SPLC Summer Media Law & Policy Institute

June 15 – July 15, 2021. Online.

Jump to:
• Meet the 2021 Participants
Participant Testimonials
Last Year’s Institute

About the Institute

The 2021 SPLC Summer Media Law & Policy Institute is a five-week online training institute which will explore the legal framework and emerging issues of law, ethics and policy surrounding media law and press freedom. The Institute will run online from June 15 to July 15 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

The Institute will not only focus on substantive law, but will also examine how law works in practice, grappling with questions of ethics, policy and advocacy. Taught by media law experts from across the country, most days will be structured with a combination of lectures, discussions with practitioners and interactive exercises. Each day will consist of a 75-minute session and will be taught via Zoom. Students will participate in an advocacy skills workshop, and during the final week of the Institute, students will participate in a Moot Court competition judged by a prestigious panel. 

Although the Institute will be taught online, the number of participants will be capped to maximize student participation. Each workshop will provide an opportunity to interact and network with well-known media lawyers, policy experts, academics and journalists. Participants will be expected to complete roughly one hour of reading per night. They will also prepare a closed-packet moot court brief and oral argument. At this point, academic credit for the program cannot be conferred; however each participant who successfully completes the course will be given a certificate of participation.

Students will graduate from the Institute with a deeper knowledge of a range of media law issues. They will also have a written brief that can be used as writing sample, a network in the field of media law and a practical understanding of key legal and ethical issues of our time.

Topics will include: 

  • Introduction to the First Amendment 
  • Media Law 101
  • Open Government and Access to Information
  • Libel, Slander and Defamation
  • Student Press Freedom
  • Threats to Press Freedom
  • Global Hot Topics: Data Privacy and Tech
  • Protecting Press Freedom through Litigation, Policy or Advocacy 
  • Media Law from the Perspective of Journalists

Who is eligible to participate?

Applications from current law students, 2021 law school graduates, and advanced undergraduates with a strong interest in law school will be considered. We are looking for students with a demonstrated interest in media law. Students from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.


Tuition is $500 for the entire Institute. Generous scholarships are available. Ability to pay tuition should not be a deterrent to applying to and participating in the program. 

Deadline to apply

Applications closed Monday, May 10, 2021. Applicants were notified of their acceptance into the program. 

Meet the 2021 Institute Participants

Sophie Gordon currently works as the Marketing Manager for iCivics, the U.S.’s premier non-profit civic education provider. Her previous work includes marketing for a major international law firm, content creation for small and large businesses, and working as an intern and Active Voice Fellow with the Student Press Law Center. Sophie received her B.A. in journalism and philosophy from Ball State University and has had a strong interest in media law and the First Amendment since learning about media ethics in middle school. She is now passionate about protecting the rights of students and increasing their civic engagement.

I’m Seth Canada (he/ him), a rising senior at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. An individualized major, I take courses in journalism, communications, law, business and theater. I believe trans characters should be played only by trans actors to tell trans stories accurately. Similarly, the press should do better at giving voice to people living in the margins.

During my first and second years at Point Park University, I wrote news and features articles for the campus newspapers. I interned as a paralegal at the Law Office of Irena Karpinski in the summer of 2019. As a FreeState Justice intern this past spring, I got a chance to combine my journalistic skills with my knowledge of the laws impacting LGBTQ+ community, by writing blog posts for FSJ’s website.

I’m currently preparing to apply for law school, hoping to enroll in a JD program in 2022. Having had many personal adventures, I can talk my head off about my cycling journey across 10 states (4,262+ miles) in 2016. I miss the 98-pound person I was then, primarily eating plant-based foods.

Candra R. Jackson is a rising third-year Law student at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. As a first-generation law student, Jackson has made it her mission to diversify the legal profession and shatter the glass ceilings within the practice of Intellectual Property Law. During her first year of law school, Jackson earned best opening statement honors in the Ben Frantz Competition and was awarded a highly competitive Summer Fellowship through the Sacramento County Bar Association. The summer fellowship is dedicated to promoting and increase diversity within the Sacramento legal community and is committed to providing diverse students with an opportunity to work in a law firm. As a second-year law student, Jackson competed with the McGeorge’s Mock Trial Team. She advocated with the Black Law Students Law Association and Unity Caucus to amplify the voices and experiences of BIPOC students on campus to further the University’s diversity initiatives and pledge against anti-racism.

