasingly difficult without taking into account the unconstitutional and unlawful treatment. However, sometimes sources refuse to meet due to experiences they have had with past reporters and some talk to other faculty and staff about their misgivings instead of giving us the opportunity to fix our mistakes.
News outlets as a whole have acted as a system of checks and balances throughout history, and we are trying to do the same. If we come to you with questions, know that there are no hidden agendas or motivations to make sources look bad. We are simply trying to learn and exercise our First Amendment rights in doing so.
If you have any news tips, story ideas or submissions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.