ARLINGTON, Va. — A New Jersey college student newspaper that is battling to prevent school administrators from firing their faculty adviser because of unfavorable news and editorial coverage about their school has been named the recipient of the 2006 College Press Freedom Award.
The award to the Viking News, the student newspaper at Ocean County College in Toms River, N.J., was presented at the Associated Collegiate Press/College Media Advisers national convention in St. Louis on Oct. 28.
The award, sponsored by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press, is given each year to a college student journalist or student news organization that has demonstrated outstanding support for the free press rights of America’s college student media.
Three editors at the Viking News filed a lawsuit in May against college President Jon Larson and several other administrators after the school removed longtime newspaper adviser Karen Bosley. The lawsuit alleges that Bosley’s removal was the result of retaliation for several stories the newspaper wrote critical of the school’s administration.
In July, a federal district court judge issued a preliminary injunction that ordered school officials to reinstate Bosley as adviser while the lawsuit continues.
“It is clear,” the judge wrote, “that such a retaliatory removal would…have an impermissibly chilling effect on the paper’s student editors’ freedom of expression in future issues of the paper, and inflict irreparable harm….”
The newspaper is being represented for free by attorneys with the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP.
“Thanks to the Viking News’ perseverance and commitment, their adviser — who for more than three decades has put her neck on the chopping block to stand up for her students — is back in the newsroom today,” SPLC Legal Consultant Mike Hiestand told the gathering of college student journalists and advisers from across the country.
“Student media advisers everywhere can breathe at least a little bit easier thanks to the precedent their case has established,” Hiestand said.
Alberto Morales, the Viking News’ current editor in chief and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper.
Founded in 1921, the National Scholastic Press Association and its college division, the Associated Collegiate Press, provide rating services and critical analyses for print and electronic student news media and sponsor the largest annual national conventions for student journalists and their advisers.
Since its founding in 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been the only national organization exclusively devoted to providing free legal advice and assistance to student journalists and advisers and serving as an advocate for their free press and freedom of information rights.
Contact Mark Goodman, Executive Director,
Student Press Law Center, (703) 807-1904