As part of #StudentPressFreedom day on Feb. 23, Mark Witherspoon, retired editorial advisor for the Iowa State Daily, and Kylee Haueter, Daily editor-in-chief, spoke about their experiences fighting for student press freedom. Students in JLMC497D First Amendment seminar attended the discussion and wrote blogs reflecting on what they heard. One of those blogs is published below.
My name is Hannah Patton. I am a senior at Iowa State, studying English with journalism and technical communications minors.
On Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, Mark “Spoon” Witherspoon hosted an event in Hamilton Hall in honor of #StudentPressFreedomDay. This panel was Spoon and his guest speaker, Kylee Haueter, the current editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily, a campus newspaper. During this panel, they shared personal experiences they’ve had in dealing with obstruction or attempts to obstruct their First Amendment rights as journalists. The insight they shared was eye-opening and concerning. In the panel, they discussed the freedoms we have in the First Amendment, focusing primarily on the freedom of the press. This freedom is essential because it enables a functioning democracy and allows citizens to be informed on the world’s happenings around them. Spoon and Kylee brought to light how easily authority can gaslight and convince journalists they don’t have rights or access to certain things by sharing specific stories. They shared how people of authority, whether government officials or school leaders, denied them access or performed unnecessary searches in multiple accounts. Kylee’s story, in particular, stuck out to me. She shared how she and a few other reporters covered the Des Moines, Iowa, Trump rally. In going to this event, she passed through security, just as all media personnel does. Still, their experience was unique in that they were unnecessarily searched by security. It was uncalled for and more invasive than any other person searched. Whether because of Kylee’s age, gender or another reason, it wasn’t appropriate. Knowing your rights as a citizen, and more specifically, a journalist is essential. In this situation, Kylee, although she agreed to the search, could have denied it.
Although standing up to authority can be intimidating, I think stories like this are significant to be aware of. They make others aware of what is right and wrong. Also, when educated in your rights, you can stand up to the unjust opposition of power. Furthermore, we experience this opposition to power in a story Spoon shared. During his time as an advisor at TCU’s student newspaper, he wanted information from the school. However, the person with the data didn’t want to give it up, regardless of it being illegal to withhold such information. To make it more difficult for the newspaper, the person said they could see the data but couldn’t remove it from his office. Spoon decided that was good enough, and he ended up putting a copier machine in the man’s office, and left it there for over 24 hours. In doing so, he was able to cause the man a little frustration peacefully and get the information he needed. The following year, when the man was asked for the information, he gladly gave it to the student newspaper without hesitation. In examples like this, it is clear that while it might not always be the most comfortable thing to get information, it is necessary to maintain the freedoms of the First Amendment and, further, the Bill of Rights.