Future of journalism thrives on ability to hold powerful accountable


Aelise Gagliano

Feb. 11, 2016 – Editor-in-Chief of the Prowler Erin Schilling poses a question to Principal Allen Leonard during a called press conference in the media center. High school journalism programs create opportunities for students to directly voice their concerns to those in power and then report them to the public.

Walker Allen, Op-ed Editor

From 1789 to 1793, Jean-Paul Marat’s Jacobin-aligned newspaper L’Ami du peuple (Friend of the People) was used to incense and excite the French people as revolution swept through France.

In 1898, William Randolph Hearst’s “New York Journal” and Joseph Pulitzer’s “New York World” almost single-handedly ushered the United States into the Spanish-American War after slinging sensationalist yellow journalism.

There’s an undeniable power in journalism, and whether that power is used for good or bad, journalism has a place in society.

— Op-ed Editor Walker Allen

There’s an undeniable power in journalism, and whether that power is used for good or bad, journalism has a place in society.

At its basest form, journalism allows for the easy spread of news and information.

However, journalism is something that cannot be reduced to its basest form, nor is it something that can be generalized into singular buzzwords like “the media” and “the press.” Journalism is no small production, and while there may be the seemingly insignificant article or two, it does not discount the entirety of the media.

It was the New York Times that tried to publish the Pentagon Papers and lay bare the reasons for America’s continued involvement in the Vietnam War.

It was the Washington Post that revealed the Watergate scandal and the corruption in the Nixon administration to Americans.

It was Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for The Guardian, that helped Edward Snowden expose the National Security Administration’s unconstitutional surveillance policies.

It was a Kansas high school’s student newspaper that uncovered the faked credentials of new principal Amy Robertson, resulting in her resignation.

Some may be shocked at these students’ ambition and drive, but what they have done is exactly the type of attitude that should be bred in young writers, journalists especially. Students of journalism should not be afraid to challenge authority when necessary, precisely what staff writers of Pittsburg High School’s Booster Redux have done.

Who else is more capable to report on the issues than those addressed by them?

— Op-ed Editor Walker Allen

This is what students should be taught — to think critically and analytically when consuming information,  to properly communicate with people of all ages, to speak and articulate properly when conveying information, and to be unafraid when addressing those in in authority, even when presenting sensitive information to them.

Journalism provides students with essential advanced communicative, analytical, and social skills that are more difficult for them to develop otherwise.

The Prowler itself has published several controversial articles, such as last year’s story on gender-neutral bathrooms and this year’s article on the hypocrisy of the school’s dress code.

Articles such as these not only push boundaries, but they bring a voice to topics that directly affect and concern Starr’s Mill’s students. Who else is more capable to report on the issues than those addressed by them?

Some of the Prowler’s staff-writers have received flak for their eager coverage of these sensitive topics, even from members of the Fayette County Board of Education. While this was troublesome at the time, it proved to be a beneficial learning experience. The Prowler’s writers were faced with adversity from those in a much higher position of authority, yet they stood their ground and preserved as much of the intent of their original article as they could.

This inspires confidence. Students learn from experiences like this, as annoying or difficult as they may be, and they are better off because of that.  

Journalism is more than just a discarded newspaper or a headline ticking across the bottom of a television screen. Journalism has a purpose, and that purpose is to inform and to hold those in power accountable for their actions.