The first known issue of what has since become known as the SPLC’s Report magazine featured the following news item:
In November 1975, the Daily Princetonian, the campus newspaper at Princeton University, carried a story alleging that a University employee had been stealing food, furniture and appliances from the school over a ten-year period.
The Board of Trustees of the Daily Princetonian called the story ‘extremely irresponsible’ and expressed concern that the story had not been shown to them prior to publication. Follow-up stories on the allegations were submitted and edited by the trustees.
What a difference 37 years makes. If the Princetonian‘s board insisted today on the authority to “edit” such “explosive” stories before publication, the guffaws from the newspaper’s staff would be heard all the way to Manhattan — the one in Kansas.
The page opposing the Princetonian item carried the story of New Jersey journalism adviser Patricia Endress. She won a $100,000 damage award from Brookdale Community College after she was wrongfully discharged for writing an editorial that exposed an insider contract awarded to a relative of the college trustees’ chairman and called on the chairman to resign. (Postscript: The victory was upheld on appeal, but the damage award was reduced.)
What a difference 37 years makes, there, too. College advisers are wantonly fired for retaliatory reasons today, and — with a few notable exceptions where the college’s behavior is especially flagrant — courts rarely are hospitable to their First Amendment claims.
As of today, the historical record of the struggle for student press rights is more easily accessible than ever.
Every known edition of the Student Press Law Center’s Report magazine is viewable on the Web, thanks many sleepless nights by SPLC Publications Fellow Brian Schraum, with considerable help from student intern Sam Tobin. Scans of every issue from Spring 1996 to the Center’s earliest beginnings are viewable here on Issu.com. And the text of each subsequent edition is archived here on the SPLC website in searchable form.
We hope that you will browse and explore this collection, which includes work from some “kids” who’ve since gone on to immense fame and success, among them New Yorker cartoonist and commercial artist Bob Staake, whose work started appearing in the Report when he was just mastering his craft at the University of Southern California.
The archives of the Report offer a tapestry of nearly two generations of ebb and flow in student rights. Accounts of the enactment of forward-thinking student free-press statutes in Iowa in 1989 and Colorado in 1990 can seem remote and fantastic today, when legislators are trampling each other in their stampede to see who can inflict the most harm on students. Still, when viewed in their entirety, the stories told in these pages reinforce what Dr. King reminded weary marchers after they reached Montgomery in the spring of 1965: “[T]he arc of the moral universe is long,” he told them, “but it bends toward justice.”