Tag Archives: American Society of Newspaper Editors

New and pending laws protect rights of students who write

NOTE: This post is for anyone who once lived life as a beat reporter, editor or even beleaguered adviser on a high school or college newsletter – daily or bi-weekly, print or digital.

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has just adopted a resolution that supports pending state legislation designed to protect the ability of high school/college journalists to write about issues of public concern without restraint or retribution.

The resolution states unequivocally:

A free and independent student media is an essential ingredient of a civically healthy campus community, conveying the skills, ethics and values that prepare young people for a lifetime of participatory citizenship.

ASNE action responds specifically to Illinois’ enactment of the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act. Illinois is the tenth state to pass laws that support students’ freedom of the press. Legislation is pending in Michigan, New Jersey – and yes, Minnesota.(https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF2537&version=0&session_year=2016&session_number=0)

The ASNE action is the tip of a grassroots movement. Other professional associations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Journalism Education Association, have passed similar resolutions to support the rights of student journalists.

In fact, the support was coalesced into a national movement known as New Voices (http://newvoicesus.com), a project of the Student Press Law Center (www.splc.org). The mission of New Voices is “to give young people the legally protected right to gather information and share ideas about issues of public concern.”   New Voices “works with advocates in law, education, journalism and civics to make schools and colleges more welcoming places for student voices.”

Responding the support from the journalism professions, Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC, observes that “the consensus of those most knowledgeable about how journalism is practiced and taught is overwhelming: Students can’t learn to be inquisitive, independent-minded journalists – or inquisitive, independent-minded citizens – when schools exercise total control over everything they say and write.”

The history of the Student Press Law is interesting in itself. It actually grew out of the work of journalist Jack Nelson, best known for his coverage of the Watergate mess and the Civil Rights movement. In a revealing book entitled Captive Voices, based on interviews with student journalists and their teachers, Nelson contended that censorship in schools was pervasive; the book was actually commissioned by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Fund. Nelson’s findings influenced national awareness of student journalists’ rights, which led to a partnership between the RFK Memorial, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to create the Student Press Law Center.

Today, the SPLC, headquartered in Washington, DC. provides free legal assistance and training for student journalists and their teachers. More about the SPLC, including a library of free legal research materials, can be found on the SPLC website (http://www.splc.org)

 

 

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Sunshine Week 2011 Set for March 13-19

 

Sunshine deprived as we have been these past months, it’s good to know that Sunshine Week is finally here!  Though the snow may keep coming, the important thing about this Sunshine Week is to assure that the information does, too.  Sunshine Week 2011 is March 13-19.

Perhaps there is no time in history that open government has been both possible and threatened – in many way by the same forces.  Money, politics, and now the overwhelming and unpredictable omnipresence of telecommunications and information technology.  And, to some extent, our own inexperience dealing with the implications, particularly of the technology.

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.  Prime mover behind the Sunshine Week initiative is the American Society of News Editors in collaboration with the National Coalition on Government Information. Supporters include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others committed to the public’s right to know at the national, state and local levels.

Unlike many such campaigns Sunshine Week enjoys a bit of national support, primarily from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the ASNE Foundation and the Gridiron Club and Foundation.  As a result, there actually is a national staff that produces and makes readily available a wide range of promotional materials.  There is, for example, a Sunshine Week Open Government Proclamation that can be adapted for local use, press releases, and a full toolkit of other promotional resources.

This year they have added the Ray of Sunshine Game which is worth a click.  The game offers a dozen thought-provoking questions and a few minutes of self-revelatory fun for open government promoters.

Freedom of Information Day, one aspect of Sunshine Week, is held each year on March 16, the birthday of James Madison.  In Minnesota there will be a noontime Freedom of Information Day event at the Minneapolis Central Library.  At that event retired television anchor Don Shelby and former State Senator Don Betzold will receive the annual John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award.  That event is sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.

A number of national events are also in the works.  There is an FOI Day event in Washington, DC and a national webcast emanating from Washington will amplify the message of open government and the rights of the people to access.

Note: If you’re reading this on the blog, you fine the Sunshine Week website at http://www.sunshineweek.org.  To my great concern I’ve learned recently that links on the blog post don’t work anymore, though they once did.  Unfortunately I haven’t figured out the problem of the Lost Links, but I will not give up until I do….