The Student Press Law Center is excited to honor the Indiana Daily Student and its reporter Cate Charron and the staff of The Battalion at Texas A&M University with the organization’s 2022 awards for outstanding courage in collegiate journalism and student press freedom advocacy.
SPLC presented the awards on Friday, Oct. 28, at the MediaFest 22 conference in Washington, D.C. The recipients were selected by an advisory committee of journalists and journalism educators, including Logan Aimone, journalism teacher at University of Chicago Laboratory High School and SPLC board member; Ellen Austin, retired high school journalism teacher; Candace Perkins Bowen, director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University; Steven Holmes, former executive director of standards and practices at CNN and SPLC board member; and Hadar Harris, SPLC executive director.
“Both honorees signify the very best of student journalism, but also the significant challenges college journalists face in telling the stories of their campus and community,” Harris said.
Reveille Seven Courage in Student Journalism Award
The Indiana Daily Student and reporter Cate Charron received the 2022 Reveille Seven Courage in Student Journalism Award for her six-month investigation into why Indiana University did not abide by its 2016 disciplinary ruling against a music student who was found responsible for sexually harassing another student. The investigation also explored how the music school’s continued relationship with the assailant, in violation of its own policies, impacted other students’ feelings of safety.
Charron persevered in her reporting through a series of follow-up stories, despite IU’s refusal to release the student’s disciplinary records — an act Indiana’s Public Access Counselor said violated the state’s public records law. Charron’s bold reporting led to numerous letters to the editor, a community forum, and protests in which frustrated students voiced their demands that the university do more to protect sexual assault survivors.
“Cate Charron went to extraordinary lengths to cover Indiana University’s handling of this sexual assault and its long-lasting aftermath on campus, despite the university’s refusal to release important information,” Harris said. “It’s difficult to imagine a more important topic on campus than student safety. The community’s response to Cate’s bold journalism shows the essential role student journalists play in shining a light on how universities protect and discipline their students, and in holding universities responsible for their actions — or lack thereof.”
Charron said that, while reporting and working on the investigation, she was not doing the work for rewards, accolades or clips.
“I just wanted to do the best work I could to shine a spotlight on the misconduct weighing heavily on the Indiana jazz community and others involved,” Charron said. “I am so honored to be receiving this award, especially considering the significant and historical strides of its namesake.”
The Reveille Seven Courage in Student Journalism Award is awarded annually to a college news organization or reporter who speaks truth to power and demonstrates outstanding reporting that makes an impact on their community. The Reveille Seven were a group of student journalists at Louisiana State University who were expelled in 1934 after publishing criticism of then Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Years later, they were cleared of all wrongdoing. The Reveille Seven College Press Freedom Award is presented in partnership with the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University and the Associated Collegiate Press. LSU also provides a $2,000 prize to the winner.
Student Press Freedom Award
The staff of The Battalion at Texas A&M University, former editor-in-chief Myranda Campanella and former adviser Doug Pils received the 2022 Student Press Freedom Award for their efforts to maintain their editorial independence after the university attempted to shutter The Battalion’s 129-year-old print edition. The award, in its inaugural year, recognizes bold advocacy to protect student press freedom.
In February 2022, University President M. Katherine Banks announced, without notice, that The Battalion, which was established in 1893, would immediately cease its print edition. She explained that it would help students focus on their digital journalism skills.
The staff broke the news in an online story, promising to print its next edition — which it did. The Battalion staff led a broad advocacy effort, working with campus readers, Battalion alumni, fellow journalists, SPLC and other journalism organizations highlighting the fear for the staff’s editorial independence and seeking to preserve the historic newspaper. The administration quickly backed down, the paper continued to print, and the administration created a working group to study any potential changes moving forward.
In a 10-page print edition declaring “Print is Not Dead,” the staff vowed not to allow the university to control their content or the platforms through which they reported to the campus community. In the following weeks, the staff continued their tradition of bold reporting, including an in-depth investigation into how a shadowy group of alumni and influential policymakers wielded influence among A&M administrators. One document the staff uncovered through the investigation quoted the group’s founder calling for a number of areas on campus that needed “cleaning up,” including The Battalion.
“The Battalion staff showed tremendous courage in standing up to the university president to defend their First Amendment right to report on issues that matter,” Harris said. “Administrators at Texas A&M and elsewhere who wish to diminish their students’ voice are on notice: It won’t work.”
Doug Pils, former general manager of student media at Texas A&M and adviser to The Battalion, expressed his pride in the student journalists’ brave advocacy.
“This is such an amazing tribute to the student leaders and staffers who worked for The Battalion this past school year,” Pils said. “They stood tall at a time when it would have been easy to fold and just do what they were told to do. They fought for their right to be the decision-makers about their future and it’s a fight they continue as Texas A&M makes changes and improvements to the journalism program and reinstated degree.”
SPLC’s Student Press Freedom Award is a new honor in 2022 to recognize college journalists for brave advocacy on behalf of a free student press.
Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has worked to support, promote and defend the First Amendment and freedom of expression rights of student journalists at the high school and college level, and the advisers who support them. The SPLC is an independent, non-profit 501c(3) organization based in Washington, D.C.