Howard Univ. helps SPLC tap volunteer power

Over the past semester, the Student Press Law Center has benefited from the public-relations advice of a remarkably savvy team of Howard University students. As a “client” of the Howard CapComm laboratory program, the SPLC went through a thorough re-examination of how we communicate our message to our core audience and to the larger world.

You’ll be seeing a number of the Howard students’ suggestions becoming reality in the months to come at, including “testimonial” stories from those who’ve taken advantage of the SPLC’s free services, and public-service announcements for use by college radio stations.

One of the CapComm team’s wisest ideas was to make better use of the enthusiastic volunteer talent pool of students and educators who already support our work. We’re tapping into that pool in two ways, starting immediately.

First, we’re launching the Legislative Correspondents Network, a way to better serve our constituents by helping keep track of action at the statehouse level that impacts on the rights of student journalists and their advisers.

The Network grows out of our experience that bad legislation — closing off access to meetings and records, restricting students’ ability to use technology, expanding administrators’ disciplinary authority in dangerously open-ended ways — often sneaks into law because legislators are oblivious to the impact of their decisions on journalists. We hope to change that, by helping publicize significant legislative proposals — favorable and unfavorable — while there is still time for the concerns of scholastic journalism advocates to be heard.

The Network will draw on volunteers from Humboldt State University, the University of Tampa, Simpson College and several other partner schools around the country. We hope to expand upon this “pilot” class in 2012 and beyond toward a goal of 50-state coverage.

This is one opportunity for those who support the SPLC’s priorities — an uncensored student media with easy access to essential documents and meetings — to get engaged in our work. Another, growing directly out of the advice of Howard’s CapComm team, is a more formalized SPLC Speaker’s Bureau of surrogates to augment the outreach work of our legal staff.

We know that attaining a free student press starts with helping people outside of our immediate circle understand that an independent student voice is valuable, and that resources exist to help gain independence. Your help as an SPLC surrogate can exponentially multiply the reach of that message.

For those interested in helping spread the word about the services offered by the SPLC, and about the priorities that the SPLC exists to address, we’ve created a “talking points” packet available here. And if you’d like to become involved in the SPLC’s work in any capacity, please contact us.