Finding strength in numbers

30 Jul

When I sit down to write an article or type out an outline of a story idea, I always have my community in mind. I want my readers to be interested, my peers to be enlightened and my community to have a connection with my angle. I try to make my writing for my community. It’s what I gladly try to give–even if it’s not always what they might want to read but what they need to know.

But two summers ago an organization that I am now honored to help run, Friends of the Spoke, asked the community for something in return. It wasn’t advertisement sales, feedback, subscription payments or story ideas. We needed letters; we needed support. After the school board in our district proposed a policy that would have led to censorship, Friends of the Spoke called on our community to help us keep the freedoms that we valued so much.

Five months later, with the help of local and national support, press coverage and discussions, our district changed its proposal and The Spoke still works with a policy free of censorship and within today’s legal standards.

But what affected me most from those tense few months was the outpouring of support from community members. They came to meetings, signed up for our notifications to know how they could help and they wrote letters–a lot of letters. Two years later, what hits me most is what our community gave back to the newspaper and its staff that work hard to serve it well.

Preserving our rights as student journalists and fighting censorship is not something that we should have to do alone. There are wonderful organizations that can help like 45words and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). But we work to serve our communities and many times they–the taxpayers, concerned parents and caring students–are the ones that can help tip the scales.

Remember that we live in a place where a large group of people really can make that difference. Do not be afraid to ask them for help. Chances are, you will realize just how much student journalists mean to their school and community–the parents that get to see their son making a touchdown in a photo or the concerned citizens who are informed on budget proceedings.

We work to inform and serve our communities, but we benefit from their support too. And most likely, we have it and should not be afraid to use it when we need it. Probably, you will be surprised like I was by all of the letters and all of the support from these people that you may not have met but that value your work. With your community, you’re not alone.

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