At the McGeorge School of Law, Jackson serves in various leadership roles such as President of the Black Law Student Association, Treasurer of the Unity Caucus, and President of the Intellectual Property Student Association and is proud of her civic engagement as a member of the Black Women Organized for Political Action, Sacramento Chapter. Her passions align at the intersection between social justice and innovation, and she plans to build her career around providing resources to underrepresented groups of people and businesses with a passion for creative expression and innovation.

Alexis Masciarella is an incoming student at the University of Miami Law School as part of the 3+3 Joint Degree Program and Honors Track of the Joint J.D./LL.M. Degree in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Program. She was raised in Lighthouse Point, Florida and majored in Religious Studies at the University of Miami. Throughout her undergraduate years, she worked as a journalist for The Miami Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, and The Miami New Times. Her interests lie in protecting journalists who face retaliation for coverage perceived as unfavorable to those in power.

“Hi everyone! My name is Haley Spiewak, and I am a senior at Southern Illinois University majoring in Public Relations with minors in Journalism and Political Science. I have previously interned with the Walt Disney Company and look forward to attending law school after my undergrad. I am excited to be joining the SPLC team and cannot wait to learn more about media law!”

 My name is Courtney Pedersen. I am a rising senior at Central Michigan University majoring in journalism with a minor in legal studies. I serve as an editor for Central Michigan Life, the student-run newspaper on campus. Currently, I am an intern for WCMU Public Radio and the Leelanau Enterprise. After graduation, I hope to start work as a journalist to report on the truth of the government. Ultimately, my goal is to work to reform Freedom of Information Act laws and promote the importance of transparency.

Hello, my name is Lana Wynn. I am originally from southeastern Oklahoma and graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in journalism in 2019. After completing my undergraduate degree, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to work as a digital producer for the USA Today Network. Witnessing the variety of issues surrounding our First Amendment protections in a digital age inspired me to help solve these problems on the legal front. This fall, I will begin law school with plans to pursue a career in media and First Amendment law.

My name is Julia Dacy, and I am a rising 2L at George Washington University Law School. I grew up in suburban Chicago and graduated from The University of Denver in 2018. I’ve been interested in media law since my time as a high school journalist and am currently working as an intern for NPR in the Office of the General Counsel. I grew up in a family of reporters and witnessed first-hand the importance of the fourth estate. I look forward to learning how best to support and protect journalists against continued threats to our free press. 

Chase Leslie In the fall I will start my first semester at Wake Forest Law. During my undergrad at Texas Christian University where I earned a degree in political science and a second major in News and Media Studies, I found a passion for media law. Away from school, I worked for two campaigns: one as a field intern for a local Texas Senate campaign and another as a finance intern for a NC Senate campaign. Because I grew up in Raleigh, I am excited to be back to North Carolina and look forward to continuing my education at Wake.

My name is Allison White. I’m an incoming law student at Baylor University School of Law. I am originally from Houston, Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II Honors with Special Honors and Government. I am interested in learning more about the intersection of law, media, and government. I am particularly interested in combining my interest in constitutional freedoms such as freedom of press with law.

Christine Hanon is a 2023 J.D. candidate at the U.C. Davis School of Law in California, with an interest in First Amendment law, telecommunications, and related civil rights issues. Before coming to law school, she worked as a full-time journalist writing and editing for both local and national newspapers, including for the Northern California Community Newspapers and the Los Angeles Times. 

Since 2016, she has taught Introduction to Digital Communications and more recently Social Media for Communicators to masters students in the Online Masters Program at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.

Christine received her M.A. in Magazine, Newspaper and Online Journalism in 2015 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse. In 2014, she received her B.A. in Communication and B.M. in Flute Performance at Washington State University. She is also a 2016 Journalism Fellow in the Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE).

When she’s not working, you can find her running trails with her catahoula leopard dog, Gryffin.

Hello! My name is Jacob Messer. I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hoping to attend law school after graduation. I was born and raised in the Charlotte, NC metropolitan area, and there I was exposed to some of the best local journalism has to offer. As a journalism major in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, I have always had a strong interest in storytelling and breaking down information, turning it into something more conversational and make it easier to understand. Journalists have to be conscious of the law because, like the field itself, it is always changing. I cannot wait to combine my interest in the law and journalism into a career!

