To preserve student press freedom, stop self-censorship


Dalin Dohrn

The Midway Editorial Board reflects on Student Press Freedom Day, which was Feb. 24, the theme of which was that student journalists must “unmute” themselves to have their voices be heard.

Editorial Board

As the Midway sees it…

Unmute yourself. It’s a request, nay, a command, and in the age of Zoom meetings and built-in laptop microphones, we’ve all gotten used to hearing it. As it so happens, it was also the theme for Student Press Freedom Day on Feb. 24, a reminder to young journalists that, often, we take the gift of our own voices for granted. 

When most young people hear the word “censorship,” they imagine something ordained and codified. Totalitarian governments, overbearing school administrators — the list goes on. However, censorship is more than just a legal stronghold. It’s something we as students internalize, and thus something we as students must work to unlearn, beginning with the capacities in which we censor ourselves.

The stakes are, in all likelihood, relatively low at a school like Lab. We’re a private school, yes, but not one with much of a relevant precedent for censorship. As Midway staff, most of us have never faced threats of disciplinary action, let alone legal persecution. However, students of all backgrounds want to be accepted, and sometimes, we find our desire for acceptance to be at odds with our desire, our imperative, to speak truth to power. 

While our teachers, administrators and peers probably couldn’t get us expelled simply for criticizing them, their reactions to student activism can — and do — affect us, be it feelings of guilt, hesitation or embarrassment. We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a classroom and listening to our classmates, or even the teacher, take one of our articles to task. While we’re honored our community holds us to a high enough standard that our work is worthy of critique, we’d be lying if we said it didn’t force us to develop thicker skin. 

If you are a lone student, operating outside the institutional fabric of a school newspaper or well-funded club, these challenges are easily exacerbated. Thus, we as Midway staff hope to extend our platform to you, welcoming guest columnists and further diversifying our sources, but beyond that, we hope to see you take a leap of faith. That fundraiser, that campaign you’ve always wanted to start, now is the time to try it. It’s undoubtedly nerve wracking, but we are an undoubtedly courageous community. The Midway believes in our capacity to question, challenge and overcome. 

That students fear ostracism or ridicule, especially as young people still learning to navigate an ever-expanding social landscape, is only natural. These days, however, progress can’t wait. Will you?