Whether student journalists are entitled to the same rights as professional journalists is a question that has been featured in numerous court cases and high-profile stories. as of late. Here are some things to be aware of:
First Amendment rights:
- The Student Press Law Center is a great resource for learning about your first amendment rights and includes a form where you can seek general legal advice (though, of course, you should consult a lawyer familiar with your situation for specifics)
FOIA and other public records request laws:
- Under the Freedom of Information Act, all citizens are able to access the federal government’s public records by filing a request. Though it extends only to federal records, all states have some version of a records request law.
- SPLC has a records request letter generator here
- For more information about FOIA requests and for a database of agencies, visit iFOIA
Your responsibilities as a journalist:
With great knowledge comes great responsibility, and as a student journalist, you should be aware of your standard of ethics. This is especially important to keep in mind because investigative work can often cross over into thornier or more sensitive territory. Read over the Society of Professional Journalists’ general Code of Ethics for more.