SPLC proudly debuts new and improved website

Regular visitors to the Student Press Law Center’s website may understandably feel that they’ve stepped into an unscheduled episode of ”Extreme Makeover.”

The SPLC turned 35 this past year and, like many 35-year-olds, we started thinking more seriously about what we want to be when we grow up. We took note of those 35-year-old jiggles that needed tightening, and we resolved to show the world a more vibrant and youthful exterior that matches what’s inside.

We hope that, when you take a look through the revamped splc.org site, you’ll agree that the redesign — the first overhaul of the site in more than nine years — makes the website a more appealing place to linger and a more useful place to learn.

We’ve downplayed the formerly ”cartoony” look of the old site to present a more sophisticated public face that welcomes lawyers and researchers as well as kids. Instead of cartoons, we want to show the world real faces of the many real people who benefit from the SPLC’s services and value its existence.

The change is much more than cosmetic. The redesign was guided by lessons learned during the SPLC’s 2009 strategic planning process, which included input from hundreds of stakeholders from across the country.

What we heard is that the SPLC needed to broaden its programming — and its image — beyond the core service that defines our identity: immediate attention to individual problems through our telephone and e-mail hotline.

The redesigned splc.org site responds directly to your input. The redesign is part of a larger effort to create a broader-based SPLC that we hope people will view not just as an emergency responder but as an integral part of learning and teaching journalistic skills and values. Some of the most engaging new features on the site include:

– Video Q-and-A’s with the SPLC’s Adam Goldstein addressing student journalists’ most commonly asked questions, hosted on SPLC’s new Vimeo channel.

– An interactive map that shows existing and proposed press-freedom laws across the United States — along with tutorials about how to get student press-rights legislation passed in your state.

– A new ”get involved” section that includes public-service ads promoting the SPLC, handout materials and ”talking points” for surrogate speakers, a website badge, and other ways SPLC’s supporters can spread the word about our work.

– ”Learning from the Headlines” lesson plans that will be regularly updated with classroom talking points keyed to news developments that raise larger issues about the law of gathering and publishing news.

– A series of updated educational guides, available for classroom use in PDF form through scribd.com.

– Reader-friendly, subject-indexed guides addressing the most common questions posed on the SPLC attorney hotline.

– New reader comment functionality encouraging feedback on SPLC Report magazine stories.

The redesign was made possible by a generous grant from our friends at the Philip L. Graham Fund and by an amazing creative team — Anjan Shah, Yaser Amed, Lori Porcher, Brockett Horne, Erika Anderson, Kenya Sullivan, Keith Strigaro and Pritti Bhavsar — organized by The Taproot Foundation. We sincerely thank all of the participants for a terrific product that will strengthen the SPLC’s ability to spread its message and reach new audiences.

We hope that you will make www.splc.org not just an occasional check-in when you have a legal problem, but a ”required reading” destination that you will bookmark, frequent and share.

The fact that you are holding this magazine in your hands indicates that you understand the importance of a robust college and high-school press free from unnecessary censorship, and of continued access to the public records and meetings necessary to hold educational institutions accountable. Elevating those concerns on the public agenda requires bringing new readers and listeners into the conversation, and that is the overriding goal of the SPLC website redesign.

You can help us realize that objective by spreading the word when you like something you find useful or informative on the site — and, importantly, by letting us know at splc@splc.org if you are not readily finding what you need.

By Frank LoMonte, SPLC executive director