My name is Taylor Bunch and I am a junior studying Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. I’m originally from Warsaw, Missouri but currently live in Columbia attending the University of Missouri. Although I haven’t begun law school, I’ve been driven toward a career in law for most of my life. When I began my undergraduate studies, I found a deep interest in First Amendment law. I’m looking forward to growing both academically and professionally throughout the course of the institute!

Onnaedo (Onna) Nwankwo I am a rising 3L at Seattle University School of Law. During my undergraduate studies, I attended The University of Texas at Austin, where I received a Bachelor of Science in Economics.  After a few close family members fell ill, I decided to pursue a BSN at The University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston.

 I have served as the President of the Health Law Society and Vice president of the International Law Society. I currently produce and co-host “2Legit”, a podcast for non-traditional law students. 

I have a great passion for bridging the gap of healthcare disparities between marginalized communities and using media as a vehicle for change.  

Kalaya Sibley is a Dallas, Texas native. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the historical Dillard University, where she will be a third-year Mass Communications major, Political Science minor, Pre-Law. During her matriculation at Dillard University, she has exhibited academic excellence whilst being active on campus. As a first-year student, she served as a contributor to Dillard University’s Newspaper, the Courtbouillon, where she has written several articles regarding various topics. Currently, Kalaya serves as the Student Government Association Vice President for the 2021-2022 school year, a member of the Advocacy & Adjudication committee for the Sexual Assault Task Force, and a fellow for the In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Kalaya has a passion for advocacy of basic human rights and communications. She aspires to attend law school post-graduation with hopes to intersect both her media and legal education, and eventually pursue a career in media law. Kalaya lives by her favorite African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Participant Testimonials

Apply now:

Applying is a simple two step process. First, fill out our application form. Then, have someone submit a recommendation on your behalf. Applications closed May 10, 2021. Selected participants will be notified.


Are scholarships available?  Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, scholarships are available. Ability to pay tuition should not be a deterrent to applying to or participating in the Institute.

Is the Institute appropriate for law students? Yes. The Institute will be taught at a level appropriate for law students. Students from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. 

I’m not in law school, can I still apply?  Yes. The Institute will be taught at a level appropriate for law students but motivated undergrads with an interest in law are also eligible to participate. We are looking for students with demonstrated interest in media law. Students from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. 

How will the Moot Court Competition work? At the end of the first week of the Institute, students will be given the Moot Court problem and a closed research packet. Outside research will not be required. Each student will be assigned to a team, and each team will draft and submit a written brief and prepare an oral argument which will be presented during the last week of the Institute. A prestigious panel of media lawyers and judges will judge the final round of the Moot Court.  

How will each day be structured? Each day will consist of one 75-minute session and will be taught via Zoom. Most days will be structured with a combination of lectures, discussions with practitioners and interactive exercises.  

Can I get school credit for the Institute? No. At this point, academic credit for the program cannot be conferred, but each participant who successfully completes the course will be given a certificate of participation.

How much additional work will there be? Participants will be assigned approximately one hour of reading per evening. In addition, students will work in teams to prepare a written brief and oral arguments for the Moot Court Competition which will take place during the last week of the Institute. 

Will the Institute be worth my time and money? Definitely. This first-of-its-kind Institute will provide motivated students with an excellent opportunity to grapple with cutting-edge issues in media law and explore some of the struggles that journalists and media lawyers are dealing with today. The Institute will be fun and interactive and will provide you with an important and prestigious credential as you continue your education and engage in your eventual job search. 

Learn more about the 2020 Institute:

2020 marked the inaugural year of SPLC’s Summer Media Law and Policy Institute. Meet the participants from our inaugural year and read about the moot court results.

The moot court competition is a chance for students to apply what they’ve learned over the course of the Institute in an exciting competition judged by an impressive panel of legal experts, including circuit and district court judges.

In 2020, Students were asked to evaluate whether a public university violated the First Amendment rights of two student journalists when they attempted to cover a story on campus. The students had to write a 10-page brief on the issues and compete in several rounds of oral argument before media law practitioners and judges.