Society of Professional Journalists praises the SPLC's New Voices initiative

The Society of Professional Journalists published a resolution Sept. 15 commending a Student Press Law Center initiative to pass legislative protections for student journalists.

The initiative, New Voices, is a grassroots movement to get state legislatures to pass specific legal protections for high school and college journalists. 13 states so far have already passed New Voices laws and many others have pending legislation.

Sonny Albarado, SPJ Resolutions Chair, wrote in an email to the SPLC that “the New Voices campaign has worked miracles in getting legislatures around the country to recognize the rights of student journalists.”

SPJ, founded in 1909, describes itself as “the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.” It has approximately 7,500 members and maintains a widely referenced code of ethics.

The resolution, which was approved at SPJ’s annual Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, Calif., reads as follows:

In praise of New Voices

WHEREAS the Student Press Law Center has since 2015 created volunteer coalitions across the United States called New Voices to expand the free press guarantees of the First Amendment to student journalists and the student press at the high school and college level;

WHEREAS, as SPLC noted in its grant report to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, “the need for New Voices has grown more urgent after the heated anti-media rhetoric of the last national political campaign;

WHEREAS the New Voices effort yielded resounding success in 2017, resulting in freedom of the student press being guaranteed by law in Nevada, Vermont and Rhode Island;

WHEREAS North Dakota expanded the protections of its 2015 free student press law by enacting another law adding protection for student media advisers from retaliation;

WHEREAS the 2017 legislative action in these states followed similar laws in Illinois and Maryland and brought to 13 the number of states with statutes or education codes that protect student journalists’ right of free expression;

WHEREAS the American Bar Association House of Delegates unanimously endorsed support for the movement for prohibiting the censorship of student journalism;

WHEREAS these victories could not have been accomplished without the organizing and legal expertise of the Student Press Law Center and its grassroots volunteers;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Society of Professional Journalists, meeting in convention in Anaheim, California on September 9, 2017, commends the work of the SPLC and its former executive director Frank LoMonte for their untiring efforts to undo the ill effects of the 1988 Hazelwood decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Society endorses the continued efforts of the SPLC and its new executive director, Hadar Harris, to take the fight for student free expression to all 50 states.

In recent years, New Voices campaigns have picked up momentum. This year, New Voices legislation passed in Vermont, Nevada and Rhode Island, which also became the first state to include legal protections for student journalists at private schools and colleges. In 2016, New Voices legislation took effect in Maryland and Illinois.

In August of this year, the American Bar Association, prompted by its Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, unanimously supported a New Voices resolution.

The SPLC has written extensively about New Voices. Read more about it here.

SPLC staff writer Samuel Breslow can be reached by email or at (202) 974-6318.

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