PRESS RELEASE: New classroom presentations provide instruction on press freedom and media law topics for student journalists

The StudentPress Law Center today announced the creation of three new classroompresentations to assist high school journalism teachers in educating theirstudents about press freedom and other common media law topics as they head backto school this fall.

The creation ofthese PowerPoint presentations, which are available for free on the SPLC Website, was supported by a grant from the Newspaper Association of AmericaFoundation.

Thefirst three parts of what will be a five-part series, the presentationsPress LawPrimer for High School StudentJournalists,PressFreedom for High School StudentJournalists andCopyrightLaw for High School StudentJournalists are accompaniedby detailed teacher presentation notes and should enable teachers — nomatter what their level of media law expertise — to provide accurate,useful information about the law to their students.

The presentationscan be downloaded from the SPLC Web site at:

“Studentmedia advisers tell us constantly that they feel unprepared — and oftenoverwhelmed — when trying to teach their students about the law, ” saidStudent Press Law Center Executive Director Mark Goodman. “We hope theseeducational tools will give them the help theyneed.”

Goodmansays that the presentations are aimed at students and teachers with limitedlegal backgrounds. They are heavy on practical information and light on”legal-ese.”

APress LawPrimer for High School StudentJournalists is anintroductory 75-90 minute presentation that tackles the six most common legalissues faced by high school student journalists: censorship, libel, invasion ofprivacy, copyright, freedom of information law and the reporter’s privilege. Thepresentation is a condensed version of the workshops given on these same topicsby the SPLC legal staff at conferences and workshops around the country eachyear.

CopyrightLaw for High School StudentJournalists lasts about 45minutes and provides a more comprehensive look at copyright law. Thepresentation introduces students to the goals and rationale of copyright. Itthen walks students through some copyright basics, such as: (1) What can (andcannot) be copyright protected? (2) What are the formalities of copyright? (3)How long does copyright last? and (4) How does copyright differ from otherintellectual property rights and plagiarism? Along the way, some of the morecommon copyright myths are exposed and clarified. Finally, considerable time isspent discussing copyright law’s Fair Use exemption, one of the more confusingyet most important issues in copyright for young journalists. A number oftrue-to-life examples are given that should help students understand where thelegal boundarieslie.

Finally,PressFreedom for High School StudentJournalists begins by givingstudents a brief overview of the historical role of a free press and theprotections provided (and not provided) by the First Amendment. It then focuseson how the law protects student speech at school. Three landmark cases —Tinker v.Des Moines Independent Community SchoolDistrict, HazelwoodSchool District v. Kuhlmeier and Deanv. Utica Community Schools — are discussed at length. The presentation, which also lasts about 45minutes, concludes by offering students practical tips for confrontingcensorship threats.

The creators hopethat students who experience one of the presentations finish with more than justmaterial to study for atest.

“Bycombining historical photos and images with a lively narrative, we hope thispresentation will help bring to life some of the key First Amendment battlesinvolving students and generate a respect for our constitutional freedoms thatseems sorely lacking in much of today’s civics education,” saidGoodman.

At leasttwo more classroom presentations — covering libel law and invasion ofprivacy — are scheduled for release later thisyear.

“Teaching legal issues can be intimidating to both new and experienced advisers,” said Sandy Woodcock, director of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, which funded the project. ” We didn’t want this vital aspect of journalism education and newspaper production to be short-changed or even left out because of its difficulty. We went to the experts, the folks at Student Press Law Center, and asked them how we could help them to help teachers be better able to easily present and teach Press Law to their students in an accurate and engaging way. The result of that are these PowerPoint presentations.”

PreviousSPLC/NAAF projectsinclude:

“TestYour Knowledge of Student Media Law” ( Anonline quiz that tests student journalists and journalism educators on commonlegal issues facing student media, such as libel, censorship, freedom ofinformation law andcopyright.

“TestYour Knowledge of the First Amendment” ( Anonline quiz that helps young journalists, their advisers and their classmatesbetter understand our firstfreedom.

VirtualLawyer ( A one-of-a-kind, interactive onlineresource that conducts an “interview” with student journalists to help them findinformation on a variety of media lawquestions.


  • Mark Goodman, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center, 703/807-1904
  • Sandy Woodcock, Director, Newspaper Association of American Foundation, 703/902-1732

The Student Press Law Center is a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 1974 to promote and preserve the free expression rights of student journalists.