Legal requests to the SPLC continue to grow

The number of college student media organizations that contacted the Student Press Law Center for help in dealing with censorship in 2002 was almost 50 percent greater than the number that sought such help 2001. 

A total of 365 college student journalists or advisers contacted the Center with censorship-related concerns last year, up from just 244 such requests during the previous year. Overall in 2002, the SPLC staff responded to 2,258 requests from individuals seeking legal help, up about seven percent from the 2,107 requests received the previous year.  High school student journalists and advisers with censorship problems also increased to 529, up 10 percent from 2001. 

In addition to providing legal help, the Center responded to 535 requests for information or comment on student press issues. These numbers reflect the busiest year on record for the Center.

“There is more need for the advice and support we can provide than ever before,” said SPLC Executive Director Mark Goodman. “And the explosion of college censorship problems reflects the real threat that the Hosty v. Carter student newspaper case could pose if it’s decided the wrong way.” (See BATTLE, page 29.)

As in previous years, questions about censorship topped the list of concerns of those seeking legal help from the SPLC, accounting for 41 percent of all requests for help. Other issues for which student media sought assistance: libel and privacy law (23 percent), freedom of information law (12 percent) and copyright law (10 percent).

Fifty-three percent of the requests for legal assistance received came from high school student media and 42 percent from those on the college and university level. The remaining 5 percent came from professional journalists or attorneys.

Requests came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries. California once again was the state of origin of largest number of requests (271). (The number of censorship questions from Calfornia increased by 22 percent in one year.) New York (171), Texas (141), Michigan (109), Pennsylvania (97), Indiana (87), Virginia (82), Ohio (78), Washington (78) and Florida (73) followed California in the number of requests for help. 

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