Protections for student journalists proposed

A bill heard by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 25 would provide protections to student journalists.

LB885, introduced by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, would extend to postsecondary student journalists the full right to exercise freedom of speech and press provided to professional members of the media.

Davis said not protecting the rights of student journalists is an affront to their education.

“There have been instances of higher education institutions retaliating against student journalists and their advisors who wrote pieces critical of the administration,” he said. “College students have a unique view and may find opportunities to tell important stories that could slip past professional journalists.”

The bill would not protect any expression by the student journalist that is libelous or slanderous, constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, violates state or federal law or incites students to engage in an unlawful act.

Allen Beermann, representing the Nebraska Press Association, testified in support of the bill. He said student journalists must have adequate training before they enter the workforce.

“It’s important for young people becoming working journalists to understand the responsibility they have to ethics, honesty and fair reporting by enjoying the privileges under the First Amendment,” he said. “The best way to learn those responsibilities is to have those responsibilities.”

Omaha North student Madison Pohlman also supported the bill. She said her decision to stay in Nebraska for journalism school hinges on her ability to freely practice her profession.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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