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World Press Day: Its freedoms ‘carry responsibility’ for us all

Posted by on May 3, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on World Press Day: Its freedoms ‘carry responsibility’ for us all


by John Bowen, MJE

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. A day to celebrate press freedom.

On her Facebook post May 3, colleague Barb Hipsman Springer wrote, “as journalism goes, so goes democracy. Remember that freedoms carry responsibility for you, too.”

Noble words and commitments. Such statements often receive forceful agreement. Cheers and applause. A raised fist. All warranted, but maybe not enough.

April 29, Plain Dealer editor Chris Quinn, in a letter from the editor, raised another idea, one he said might seem out of place, especially to journalists.

The letter from the editor can be found here.

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West Virginia makes it 17 New Voices states

Posted by on Mar 24, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on West Virginia makes it 17 New Voices states


West Virginia became the seventeenth state to pass New Voices legislation March 23. The new law, The Student Journalist Press Freedom Act, goes into effect June 9, 2023.

In a March 24 press release, the Student Press Law Center indicated a key part of the law ensures that high school and college students determine the content of school-sponsored media and protects them from censorship except in “narrow, well-defined circumstances.”

close up photo of casino roulette
SWEET #17-Legislation’s wheel of fortune spun favorably for West Virginia’s student journalists and their advisers this month as the state became #17 with New Voices legislation.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

The law also protects advisers who shield students from retaliation for refusing to unlawfully censor student work.

The SPLC release mentioned current and former student journalists and teachers who spent three years advocating for student press freedom in the state, including Kellen Hoard, a recipient of SPLC’s 2022 Courage in Student Journalism Award

JEA State Director Morgan Bricker, student media adviser at Weir High, and her students supported the legislation.

According to the SPLC release, Bricker called working to pass the legislation inspiring, compelling and validating the First Amendment.

“Seeing my students so engaged and determined to advocate for their own rights, bravely writing op-eds and contacting legislators, has been extremely validating,” Bricker said. “It tells me that they really are listening as I teach them about the First Amendment, press freedom and media law, and it motivates me to continue to improve and develop my skill as an educator.” 

For further information
SPLC press release on West Virginia
What you can do to restore and protect student press freedom: a state-by-state guide
New Voices (and much more)

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Be Bold on Student Press Freedom Day

Posted by on Feb 23, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Be Bold on Student Press Freedom Day


by Kristin Taylor, MJE, JEA scholastic press rights director

Today is Student Press Freedom Day, a national day of action when student journalists in the United States raise awareness of the challenges they face, celebrate their contributions to their schools and communities, and take actions to protect and restore their First Amendment freedoms.

The theme this year is Bold Journalism, Brave Advocacy. I can’t think of a time when we need boldness and bravery more than now, with so many attempts to legislate critical thinking. So many school libraries are facing censorship, anti-LGBTQ legislation is targeting schools and Florida even banned the new AP African American Studies class (and, more disturbingly, the College Board bowed to those demands.)

But take hope in our student journalists. They aren’t waiting for professional newsrooms; they are localizing these controversial stories, digging deeper into the impact of censorship and attempts to legislate thinking. Just look at Caroline Caruso reporting on book bans in her school, Kaden Bryant or Ceclia Cheng, reporting on the AP African American Studies course ban, or Brennan Mumper reporting on the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. 

Our student journalists are essential voices in our democracy, and it’s time to celebrate the schools who champion their free speech. 

For the past 23 years, a panel of judges representing JEA, NSPA and Quill & Scroll have come together to read two rounds of applications to determine which schools are honoring the First Amendment through their support of a free student media program.

We at SPRC are thrilled to recognize 16 schools for their support of their student journalists. As the FAPFA committee read through the applications, we were struck by some of the administrators’ comments about the importance of a free student press. As I did last year, I want to share some of those excerpts of school leaders who get the importance of Bold Journalism and Brave Advocacy.

