Advocating for Student Press Freedom
Thirty journalism educators and others concerned with student free speech met in November for a day-long symposium hosted by the Center for Scholastic Journalism (CSJ), housed in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC).
“State Legislation Protecting Student Press Freedom: New Voices on the Move” brought to Franklin Hall representatives from 17 states that have passed such laws or are currently trying to do so. These advocates shared information and strategies to help others protect student voices elsewhere.
Hosted by Mark Goodman, JMC professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, and Candace Perkins Bowen, associate professor and CSJ director, the group looked at recent successful bills that passed in North Dakota, Maryland and Illinois.
It’s a “storytelling exercise,” said Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center executive director, as he described steps to get a bill passed. Lobbyist Rebecca Snyder, executive director of the MDDC Press Association who worked with the journalism educators in Maryland, suggested being able to quickly summarize the bill’s main points when talking to legislators.
“Presume they have zero knowledge and tap into bigger themes like civics,” she said.
Representatives from eight other states shared the status of similar bills they are developing to guard the rights of high school and often college journalists from administrators and others who would censor or interfere with their reporting. Some also protect advisers from retaliation if administrators don’t like what their student staff produced.
Other panels included “Making the case and lobbying: keys to success,” “After the law passes: making them work,” and “Anticipating and responding to opponents.” The Journalism Education Association sponsored a panel about getting advisers, students and scholastic press associations involved.
“Seeing kids who are passionate and want to make a difference” really helped in North Dakota where the bill passed in April 2015, adviser Sue Skalicky said. Their testimony was powerful and examples did show why the legislation is important, she said.
Videos of the event will be accessible in January.