The Role of Student Journalism in Restorative Justice: What You Missed

Today’s post was written by library student assistant Kaylee Tokumi.

In times of confusion and fear, information is powerful. It can lead people astray, but it can also bring communities together as we journey toward a more peaceful future. Student journalists are in a unique position to help the nation grow. As a part of their 2021 symposium, the CSJ Center of Reconciliation and Justice hosted a discussion on the rising importance of student journalists. The panel was titled “The Role of Student Journalism in Restorative Justice” and it brought together various members of the Loyola Marymount University community.

As the event began, we were introduced to our three panelists. One of the speakers was Kevin Curran, a clinical assistant professor of journalism who has worked in broadcast radio and television. The next panelist was Alyssa Story, a sophomore journalism and film studies double major who serves as the editor and chief of the Los Angeles Loyolan. The audience also welcomed Raven Yamamoto, a recent LMU alumni, who is a founder and editor of Agency LMU. Lastly, the event was hosted by Kristine Brancolini, the dean of the William H. Hannon Library. As we would later see, each person offered many insightful thoughts to the conversation.

Brancolini started the discussion by asking what role student journalism plays on a college campus. Curran pointed out the importance of universities in training the “journalists of tomorrow.” In school, young journalists can learn many skills, such as how to choose stories or evaluate the reputability of a source. Story and Yamamoto emphasized the importance of accuracy when conveying information about university happenings. Both panelists underlined that having multiple news outlets on campus is beneficial because they keep one another accountable for reporting the most accurate information and cover stories that the other may have missed. For instance, the panelist discussed how Agency first brought attention to the removal of the Father Serra statue, then the Loyolan continued to provide coverage on the issue. Brancolini said, “The two publications together gave a very full coverage and a lot of context to the entire issue and used [the] statue as a catalyst to explore a wider range of issues.”

Next, the panelists tackled questions related to race and story selection. They all highlighted the need for diverse voices to report news in a thoughtful manner. Story said that having a diverse newsroom allows them to cover issues that are representative of the entire LMU community, not just select groups. By doing so, they can promote a wide range of the unique and thought-provoking perspectives cultivated at LMU. Additionally, although the Loyolan and Agency are targeted at students, their writings can give potential students, faculty, and staff members a glimpse of LMU without ever having to step on campus. Their publications embody the spirit of the university. They keep us informed of current happenings, whether they be related to controversies or simply what’s new at The Lair.

Then, Brancolini posed the ever-pressing question, “How do you establish your credibility as journalists and an information source?” Curran explained that the phenomenon of fake news is not endemic to the current century. As a result, it has always been difficult for news outlets to establish their credibility. Still, it’s important for publications to foster a relationship of trust with their readers to start productive conversations. Both Yamamoto and Story share a passion for journalism which drives them to produce the best work possible. Story also reminded the audience that journalists are humans who make mistakes. She stated, “We hold ourselves accountable. If we make a mistake, we acknowledge, we add a correction. We say, hey, we messed up. We’re not perfect but let’s continue to move forward.”

To end the event, the panelists answered questions from the audience. One person asked if journalists were reevaluating their code of ethics. Yamamoto argued that, yes, journalism ethics are evolving. They note how simple but significant grammatical changes are being added to the stylebook, like recognizing they/them as a singular pronoun. While Curran also acknowledges that journalism ethics are changing, he adds that it’s complicated. There are still grey areas related to privacy and unbiased reporting.

Like the world it documents, journalism is constantly changing. Student journalists now have the power to challenge our perceptions of our local communities and the world. Through the work of student journalists, we can open our eyes and hearts to new ways of life and make the world a more informed, understanding place.