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Mapping college newspaper thefts

(10/05/12 11:40am)

Newspaper theft is never funny — but sometimes you have to laugh at the ridiculous lengths some people will go to censor the news. There's the Binghamton student who justified trashing 50 copies of The Binghamton Review by saying he had obtained signed permission from students who "donated" their copies to him to trash. There's The Gatepost at Framingham State College, where 1,000 copies were trashed after the paper ran a photo front-page of students at a lacrosse game with their friend's name (a lacrosse player) written on their midriffs.

Memphis journalist and College Press Freedom Award winner tells her story

(11/06/12 1:55pm)

Saturday afternoon the SPLC had the privilege of honoring The Daily Helmsman and its editor-in-chief, Chelsea Boozer, who are this year's College Press Freedom Award winners. Over the last few months, Boozer and Helmsman managing editor Christopher Whitten endured repeated harassment by campus police at the University of Memphis for the paper's reporting about campus rapes and their criticism of the police department's failure to notify students in a timely manner. Then, the paper successfully fought back an attempt by a student fee committee to cut the paper's budget by 33 percent — disproportionate with cuts to student organizations, and in response to some committee members' dislike of the paper's coverage.

SUNY Oswego student threatened with expulsion for reporting says he may reconsider going into journalism

(11/15/12 2:46pm)

We wrote yesterday about a SUNY Oswego student who was threatened with expulsion for an email interview he attempted for a journalism class assignment. Alex Myers is a foreign exchange student from Australia spending his semester at the New York school. He was writing a profile on SUNY Oswego men's hockey coach Ed Gosek for class and contacted three other coaches for input.

Connecticut school board reprimands member for writing letters to the editor about positive school news

(11/15/12 2:48pm)

It's not unusual to hear of students being censored. But school board members? According to The Register Citizen in Connecticut, the Torrington Board of Education met in closed session to order a fellow school board member to stop writing letters to the editor. What sparked the school board's crackdown has apparently been traced back to the weekly letters written by board member Vincent Merola, who wanted to share positive stories about the school district. That's right: Merola wanted more attention for positive stories about the school district. According to reports in the Register, the board used a sketchy justification to call the closed session related to Merola's conduct.

#Freetotweet? Across much of America, students' online freedoms are under assault.

(12/01/12 3:14pm)

Two events serendipitously collided today in the world of free speech: (1) The First Amendment advocacy organization, 1forAll, launched its Twitter campaign, #freetotweet, offering a $5,000 scholarship prize rewarding young people for creative and inspiring posts about free expression. (2) In North Carolina, it became less free for young people to tweet than ever before. The ability to use the Web to speak without fear of government reprisal is, in many corners of America, a distant and fading promise. There is no freedom to tweet in Indiana, where a high school senior was expelled -- expelled! -- for a junior-grade George Carlin joke on his personal Twitter account that riffed on the versatility of profanity. There is no freedom to tweet in Minnesota, where -- thanks to the University of Minnesota's recent victory in a state Supreme Court case -- you can be kicked out of college for making jokes online that, in the college's view, indicate unfitness for your chosen profession. There is no freedom to tweet in Illinois, where at least 10 students were suspended for involvement in an off-campus Twitter post calling a teacher sexy -- one for writing the post, others for "retweeting" it, and others for protesting the original discipline.

Hazelwood turns 25: Five simple ways you can make sure it never turns 50

(01/06/13 2:13pm)

A movie of trained fighting dogs ripping each other to pieces. Ten million dollars from an undisclosed source dumped into a special-interest ad campaign to sway the outcome of an election. A padded resumé falsely claiming credit for military heroism. A video game in which players tear the limbs off their opponents, then beat them to death with the blood-soaked stumps. "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" hate-speech signs waved outside of a military funeral. A newspaper editorial advocating the defeat of a school board candidate who supports banning books. The Supreme Court thinks one of these is unprotected by the First Amendment. If you guessed it was the editorial, then you are likely either (a) a federal judge or (b) a victim of Hazelwood justice. This coming Sunday marks 25 years since the Supreme Court confined America's young people to a constitutional underclass in Hazelwood School District v.

