Bold student journalists take action on Student Press Freedom Day

Bold Journalism. Brave Advocacy. Student Press Freedom Day

Student journalists need support now more than ever” 
I am a student and activist. I won’t be silenced” 
Student journalists are journalists, full stop 

This Student Press Freedom Day, bold and brave student journalists came together to make headlines and make their voices heard. Across the U.S. (and Canada and Thailand!) they celebrated and took action for Student Press Freedom Day 2023.

These students hosted workshops, wrote op-eds, led panel discussions, advocated for change, and even baked cookies to raise funds for student press freedom!

I have never seen anything like the level of enthusiasm from students this year.”

Each year, the Student Press Law Center organizes Student Press Freedom Day as an annual nationwide event to celebrate student journalists’ important work, raise awareness of censorship and other press freedom violations they face, and encourage them to take action to protect their First Amendment freedoms.  

This year, our theme was Bold Journalism, Brave Advocacy, highlighting the incredible work student journalists do every day, despite being routinely and unduly silenced.

Bold Journalism Brave Advocacy – Student Press Freedom

Danielle Dieterich, SPLC digital strategist, has coordinated Student Press Freedom Day since its inception in 2019. 

“In my five years helping to lead Student Press Freedom Day, I have never seen anything like the level of enthusiasm from students this year,” Dieterich said. “These student journalists know that their work is critically important, and they’re refusing to accept censorship. At a time when school officials and other community members are increasingly intimidating young people into silence, especially in schools, it’s truly awe-inspiring to see so many bold and brave student journalists advocating for their free press rights.”

Students Take Brave Action

Student journalists took action in a number of creative ways this year. Doing what they do best, they took to the press, writing op-eds about their experiences and reporting on the unjust challenges they face in their roles. Student newspapers held seminars with professional journalists as Keynote speakers, competed in student press freedom trivia and one newspaper even held a Student Press Freedom Day carnival at school.

​​I know the future of our country is bright because of [HBCU student journalists’] leadership

Vice President Kamala Harris

Student journalists’ voices were amplified in a major way at the White House, where reporters from historically Black colleges and universities across the country participated in a press briefing with Vice President Kamala Harris and Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms. 

“​​I know the future of our country is bright because of their leadership,” Harris tweeted afterward.

SPLC Leads the Way

In the months leading up to Student Press Freedom Day, SPLC hosted an array of events bringing together more than 200 students and advisers to connect with one another, learn about student press freedom issues and take action. 

The event series included a Student Press Freedom 101 workshop; the annual Op-Ed Boot Camp with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steven Holmes; a school district policy advocacy workshop; a student-led community forum on overcoming censorship; and two advocacy sessions with special guests Mary Beth Tinker (Tinker v. Des Moines) and Cathy Kuhlmeier (Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier).

SPLC’s four Student Press Freedom Day Student Co-ChairsAnna Colletto, Cate Charron, William Tong and Jessica Kim — each hosted Instagram Lives on Thursday, bringing viewers together to discuss student press freedom issues. They also reflected on the projects they’ve been developing for months, including unveiling a toolkit of legal guides for sports journalists and an ongoing landscape analysis of student journalists affected by “divisive concepts” laws. 

SPLC also paired 15 high school and collegiate journalists with professional journalists and educators for this year’s Op-Ed Coaching Program. They crafted op-eds about student press freedom, getting published in CNN, The Washington Post and other outlets across the U.S. 

Partners Take the Day to New Heights

This year, SPLC gathered more than 30 organizational partners — our largest ever group of Student Press Freedom partners — to widen the reach and increase the Day’s impact.

Using their unique expertise, partners hosted workshops on resisting censorship, filing FOIAs, digital security and more. Our friends at the Journalism Education Association, even designated a day of their Scholastic Journalism Week for Student Press Freedom Day.

Partners also recorded podcasts, hosted Twitter Spaces and produced video packages about student press freedom. 

Josh Moore, SPLC’s assistant director, said it has been inspiring to watch our partners take a stand for student press freedom. 

“Their varied vantage points, expertise and communities have made Student Press Freedom Day so much stronger, and we look forward to continuing to work with them throughout the year to support student journalists,” he said.

What’s Next?

Dieterich said that, while student journalists coming together on SPFD is an important way to celebrate and advocate for student journalists’ rights, this work extends beyond just 24 hours.

“Now that you’re pumped up about student press freedom — now that you’ve made new connections and developed your advocacy skills — now that you’ve learned more about your rights (and what laws and policies need to change!) — now is when you take everything that you’ve learned and use it to make change,” Dieterich said.

“Join your state’s New Voices coalition. Contact your legislator or school board. Stand up to censorship. And always remember, you’re not in this alone. SPLC, and this whole community, has your back.”