Feb. 26 marked Student Press Freedom Day 2021: Journalism Against the Odds. Weeks of events, new resources and community building activities culminated on that day with overwhelming nationwide support for a free student press. Students and advisers from all over the country joined together with SPLC and 20 partner organizations.
We hope you’re feeling energized and inspired, let’s use this momentum to push for student press freedom in all 50 states:
One of the key goals of Student Press Freedom Day is to educate and engage the general public on the struggles student journalists face and why it’s important to support student press freedom.
Each year, we’ve been able to reach more people with this message, but this year’s growth was exceptional. Not only were students able to place their op-eds in major publications like CNN.com and the Chicago Tribune, but a panel of student journalists made a live TV appearance on Good Day LA:
See the full list of op-eds and media appearances:
In early February, more than 200 students signed up for an op-ed boot camp with veteran CNN and New York Times journalist (and SPLC Board Member) Steven A. Holmes, who gave expert advice on how to effectively write and pitch op-eds. Students then were paired with expert coaches — including professionals from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the Online News Association — who helped take their pieces to the next level. With this support, many were able to place editorials in national, local and student newspapers.
Thanks to the generosity of production company GOOD DOCS and filmmaker Maribeth Romslo, the student media community was able to screen the documentary Raise Your Voice for free for three days. The film centers on the student journalists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived and then covered the Parkland shooting. Whole classes and even entire schools watched the film, sparking community-wide conversations about the role of student journalists in covering major stories.
Making change through New Voices
Student Press Freedom Day is a way to generate attention and showcase why students need state-based New Voices laws to protect their First Amendment rights.
Student New Voices advocates in New Jersey held a student town hall with four lawmakers in attendance. Attendees heard students’ firsthand accounts of intimidation and censorship. One state representitive said that was the first time she’d ever heard of “self-censorship,” a major concern where students don’t even attempt to write controversial or difficult stories for fear of reprisal. SPLC held a similar national student forum.
Other students recorded testimonials. Amisha Sethi, an Illinois high schooler, reminded people that the fight doesn’t end with passing a New Voices law. Her publication was censored despite Illinois’ law, and she and her staff had to work with the administration to change the district’s policy to adhere to the law and protect future students.
We were thrilled to see student journalists and their supporters deeply connect with each other this Student Press Freedom Day.
You shared the struggles you faced in the past year and how you practiced “Journalism Against the Odds” while dealing with COVID, an election year, major protests, student media’s financial crisis, censorship and more. You showcased stories you’re proudest of, and SPLC highlighted some of your great work.
Through events like our student journalism forum and by interacting on social media, you connected with students of all ages at all types of schools from all over the country, reassuring each other that you’re not alone and inspiring each other to pursue important stories.
The push for #studentpressfreedom continues year round, and won’t wait for Student Press Freedom Day 2022! Here are some things you can do right now:
- Get involved in New Voices in your state
- Write a story or op-ed about student press freedom: feel free to use SPLC’s new white paper breaking down censorship of student journalists in the past year
- Facing censorship? Contact SPLC’s legal hotline to learn how to fight back
- Fight budget cuts: use these budget advocacy tools for high school and college news outlets
- Financially support your local student newspaper: make a donation or become a subscriber