  • “As principal, I feel honored to work in a community that honors First Amendment principles. I see how these principles modeled by our student run journalism extends to other corners of our school community. MTHS is an organization that respects student voice and will look to listen before acting. … Celebrating journalism has been part of the MTHS fabric for a long time.” -Principal Greg Schellenberg, Mountlake Terrace High School
  • “Loudoun Valley has a strong tradition in student journalism. …It is our perspective that the First Amendment strengthens our teaching and learning approaches because of our belief in its importance in journalism as well as in student engagement, student voice, and student choice in our school and school community.” -Principal Susan Ross, Loudoun Valley High School
  • “We are truly proud of the work our journalism program has done in the past several years, building on a previously existing culture of the core values of respect, responsibility, courage, curiosity, doing your best and integrity found at the core of our program. After being recognized last year by the JEA we are proud to continue this work into the future and only grow better for our students and community.” -Associate School Director Joshua Hugo, DSST Montview High School
  • “I am so proud of the work of our student journalists! A hallmark of a CESJDS education!” -Principal Lisa Vardi, Charles E Smith Jewish Day School
  • “I would like to note that our school and district Mission Statement includes the words: ‘Open expression is encouraged.’ Further, it states, ‘Our goal is to advance our students’ growth into principled, informed, and capable citizens who will help guide a democracy that follows humanitarian principles in the global forum, and shape a just society where individuals may reach their full potential.’ Our school culture is largely based on this mission and reflects our students’ understanding of, and respect for, the First Amendment.” -Principal Allyson Mizoguchi, Wayland High School
  • “West Springfield High School believes that students do not ‘shed their First Amendment Rights at the schoolhouse gate.’ West Springfield High School has an open communication with our student journalists and publication producers that encourages their exploration and investigation into areas that are directed by their interests.” -Assistant Principal Shannon Matheny West Springfield High School
  • “I see our journalism programs as a great learning experience for students and part of that learning experience includes taking ownership of their work. As a result, the students learn 21st century skills that are part of Fairfax County’s Portrait of a Graduate goals, including collaboration, communication, ethical decision-making, critical and creative thinking, and resilience. Supporting journalism students’ freedoms enables them to do their best work.” -Principal Ellen Reilly, McLean HS
  • “As with all programs and clubs at our school, we believe in the power of student initiative. Our job is to educate and empower students to do their best in whatever field they pursue. Our journalism program upholds this vision, and, through education and skill development, enables our students to produce high quality publications that are completely student driven. Our publications are pure representations of who they are, what they value, and what they are curious about as teenagers in Silicon Valley in the early 2020s. We are proud to offer them this opportunity to fully express their lives.” -Assistant Division Head Kelly Horan, The Harker School

The FAPFA winners were announced today at noon CT on If your school isn’t yet among the lucky on that list, know that we here at SPRC are here to support you and your student journalists. Perhaps sharing some of these administrative statements might start a dialogue with school leaders who need a little push to see the value of free student media programs. 

Be bold, scholastic journalists! 

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Student journalists can tackle current, key issues to bring

Posted by on Feb 23, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Student journalists can tackle current, key issues to bring


by John Bowen, MJE

For 19 days now, Ohioans anywhere near East Palestine, a town with close to 4,700 residents near the Pennsylvania state line, tried to grasp the Norfolk Southern train’s derailment impact on their futures and those of their town.

Today, Feb. 22, Northern Ohioans and others in the proximity of railroad tracks, might have reason to ask the same questions.

Feb. 19, news broke the train had traveled from Toledo through Cleveland before turning south with its load of toxic materials. Although we do not know the exact path yet, one route could take this train 2.2 miles from our house, slightly north of the city of Kent and through Ravenna, the county seat of Portage County.

Our estimate of a probable railroad journey south, based on the Norfolk Southern’s route map, goes from Cleveland up north, through Hudson, Ravenna and then east through Alliance. East Palestine is after Sebring, right about when the tracks cross the Pennsylvania border (the yellow line on a map).That itinerary was plotted by our high school grandson who knows railroads, trains and how they cross the state.

2.2 miles.

Now, all those who live and work and shop and enjoy the outdoors along railroad trucks, have reason to join 4,700 people in East Palestine, Ohio, concerned, and seeking answers.

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Throwing journalism to the dogs – the watchdogs

Posted by on Jan 11, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Throwing journalism to the dogs – the watchdogs


by Stan Zoller, MJE

Watchdog reporting can make a difference.

When you think of watchdog reporting, chances are you’ll think of mainstream media – The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, etc. 

Watchdog journalism: Student scribes should doggedly stick to journalistic fundamentals by reporting the truth by providing attribution, being honest with readers, adhering and documenting facts and being a positive force in the community. Original pexels photo by Kateryna Babaieva

Don’t however, look past non-profit organizations dedicated to enhancing transparency in government.

The BGA staff includes a number of outstanding and award-winning journalists who do more than report and investigate.

They advocate. 

One of the best is the Chicago-based Better Government Association. In addition to being an invaluable resource for information about open meetings, freedom of information issues, the BGA also aggressively addresses issues related to government actions, transparency and openness not just by blogging about them, but through outstanding and dogged reporting.

Student journalists, as the voice of their school’s student body, have an obligation to not only report on what’s happening at school, but to be the voice and advocates for the student body.

It’s not something district and building administrators are going to buy into, but as more and more school districts are required to teach civics, the bar of journalistic excellence and advocacy rises.

It’s easy for cynics to call investigative and watchdog journalism “fake news”  because the reality is, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep in the 1992 classic, “A Few Good Men,” they can’t handle the truth.

What student journalists can do is go above and beyond fundamental journalism to ensure they avoid allegations of fake news.

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