Student Journalists Are Asking Burning Questions and Breaking News

Student journalists' curiosity and rigor are sparking conversation and shaping civic action.

6 mins read

It’s a great time to be curious.  

It has never been easier to answer a question. Google it, ChatGPT it, watch a YouTube or TikTok tutorial. But an answer isn’t always the answer.  

Even as we’re surrounded with information, the truth can seem more elusive than ever. 

The goals of traditional journalism — clear-eyed inquiry, integrity, depth, fairness and accuracy, engagement with the world — show a roadmap out of our informational maze. Now more than ever, we need quality answers — and young journalists are leading the charge. 

By joining their student newspapers, students learn the art of inquiry to cut through the noise and find that quality information. They get to the truth through a combination of humility and courage, inquiry and rigor, applying principles of engaged citizenry. 

Gen Z is now at the forefront of some of the thorniest debates of our time. In recent weeks, student journalists have often out-reported major news outlets on the campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war. 

One student at Columbia University who has been helping to cover the extraordinary events on her campus, from the vitriol to the the peaceful Shabbat dinners shared between students on both sides of the conflict, wrote about the burden and privilege of participating in the coverage in the latest issue of TIME Magazine. Through it all, she has clung to “something one of my mentors had taught me earlier in my first class at journalism school. He had said that many of us will make a career out of making up for all the mistakes those before us have made. And that in those dark moments when outrage becomes a friend, “it [will] be journalism, and your integrity, that helps you soldier on.”

As passions rage on both sides, young reporters are seeking out closely examined truths — achieved through humility, open mindedness and close listening — and in doing so they bring their readers a better understanding of the world. 

Next month, we’ll be focusing on student coverage of this conflict, but in this issue, we’ve created space for a broad range of topics that are also weighing heavily on students’ minds — from the presidential race to plastic surgery. We have syndicated 22 pieces from our Students United News Network, drawing on content from top student newspapers across the country. 

At the core of each piece, you’ll find a student asking a question about the world. The stories form a cross section of the biggest concerns on Gen Z’s collective mind: geopolitics, the economy, climate change, mental health and more. And one thing is for sure: the students whose articles we selected for this issue are not afraid to begin a challenging conversation. They are asking the important questions that our country’s leaders themselves struggle to address. 

Take Everett Baumann, who, while examining the heavy digitalization of education since the pandemic asks “What have been the effects of this online world?” noting plummeting test scores, worsened mental health, and safety concerns. Also taking on the issue of school safety is Jae Jepsen, who covers a recent Iowa bill that proposes to arm teachers in an effort to curb gun violence. “What if a teacher wasn’t properly trained and a firearm went off on accident? Or a student stole a teacher’s firearm?” says student Pratima Khatri, quoted in the article.

Other students explore a range of issues from the local to the international. Questioning the tendency for violence against the vulnerable around the world, Sydney Webb points out the burden on women to protect themselves (“Where do we draw the line between caution and losing our personal freedom?”), while Rebecca Waldman, Charlie Martin, Colette Yehl, and Dresden Benke asked Ukranian teens
to open up about the enormous toll the war in their country has taken on their lives “How did you resist Russian influence and keep up morale?” 

At the same time, other students have homed in on the local — exploring issues such as community park curfews in Kentucky and public transport in Texas. Dallas’s Zack Goforth, Grayson Redmond, and Will Clifford bring their city’s system under a microscope, asking “Has a city so intertwined with automotive freedom left those in need of safe and accessible public transportation behind?”

By starting these timely conversations and encouraging their peers to engage, student journalists promote inquiry into how politics and society work — an expression of curiosity that may just be the highest form of civic engagement.

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