Va. student editor who battled censorship wins First Amendment award

Talia Buford says she has a new nickname around thejournalism school at Hampton University: Little Playboy Bunny.

Andin a way, she is.

Buford, editor of the student newspaper The HamptonScript, is a recipient of the 2004 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award,named in honor of Playboy magazine’s founder. The award is presented to”individuals who have made significant contributions to the protection andenhancement of First Amendment rights” and includes a commemorative plaque and a$5,000 cash prize.

Buford was nominated because she stood up against herschool’s attempt to censor the newspaper last fall. She has also worked toensure the newspaper would be editorially independent of the administration inthe future.

In October, Buford defied orders from the universitypresident to publish an administration memo on the front page of The HamptonScript. Buford instead published the memo on page three and a staff member’sarticle on the cover, prompting the private school’s administration toconfiscate the entire Oct. 22 press run before it could bedistributed.

Buford said when she learned of the honor, she wasshocked.

“At first it was kind of like disbelief,” Buford said. “I’m veryhonored to receive it.”

“I just want to make sure that everybodyunderstands that [the effort] wasn’t just me,” Buford said. “I have a staff ofabout 15 great people who stood right along side me through the whole thing anda whole slew of people in the journalism world who stood behind us. It reallywas a group effort and it really was all of us.”

Buford said she plans touse the cash prize to pay for part of her tuition, but she would also like togive part of it to her staff.