New look, new features, same values — hello, world, and welcome to SPLC 2.0

Do not adjust your set. Your bookmarks are not deceiving you. You’ve arrived at the new-and-much-improved online home of the Student Press Law Center, your destination for news, information and teaching materials about the law of gathering and distributing information – in all forms, across all media.

The SPLC spent 2009 gathering input from hundreds of students, educators and other users of SPLC services. The website you’re seeing today is the website you told us you wanted.

You wanted a more pro-active SPLC that actually helps head off problems instead of  just parachuting in during an emergency. We heard you, and we’re providing greatly beefed-up educational content to help students understand their legal limits and assert their rights intelligently. And for those who want to get directly involved, we’re providing a one-stop source of tips and training to help jump-start grassroots campaigns for better state laws.

You wanted a more modern SPLC that responds to the way students are living and learning in the 21st century. We listened, and we’re adding new video content to the site to make learning the law less of a grind.

You wanted a more visible SPLC that effectively tells the story of the human toll that censorship takes every day in our schools. We responded. That’s one reason you’ll see, front-and-center, a “Report Censorship” button leading directly to a fill-in-the-blanks contact form. Because we know that censorship is pervasive on our campuses, and that fear and intimidation keep most of it hidden. Helping the public understand how pervasive is the first step toward changing minds and creating a safer climate for students and teachers to practice their craft.

All of the features that you told us you value most – our automated open-records letter generator, our legal quizzes – are still here. And we haven’t changed our essential values and priorities, which will always be to provide responsive, reliable service to young people who face legal obstructions, threats and uncertainties.

What we have changed is the “cartoony” look of our circa-2001 site. These are serious times, and students and teachers are facing serious threats to their freedom and their futures. The young people who work in journalism are mature, dedicated and professional, and they are sophisticated consumers of media. The SPLC has always kept pace – in its advocacy and in its legal reference guides – with the newest ways of delivering information. Today, appearance finally catches up to reality.

Elsewhere on the site, you will see thank-you’s to our benefactors, the Philip L. Graham Fund and the Taproot Foundation, whose funding and volunteer labor got this project started. But to get it finished took the superhuman efforts of some immensely talented and dedicated SPLC staffers – Adam Goldstein, Brian Schraum and Julia Chapman. If you like what you are seeing, the credit is theirs.

What you see today on August 25 is wonderful, but it’s only a beginning. In the months to come, you’ll find a much greater variety of video Q-and-A’s, classroom teaching aids, and other fresh content that will make an essential tool for teaching and learning journalism, media literacy, and First Amendment law.

The ultimate goal of the redesign is to transform the SPLC website from an occasional stop for those facing legal emergencies into a daily go-to destination. We hope you’ll incorporate the site into the routine of your classroom, your newsroom, your studio, or your law practice.

Look around and get comfortable. Check back often. If you see something you like, forward and share it. If you really like what you see, visit our “Get Involved” page — that’s new, too — and become an SPLC foot-soldier by publishing a public-service ad, posting a website badge, or giving a surrogate speech using our talking points.

And if you aren’t finding everything you need, or you’ve got a way to improve the site — or if you just really miss those cartoons — write to me personally at and let me know.