Dragon Press editor to join press rights commission


Geneva Douma

Anaika Miller, editor in chief of The Foothill Dragon Press, has been selected to serve as a student partner with 45words, an international scholastic journalism advocacy group.

Junior Anaika Miller, editor in chief of The Foothill Dragon Press, has been selected to serve as a student partner with 45words, an international student group created last year by the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission.

Twelve students were selected Thursday out of 35 applicants nationwide. They will lead the fight against student media censorship and will help spread awareness of the First Amendment.

“I’m hoping that I will be able to help students get over their problems with censorship,” Miller said about the opportunity to serve as a free speech advocate. “We’re really lucky to have no problems with prior review, but Ventura High has it, and there are hundreds more that do, too.”

Prior review is the practice of school administrators requiring student journalists to submit their content before it is published. This can often lead to prior restraint, an administrator withholding publication of the student press until a perceived problem is addressed or censored.

Some administrators don’t like for student newspapers to explore issues concerning drugs, alcohol, sexuality or other controversial issues, for example. Student journalists in California have more protections than those in most other states, but prior review is still common, and prior restraint can be used if the administration believes journalistic content will cause a substantial disruption of the school.

“I feel that if we have students who put in the effort to produce a responsible publication, we should be treated the same way as professionals,” Miller explained.

Miller is a founding member of The Foothill Dragon Press, started in the 2009-2010 school year. She began last year as a sophomore staff writer and this year is the Editor-in-Chief overseeing approximately 30 peers.  

“Anaika has demonstrated on multiple occasions a tenacity to dig for the facts without giving up,” said Melissa Wantz, Foothill’s journalism adviser. “This year, for example, she reported on a registered sex offender who had accessed the campus of a neighboring high school using a private business as a cover. It was not easy to get this information, but she persisted, even contacting the Student Press Law Center when she needed advice.” 

As a student partner of 45words, Miller will connect with other students online through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and work an information booth at semi-annual JEA conventions. She is also expected to follow the highest ethical standards in her own work, and advocate First Amendment rights in her community.

In this first year, 45words partners from across the U.S. and South Korea presented a “Think First” session to students at the JEA convention, created an online presence using Facebook, Twitter and a blog, published an editors’ emergency kit and communicated with students in person and online to answer questions and offer support.

“I think they have a really good message,” Miller said. “Students should know their rights, and a lot of people don’t, adults included. I think if we’re spreading this knowledge we’re empowering people to spread more information, and that, in its essence, is what journalism is.”

Her enthusiasm for journalism extends even beyond seeking to improve and protect student publications.

“I’m really hoping that I get to meet people that are as passionate about journalism as I am because I believe that the industry is going to have to be reformed,” she said. “It’s going through changes right now, and it’s going to take a lot of people that are excited about journalism to carry that process through.”

The Journalism Education Association was founded in 1924, and has since been dedicated to supporting high school journalists and encouraging high standards of scholarship. 

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