Park wins First Amendment Press Freedom Award

Student journalists recognized for upholding ethical principles


Emily Ziessman

Sophomore Ayelet Prottas and junior Maria Perez Barriga edit a page on Echo’s late night Feb. 25. Park recently won the First Amendment Press Freedom Award.

Ruthie Posada

After being awarded the First Amendment Press Freedom Award, senior co-Editor-in-Chief of the Echo Marta Hill said the award represents Park’s emphasis on the value of ethical journalism.

“From my understanding, basically it means that as a school we uphold the First Amendment and we practice good journalism. I think it really just shows that as a school we value journalism and we value good journalistic ethics,” Hill said.

According to Echo adviser Lori Keekley, the award is presented to schools who provide students an education in a constitutional environment. Park was one of nine schools in the United States to receive the award by the Journalism Education Association.

“The First Amendment Press Freedom Award, it’s more of the distinction than the award, although it says award in the title. It’s a distinction given to schools that illustrate and live in a pro-First Amendment environment,” Keekley said.

Senior Editor-in-Chief of the Echowan Sarah Wojtasiak said while answering questions to be considered for the award, she was glad she was able to represent Echowan.

“I was pretty surprised because I feel like I spent a lot of time and effort on my responses and I felt like it was really important for me to represent yearbook and our high school, specifically my publication,” Wojtasiak said.

According to Wojtasiak, she expressed in her submission for the competition that Park provides a lot of freedom for its student journalists.

“There were questions about what your publication can discuss and express and what is kind of taboo and off limits and I kind of expressed how in Echowan and Echo I feel we have a lot of creative liberty and ability to express our opinions,” Wojtasiak said.

Hill said it’s unique that this particular achievement is based around Park as a whole uniting Echo and Echowan and doesn’t recognize one specific publication.

“I think it’s really interesting with this award that it’s a full school award because most of the awards we submit for are just Echo and so I really like that there’s something that unites Echo, Echowan and also the administration,” Hill said. 

According to Keekley, students at Park are privileged to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“Not only do students fully have the First Amendment rights in student publications or student media, but the school also acknowledges that they have rights outside of student media as well in their First Amendment and especially in their freedom of speech area,” Keekley said.

Hill said it’s important to educate students on the First Amendment so they are aware of their constitutional rights.

“It’s really important to keep the First Amendment working, especially in schools, because it’s really easy to limit speech, especially of student press in this country and upholding the First Amendment is the way to not limit that speech essentially,” Hill said.