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Working together more than just a phrase

by Stan Zoller, MJE
More than a few years ago, I produced a corporate television show designed to inform the United States sales force of a major corporation about new sales, existing customer successes and general corporate information.

It was also quasi motivational and one of the anchors’ walk-off lines was  “Working together, we make the difference.” Remember, I produced the show, I didn’t write the copy.

However, as trite as the walk-off for the show was, there is more than a fleeting truth about working together. Especially when it comes to scholastic press rights.

Many states are in the midst of pursuing “New Voices” legislation. Fourteen states have “New Voices” legislation. These states are invaluable to other states seeking to introduce and push for successful passage – and signing of – “New Voices” legislation. States in the midst of a legislative battle should utilize the resources of  other states where scholastic press rights legislation is in place.

Conversely, the battle for “New Voices” legislation needs to a unified battle, which has been anchored for years by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). It’s an understatement, but one that bears mentioning – student media has no better friend that the SPLC.  Period.

The “New Voices” movement is essential to press rights and, to no surprise, journalism education. It is not a May pole or bandwagon for people sashay around or jump on. It’s a comprehensive effort.

So too is the battle against wanton prior review, restraint and control of student media. There are scholastic press associations (SPA) that are determined to fight the battles without using resources of other SPAs, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission (SPRC) or even the SPLC.

Why?

Good question.

Answer?

It’s not a good idea. That’s because both the SPRC and SPLC monitor incidents of administrative control of scholastic media. Such monitoring is essential to determine the breadth and frequency of these incidents. Both the SPRC and SPLC are loaded (and this is not breaking news) with resources and expertise that many SPAs and state organizations may not have.

Using the JEASPRC Panic Button is an excellent place to start as is notifying the state director who serves your state. The panic button will disseminate information about your situation to key players on the SPRC and at the SPLC. Your state director will be able to find people near your school so you have ‘nearby’ support.

State associations should have a mechanism in place to notify both the SPLC and SPRC when student media faces administrative interference, so they can offer support and resources. Some states, so it seems, are bent on handling things on their own leaving the decision on whether to handle a situation up to a single person.

Fighting control of student media is not a merit badge. It requires a comprehensive effort from the local, regional, state and national levels.

An approach of “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW!” may work well for The Cat in the Hat, but not for scholastic press rights.

Because working together we can make a difference.

 

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