Veteran journalist Eisner heads SPLC’s newly elected leadership team


December 16, 2016
Contact: Frank D. LoMonte, SPLC Executive Director or 202-785-5450

The Student Press Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for First Amendment rights and open government in colleges and schools, has named longtime newspaper editor and civic-education expert Jane Eisner as chair of its Board of Directors for the 2017-18 term.

The SPLC is led by a 15-member volunteer board, with officers serving two-year terms. The newly elected slate of officers takes office Jan. 1, and also includes Vice Chair Nabiha Syed, a First Amendment attorney recognized as an authority in the law of drone technology, and Treasurer Matthew Pakula, a leader in corporate philanthropy from Chicago.

“We’re overjoyed to put such a diversified and deeply talented lineup in place for this critical period where the Student Press Law Center is at the center of an urgent national dialogue over the need for a renewed civic commitment to journalistic values and standards,” said attorney Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC. “With this leadership team, we are optimally prepared to take on the challenge of solidifying free expression and government transparency in uncertain times, a task that must start with our schools and colleges.” 

The new leadership team consists of:

Chair Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward, a national Jewish news organization based in New York City that, under her leadership, has won a host of regional and national journalism awards. She held executive editorial and news positions at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 25 years, including serving as a reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist. In addition to her journalistic work, Eisner has served as vice president for national programs and initiatives at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. She is the author of the 2004 book, Taking Back the Vote, about youth voting rights and civic participation.

Vice Chair Nabiha Syed, assistant general counsel for online news organization BuzzFeed, with offices in New York and San Francisco. Syed formerly practiced law with Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, one of the nation’s leading media-law firms, which she joined after a fellowship in the legal counsel’s office for The New York Times. She is an Information Society Project Fellow at Yale Law School, where her research focuses on new media technologies, surveillance, and freedom of information laws. She is also a co-founder of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School. She holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, and an M.St. in Comparative Media Law from Oxford University, which she attended as a Marshall Scholar.

Treasurer Matthew Pakula, senior manager for corporate social responsibility for Tyson Foods, Inc., based in Chicago. He began his role after the August 2014 merger of The Hillshire Brands Company and Tyson Foods. Before assuming his current role, Pakula was senior manager, communications and corporate contributions for The Hillshire Brands Company. He also served as director of the Hillshire Brands Foundation. Previously, Pakula served as the director of the Playboy Foundation, Playboy Enterprises’ public affairs division, where he implemented the company’s First Amendment, civil rights and civil liberties initiatives and served as director of the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation. Pakula began his career at Random House, Inc. with roles in corporate affairs, corporate contributions and publicity. He holds a B.A. and J.D. from Michigan State University.

LoMonte said the SPLC made historic progress over the past two years under its outgoing board officers: Mark Stencel, co-director of the Duke Reporters’ Lab; Geanne Belton, media lawyer and professor at City University of New York-Baruch College, and Kevin Corcoran, strategy director for Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation. “With Mark Stencel, Geanne Belton and Kevin Corcoran as our leadership team, the SPLC successfully launched its ‘Active Voice’ fellowship program to support young women in high-school newsrooms and led the charge to pass groundbreaking press-freedom laws in Illinois, Maryland and North Dakota. They’ve helped make life better for many thousands of young journalists, and we are grateful for their countless volunteer hours,” LoMonte said.

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been devoted to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issues free from censorship. The SPLC is a donor-supported IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit, providing free legal and educational resources online at