Pages Navigation Menu

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.

Read More

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)

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

When the law becomes a ‘liabullyity’

Posted by on Jan 2, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on When the law becomes a ‘liabullyity’


by Stan Zoller, MJE

Victory is sweet.
Whether on the football field, baseball field, soccer field or in the legislature.  It’s always great to win one for the ‘Gipper’ – or whomever.
When it comes to New Voices laws, the victors are student journalists. In those states where New Voices laws have been passed, scholastic journalism programs are experiencing a new breath of fresh air and the opportunity to practice journalism the way it should be practiced – without undue and unjust interference.

Districts are developing new policies for student activities, including student media. It appears some are cookie-cutter policies not drafted by a school board or district legal counsel. One example is a district with a policy for “High Schools.”

scrabble tiles

            At least that’s what you would hope.

Read More