Students around the country join op-ed campaign advocating for student press freedom

As part of Student Press Freedom Day, the kickoff event of Year of the Student Journalist, students around the country published op-eds about the importance of a free student press. More than 50 student publications have published so far and more are jumping in all the time.

The messages behind these opinion pieces — the value of journalism education and the threats to student press freedom — are so important, and yet so little understood in most communities, that we’ve decided to continue the campaign throughout 2019 as part of the Year of the Student Journalist.

Join us! Write an op-ed about student press freedom and email the link to pubfellow@splc.org with the subject line “Student Press Freedom Op-Ed.” If you need some ideas, jump below. And don’t forget to tag @splc on Twitter and use #StudentPressFreedom.

Topic ideas for op-eds:

  • Student journalism is civics education —Student journalism empowers young people to ask questions of people in authority and teaches them to find information, access resources, and think critically. Young journalists learn hard skills like interviewing as well as fundamentals like how municipal governments work.
  • How has your student news organization made an impact in the community? Telling personal stories can help connect with your local audience and set your op-ed apart from others we receive. You can talk about an important story you broke, ways you develop sources or verify information, times your stories led to real change, etc. Your audience should know that student journalists break stories that have significant impact in the community.
  • New Voices — Do you live in a state that protects the legal rights of student journalists through New Voices legislation? If so, write about important stories you were able to pursue because of that protection. If not, write about how New Voices legislation could positively impact your student newsroom and by extension your community. Would you be able to write that story you’ve always been too worried to pursue? Would your adviser have more protections. Are you at a private school where certain topics are completely off the table for reporters? See New Voices Talking Points and FAQs for inspiration.
  • Are you helping fill news deserts — Has your publication stepped up to fill the void left by shrinking local media? How? Maybe you find student reporters are the only ones attending municipal meetings or covering big changes on campus. Let people know about the important service that student journalists provide when there are no professional outlets on the beat.
  • Advisers at Risk — One of the most pressing concerns facing student journalism is retaliation against their advisers. Write about how much your adviser means to you, and what you’ve learned from them. Then talk about the issue of retaliation and the need for protections against retaliatory reassignments, firings, or other punishments for standing up for students’ First Amendment rights. Warning: if your adviser is currently under threat of retaliation your op-ed could endanger their position, especially if they are involved in crafting/editing it. If that’s the case, please contact SPLC’s legal hotline
  • Censorship — The most urgent calls that come into the SPLC legal hotline involve censorship. Try writing about your own censorship experience, or the stories you were able to write because you weren’t censored. This can tie in to New Voices or Advisers at Risk. Here’s SPLC’s guide to responding to censorship for some tips. You can also check SPLC’s news stories for recent stories about high school and college censorship incidents around the country. 

Want to join the campaign? Email a link to your op-ed to pubfellow@splc.org with the subject line “Student Press Freedom Op-Ed.” And don’t forget to tag @splc on Twitter and use #StudentPressFreedom.