FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2017
Contact: Frank LoMonte, SPLC Executive Director
Jane Eisner, SPLC Board Chair
Attorney Frank D. LoMonte, who has led the Student Press LawCenter since January 2008, is leaving the SPLC effective July 31 to join the Universityof Florida College of Journalism and Communications, where he will head the JosephL. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information as a Professor of Journalism.
LoMonte will succeed Sandra L. Chanceas director of the Brechner Center, which since its founding in 1986has served as a source of research, advocacy and public assistance, with aparticular focus on open-government laws in Florida. UF journalism dean DianeMcFarlin said the Center, under LoMonte’s direction, will have a broadermission incorporating the full range of media-law issues nationallyaffecting how news is gathered and distributed, including issues raised byevolving technologies.
During LoMonte’s nine-year tenure at the SPLC, major new programminginitiatives included:
- Organizing the “Tinker Tour,” a nationwide FirstAmendment awareness tour featuring civil-liberties icon Mary Beth Tinker, whichduring the 2013-14 school year reached more than 200,000 people across 31states.
- Leading the charge to enact reform legislationprotecting students and educators against institutional retaliation for theirjournalistic work. The “New Voices” movement has resulted in enactment offortified legal protections in Illinois, Maryland and North Dakota, with billspending in 11 states, and has left behind student-led grassroots organizationsin each state to keep watch over abuses of journalists’ rights.
- Launching the Active Voice project to raiseawareness of the impact of school censorship on leadership developmentopportunities for young women, and creating a paid fellowship program forcollege undergraduates across the country to design replicable “press freedomservice projects” amplifying the voices of young women in their communities.
- Harnessing the SPLC’s journalistic talent tocreate original investigative reporting focusing on issues of school andcollege transparency, including the 2014 “Campus Insecurity” series publishedin The Columbus Dispatch thatcaptured top national honors from the Society of Professional Journalists andthe AP Managing Editors.
“I’m excited and inspired by Dean McFarlin’s vision that theBrechner Center can serve as the nation’s preeminent source of scholarship identifyingthe barriers that inhibit journalism, mapping the way toward solutions, andbringing together the stakeholders who can make change,” LoMonte said. “I seethis move as a continuation of the leadership role that the SPLC has taken increating the New Voices campaign to reform state laws to protect studentjournalists, a movement that’s been nationally recognized as a model for how toadvance the rights of journalists even in challenging times. I plan to bringthat same approach to my work at Brechner, and to continue being the #1cheerleader for New Voices and all of the SPLC’s initiatives.”
LoMonte said the move comes at an opportune time for theSPLC because of its especially strong and engaged Board leadership, increasingfinancial stability, and carefully considered five-year Strategic Plan, all ofwhich will optimally position the new Executive Director to succeed.
Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward and chair of the SPLC’s Board of Directors, said anationwide search for a replacement is already underway and the Center isconfident of having a highly qualified leader in place by Aug. 1 to ensure aseamless transition. Eisner said the Center is fortunate to have a deeplytalented staff, including longtime staff attorney Mike Hiestand, to continueproviding responsive service to the thousands of students and educators whodepend on the SPLC as their “general counsel’s office.”
“It’s hard to imagine the SPLC without Frank — except thathe’s leaving the organization as strong and as relevant as it’s ever been,”Eisner said. “Protecting the rights of journalists in high school and collegeis a driving passion for all of us, and I am thrilled that Frank will remaininvolved with SPLC from his new position at the Brechner Center. I know thatthe First Amendment will continue to have a smart, analytical, and tireless championin Florida and beyond.”
LoMonte said working with the SPLC’s board, staff,volunteers and constituents has been “the most fulfilling professionalexperience of a lifetime,” and noted that the SPLC has been through manyevolutions in structure and leadership during its 43-year history, but has alwaysremained strong, vibrant and relevant.
“The culture of the SPLC is unique among legal-services andpress-freedom organizations, because no one needing help is ever turned away.We don’t cherry-pick our cases and we don’t brag about our victories. We almostalways do our work quietly and behind-the-scenes, because that’s safest for theteachers and students whose safety is our only concern,” LoMonte said. “Theintegrity of that culture is what differentiates the Student Press Law Center fromall other civil-liberties and press-freedom organizations. That integrity is what our supportersvalue, and that will endure no matter who puts on the cape next.”
“Of everything we’ve accomplished during these nine years –laws passed, court cases won – I’m most proud of the difference we’ve made inthe lives of thousands of teachers and students who’ve called for help whenthey felt like nobody else was on their side,” he said. “I’ll remember thetransgender student in Louisiana whose high school was going to exclude himfrom the yearbook for being ‘too controversial.’ I’ll remember the teacher inMissouri who came within hours of being fired because his students challengedtheir college’s deceptive crime reporting. I’ll remember that the SPLC turned those situationsaround, and hundreds more like them, giving hope to people when things seemedmost hopeless. And I’ll remember the genuine gratitude that people always wentout of their way to show. Just the other day, a teacher stopped me at aworkshop in New York and said, ‘You’ve saved my job at least three times.’ As apublic-interest lawyer, you can’t ask for any greater reward than that.”
Since 1974, theStudent Press Law Center has been devoted to educating high school and collegejournalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the FirstAmendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issuesfree from censorship. More information is online at: www.splc.org.