Supreme Court justices' papers give some hints about how Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier came to be

(01/09/13 6:25pm)

Education Week's Mark Walsh, a veteran Supreme Court reporter who deeply understands education law, is just out with a fascinating look behind the scenes at how the high court arrived at the First Amendment legal standard that governs much of the speech taking place in schools (and, increasingly, in colleges). The entire piece is well worth reading, but it's particularly enlightening for the nuggets Walsh was able to unearth from the papers of Justices Byron White, author of the majority opinion in Hazelwood School District v.

Colorado student shares his experience confronting and overcoming censorship

(01/10/13 12:02pm)

In conjunction with the approaching 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's pro-censorship Hazelwood ruling, the following is a column written by Steve Marcantonio, a Colorado high school student journalist, sharing his recent experience with censorship and how he worked with administrators to overcome it. With a familiar feeling of excitement and accomplishment, I looked at the latest issue of my school’s newspaper and flipped it open to the page that I knew would contain my name in bold print, next to the title of Editor-in-Chief.

Former Famuan editors start "underground" online publication, Ink and Fangs

(01/14/13 1:15pm)

This weekend, former editors of The Famuan at Florida A&M University launched an underground website,, to distribute news during a suspension of the paper's publishing by the journalism school's dean. Karl Etters, who had been serving as editor-in-chief of The Famuan before being told last week that he would have to reapply for his job, said the staff of about 10 made the decision to create the site because they feel it's important to continue covering the campus. The Famuan's first issue of the semester was to have been published today, but staff learned last week that journalism dean Ann Kimbrough was suspending publication until staff completed training.

Student media speak up in defense of exiled Famuan staff

(01/17/13 8:10pm)

In the week and a half since the staff of The Famuan at Florida A&M University learned they could not publish the paper as planned without taking part in additional training and reapplying for their position, student journalists at newspapers across the country have spoken up in defense of the Famuan staff in several strongly worded editorials and columns. Over at The Arizona Daily Wildcat, Editor-in-Chief Kristina Bui criticized the decision by FAMU administrators to shut down the paper's printing after the filing of a libel lawsuit against the paper last month.

FAMU journalism division director speaks out about Famuan situation

(01/24/13 12:14pm)

As I mentioned in my Wednesday story, journalism administrators have been pretty tight-lipped since news broke that the school's dean had suspended publishing of The Famuan while requiring editors to reapply for their positions and attend training sessions. This morning, I heard back from Valerie White, the director of the school's journalism division.

Newly hired Famuan editor wants to repair relationship between paper and students

(01/24/13 5:32pm)

The newly hired editor of The Famuan at Florida A&M University said Thursday afternoon that she hopes to improve the relationship between students and the newspaper during her term, which will kick off officially next week when the paper begins printing after a two-week suspension by the school's journalism dean. The school hasn't made a formal announcement yet, but senior Angie Meus confirmed the news and said she was in the process of hiring the rest of her staff. Meus applied for the position after Dean Ann Kimbrough reopened the application process, forcing current editors to reapply for their positions and inviting others to apply as well.

Court cites Hazelwood to defend school's removal of religious reference

(02/13/13 7:17pm)

As co-president of the Taconic Hills Middle School student council, an eighth grade student had a warm message to share with her classmates at the school’s annual “Moving Up” ceremony in June 2009. “As we say our goodbyes and leave middle school behind, I say to you, may the LORD bless you and keep you; make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." But a decision issued last month from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York defended the New York school district’s right to remove that very closing line from the unnamed student’s speech.

Federal rulings in Florida, Michigan push back against Hazelwood's advancing tide

(06/25/13 9:00am)

When a student voices a personal opinion during school -- even during class -- that opinion is entitled to a high degree of First Amendment protection, and it may neither be proscribed nor punished absent concrete evidence that it provoked a disruptive reaction or was imminently likely to do so. That has been the law for some 44 years, since the Supreme Court decided Tinker v.

Florida state trooper responsible for University of North Florida newspaper theft

(07/26/13 3:30pm)

Last month, we reported on the theft of thousands of newspapers at the University of North Florida. At the time, editors and police hadn't yet determined who was responsible for the theft, some of which was captured on surveillance video. Now, the paper has learned that a state trooper with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has admitted responsibility for at least some the thefts. According to reports in The Spinnaker, UNF police recognized one of the two men in the video as a highway patrol officer, and contacted Florida Highway Patrol.