Student calls seeking legal help rise in 2001

VIRGINIA — Requests to the Student Press Law Center in 2001 from high school and college journalists needing free help on media law matters rose slightly from 2000.

Overall, in 2001 the SPLC staff responded to 2,107 requests from individuals seeking legal help, down about 1 percent from the 2,129 calls received in 2000. While calls from students and advisers were up slightly, calls from attorneys and other professionals assisting student media were down. In addition, the SPLC responded to 418 requests from individuals seeking information only or from news media seeking comment on student press issues.

As in previous years, questions about censorship topped the list of concerns of those seeking legal help from the SPLC (36 percent). Students, however, called more frequently on a broader array of pre-publication issues. For example, calls concerning libel and privacy law issues rose about 5 percent from the previous year to make up nearly 24 percent of the legal calls. Other frequent issues: copyright law (15 percent) and freedom of information law (12 percent).

Calls to the SPLC came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. territories and eight foreign countries. Callers from California (221 calls), New York (159), Pennsylvania (121), Ohio (120), Texas (119), Michigan (115), Missouri (109), Illinois (105), Virginia (101) and Indiana (85) topped the list.

Since 1974, the SPLC has been the only national legal assistance agency devoted exclusively to protecting student journalists and educating them about their rights and legal responsibilities. The SPLC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All legal services are provided to the student media free of charge.