SPLC launches campaign to raise $2.5 million

The Student Press Law Center has launched a grass roots campaign to reach student journalists, educators, professional journalists, news executives and others interested in promoting and protecting First Amendment freedoms for students across the nation. The effort is geared toward obtaining a broad base of support to raise awareness of and funding support for the Center’s Tomorrow’s Voices: A Campaign for the Future of Press Freedom endowment drive.

The SPLC launched the Tomorrow’s Voices campaign with a public announcement in New York City on March 16.

‘Journalists’especially student journalists who are just entering the profession’need to understand how they too are protected by the First Amendment,’ said Soledad O’Brien, anchor of CNN’s American Morning, honorary chair of Tomorrow’s Voices and featured speaker at the event.

Echoing O’Brien’s support for the Student Press Law Center at the event was Ann Long, a senior at Troy High School in Fullerton, Calif.

‘The SPLC is vital to the survival of true and ethical student journalism. If a school newspaper is to truly be a paper of the students, every student deserves to be heard,’ said Long.

Tomorrow’s Voices seeks to raise $2.5 million for the Center, which will be matched by $1.25 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. To support the grass roots portion of the campaign, the SPLC launched www. tomorrowsvoices.com describing the campaign and offering ways to contribute. The SPLC’s board of directors also created a national committee that will work to involve students, educators and professionals in the campaign.

In light of a recent survey by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which found that 73 percent of high school students express little appreciation for the First Amendment and 49 percent feel that newspapers should not be allowed to publish without government approval of stories, the Center is increasing its efforts to educate student journalists about the importance of a free and independent press and to provide free legal assistance to student news organizations in need.

More than 2,400 youth journalists, teachers and others contact the SPLC each year for assistance, advice or information and over 40,000 visit its Web site each month.

‘More high school and college journalists than ever are battling censorship and fighting for access to public records and meetings as they try to present an honest picture of their communities,’ said SPLC Executive Director Mark Goodman. ‘The First Amendment is crucial to American democracy; we have to start instilling its values in our young people if we expect them to understand and defend those values as adults.’

‘During the next several months, the Tomorrow’s Voices campaign plans to reach out across the nation to friends of a free, responsible and credible student press,’ says Rosalind Stark, SPLC board member and campaign chair. In addition to O’Brien, other honorary chairs of Tomorrow’s Voices: A Campaign for the Future of Press Freedom are Floyd Abrams, First Amendment attorney at Cahill, Gordon & Reindel; Caesar Andrews, editor at Gannett News Service; Charles O’Malley, retired director of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at Columbia University; and Greta Van Susteren, host of On the Record at the Fox News Channel.

The Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit organization established in 1974 to serve high school and college journalists, is an advocate for student free-press and freedom-of-information rights. It provides information, advice and legal assistance’at no charge’to students and the educators who work with them. The endowment fund will support a portion of the Center’s approximately $500,000 annual operating budget. Other support for the organization comes from annual contributions by individuals, foundations and others.

Visit the Tomorrow’s Voices Web site.