Guest post: Five Freedoms in the First

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Grace Lovejoy with her "Best of SNO" certificate.

Grace Lovejoy, a sophomore at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, is the features editor for the McIntosh Trail and participated in the 2023 New Voices Student Leaders Institute. She wrote an article for the Trail about her experiences at the Institute, “Five Freedoms in the First,” which was awarded the Trail’s first “Best of SNO” for this academic year. A version of her article below was originally published on the McIntosh Trail website.

For two weeks in July, the Trail’s Editor-in-Chief senior Rebekah Bushmire and Features Editor sophomore Grace Lovejoy played a role in the New Voices Student Leaders Institute run by The Student Press Law Center. This is Bushmire’s second year as a New Voices Student Leader, and this is Lovejoy’s first year.

“I think my favorite part of [New Voices] was being able to see not just me on the New Voices team for Georgia but also Grace on the team. It was really awesome to be able to see someone else from McIntosh being interested in protecting our rights,” Bushmire said.

Founded in 1974, The Student Press Law Center is an independent organization that supports and protects journalists’ and advisers’ press freedom rights and First Amendment rights. The staff contains journalists, lawyers and students all who are passionate about journalism. To further help journalists advocate for their state, the SPLC provides a lot of resources located on their website.

Mary Beth Tinker on Zoom.
Guest speaker Mary Beth Tinker spoke to the student press advocates on Zoom. She spoke with them as a group and one-on-one to hear their stories and to give advice on how they should handle situations. PHOTO: REBEKAH BUSHMIRE, MCINTOSH TRAIL.

“As a student, specifically, an underage student but even if you were in college, knowing your rights is one of the most important things you can do because if anything were to happen and you don’t know what you can do, you can be taken advantage of,” Bushmire said.

The New Voices Student Leaders Institute is a free national non-partisan program for high school student journalists to learn about student press freedom and rights and represent their state. Students met on Zoom for a week usually at the end of July. New Voices Student Leaders are able to share their ideas, learn about press freedom laws and discuss the New Voices movement and find the best plan of action to spread the word to the community.

“As soon as you’re made aware of your rights, and what you’re allowed to say no [and hold your ground to]… you’re able to start recognizing censorship,” Bushmire said.

New Voices Student Leader Emilia Viscarra was a part of the Georgia team with Bushmire and Lovejoy. Viscarra is a sophomore from Lake Oconee, Georgia. Viscarra believes that New Voices is important because everyone should have the right to voice their own opinion.

“My favorite part of New Voices was getting to connect and meet kids from all over America who had the same passions and interests as me,” Viscarra said.

New Voices Student Leaders were split into groups according to which state they were from. Each group brainstormed ideas on how to let their community know about the New Voices Movement. Some ways journalists can advocate for their state include campaigning for New Voices, contacting your state legislator and spreading the word about New Voices to friends, family, teachers etc.

[Knowing about New Voices makes] you become that much more powerful on your campus, and you’re able to protect your staff and your students.

– Rebekah Bushmire, Editor-in-Chief

New Voices Student Leaders, as well as Student Press Law Center staff and special guests, attend. Student Press Law Center staff and special guests join to teach Student Leaders about censorship and what they can do to make their community aware of the New Voices Movement.

“I think it’s important for my community to know about New Voices because as students, being censored feels like part of our journalism journey isn’t true,” Viscarra said.

The SPLC helps journalists and advisers fight unlawful censorship. They developed a legal hotline for journalists and advisers that seek legal help and guidance. The SPLC also provides a message system for journalists and advisers to ask SPLC attorneys legal questions.

“I think it’s important to have legal backup because as a high school student you don’t know everything, you lack the knowledge that a legal professional would have,” Bushmire said.

Learn more about how you can take action to restore and protect student press freedom in your state.