Bringing New Voices to Florida

While getting legislation in during the 2018 legislative year didn’t happen, there are supporters in Florida who are looking forward to bringing it to next year’s legislative session. Part of that hope comes from the fact that there are many other states, like New York and New Jersey, who have introduced New Voices legislation.

I’m still confident Florida can be the first state in the southeast to bring New Voices to the state. Part of that confidence stems from the many supporters from the east and west coasts.

For instance, I spent some time talking to Christiana Lilly, chapter president of Florida Society of Professional Journalists who lives on the east coast of Florida. Christiana is a strong proponent of student rights; she’s heard firsthand the type of censorship they face. Down below is a video of a Q&A session I did with her about the stories students have told her, and what our readers and audience can do to support New Voices.

Over in the Tampa Bay area is Gretchen Letterman, the program coordinator for the journalism magnet program in Pinellas County Public Schools System. Through this program, students from kindergarten to high school seniors can actually go through a certification program as they take journalism classes. That means students as young as 6 are learning the skills of asking open-ended questions and the five W’s. I had the opportunity to sit down with Gretchen and ask her about some of the stories her high schoolers have told. One of them is the story of students at Lakewood High School who, after seven young adults in their community were shot and killed, decided to do an interactive piece with data journalists from the Tampa Bay Times to map where the men were killed. They created a map where you could find out about the young men, and Gretchen told me the students are actually up for a prestigious award because of their work. You can check out the video I did with Gretchen below and the project by the high schoolers here.

Ultimately, it’s pretty well-known that restoring the rights that were restricted by the Hazelwood case is past due. We saw on #CureHazelwood Day that the stories that can be told are sometimes censored. But here in Florida, it’s particularly important since we have a large field of media outlets. Additionally, our Sunshine laws, which allow for public access to government meetings and public records, mean there’s a lot of journalism going on.

Stay on the look out for more updates from me. I have a story coming out about a high school student who says she was told by her principal that she couldn’t write anything that would make the school or him look bad, as well as a video interview with the former director of the Student Press Law Center, Frank LoMonte.

Melissa Gomez is an Active Voice fellow. She studies journalism at the University of Florida.