Magazine

'Publicly funded,' not publicly accountable

Delaware and Pennsylvania are the only states with open records exemptions for “publicly funded” or “state-related” universities — institutions that receive taxpayer dollars but receive a majority of their funding from private donors. The laws permit UD, Delaware State and four other institutions — University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University and Lincoln University — to limit what information the public has access to. Read more

Protections inconsistent for student journalists who withhold names of sources

Most journalists avoid using anonymous sources, with many schools discouraging it in nearly all situations. But student journalists often find that the only way to attack controversial or sensitive — but significant — issues in schools, is to turn to anonymous sources. Read more

FERPA amendment would establish ‘safeguards’ for student data privacy

As the prevalence of student data collection in educational institutions increases, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’s use is once again in question. And while the proposed changes may not further restrict journalists’ access records, they also don’t alleviate any challenges. Read more

As school officials work to counter cyberbullying, state lawmakers ensure student off-campus privacy isn’t trampled

While school officials often say such searches are necessary to combat cyberbullying and other illegal activity, several lawmakers and free speech advocates argue efforts to regulate off-campus speech are an invasion of students’ privacy. Read more

Muting the airwaves: As colleges sell off their radio stations, student deejays grapple with their identities in the digital age

College radio stations, home to aspiring broadcast journalists and deejays, have reached an existential crisis — whether or not terrestrial radio, or analog, benefits their organizations any longer. Read more

Protections for student journalists in critical care

An eye-popping July 2014 report from the Pew Research Journalism Project, “America’s Shifting Statehouse Press,” documents the near-extinction of the statehouse press corps across America: Since 2003 – and state governments were under-covered even then – the number of full-time reporters working in state Capitols is down 35 percent. Read more

Advocating for student rights for 40 years

As the SPLC celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Executive Director Frank LoMonte said there are too many goals he needs to reach before he can even consider stopping. He said he wants to focus on larger policy issues which would allow student journalists across the country to do their jobs with fewer barriers. Read more

SPLC marks four decades of unleashing captive voices

On October 16, 2014, supporters of a free and courageous student press from around the country will gather at the National Press Club to mark the SPLC’s 40 years of service to our shared priorities. Read more

Marijuana still sensitive topic at many schools even as states move to legalize

Prompted by the legalization of recreational marijuana use in two states, students are more interested than ever in writing about the subject. Many, though, still encounter hurdles when reporting on the drug. Read more

In interest of appearing united, some school boards limit members’ speech

When policies ask school board members to refer all questions to a sole member, it can make it difficult to find out information about the decisions the board is making, reporters say. Read more

Censorship takes the stage: Topical plays draw criticism from officials

After administrators put student productions of “Rent,” “Sweeney Todd” on the chopping block due to sensitive subjects, students and dramatists push back, defending the importance of theater. Read more

For education reporters, PR staff increasingly limit access to sources

Student and professional journalists alike report increasing difficulty when it comes to accessing sources. In response, college newspaper editors say they now teach their staff to have the ‘confidence’ to push back. Read more

At FAU, student journalists report persistent difficulties accessing public records

Even simple records requests are held up by delays and high costs, say journalists at Florida Atlantic University. The problems have been worsening over the past few years, in particular for one student. Read more

Tip Sheet: Covering campus discipline

Every year, colleges and universities report to the federal government how many students are referred for discipline for violating alcohol, drug and weapon violations. These statistics are often overshadowed by statistics that detail violent crimes, but as a Student Press Law Center review shows, disciplinary data can be a useful source for student reporters. Read more

Uncertainty prevails as college newsrooms navigate health care law

The Affordable Care Act says employers must offer health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours per week, prompting many universities to reconsider how student journalists are paid. Read more

When it comes to social media, some old-school legal rules may not apply

In general, legal principles created with print publications in mind are also applicable to social media publishing — with some notable exceptions. Read more

What public forum doctrine means for your student publication

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood ruling drew a road map for obtaining heightened First Amendment recognition in student media, hundreds of student publications have attempted to follow it, invoking the incantation “public forum.” Recent legal developments, however, have cast grave doubt on the value and durability of designating a publication — or any piece of government property — as a “forum.” Read more

Journalism: Love it or leave it

When professional journalists fail to stand up for the rights of student journalists, it feels to students like a betrayal — like those who themselves suffered censorship have forgotten the disempowering feeling of being distrusted. The word of journalism professionals gives cover to those who censor to deny the public truthful information about their failing schools. When journalists side with censors, that is the side they are taking — the side of lies over truth, the side of less information over more. Read more

On the road, a free speech icon gives inspiration to new generation

For 10 weeks last fall, Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand traveled the country in an RV, talking with students about free speech. They found an audience of teens “hungry for support and encouragement.” Read more

Student journalists facing disciplinary charges describe murky process

Students and civil rights groups have protested the lack of due process protections in universities’ student conduct process. For journalists, that can leave them vulnerable to frivolous charges from irate sources. Read more

Drone journalists find themselves flying in cloudy legal space

The Federal Aviation Administration has been cracking down on unregulated drone usage, but many journalists aren’t letting that stop them. It could be years though, before some are allowed to fly legally. Read more

Exclusivity contracts limit student journalists’ live sports coverage

As more high school athletic associations enter into agreements granting third parties exclusive broadcasting rights, journalists are figuring out how to deal with the restrictions. Read more

Schools hire monitors to patrol students’ off-campus online speech

Citing concerns about cyberbullying, schools have begun monitoring students’ online activity. Opponents say the tracking is unnecessarily invasive and could violate students’ First Amendment rights. Read more

In light of recent censorship, national group takes a second look at HBCUs

After two high-profile incidents where student journalists alleged censorship last year, the National Association of Black Journalists has convened a panel to look into concerns. Read more

‘Tinker Tour’ a chance for honest talk about state of student rights

Beating America’s education establishment in front of the U.S. Supreme Court made Mary Beth a believer in the ability of determined dreamers to accomplish improbable things. Fueled by that belief, she and longtime SPLC staff attorney Mike Hiestand successfully raised $50,000 from 225 donors, big and small, to underwrite the “Tinker Tour” that launched Sept. 17 from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Read more

Yearbook staffs and advisers guard against the potential for hoaxes

The May arrest of one student on felony charges following a yearbook prank was unusual, but dozens of other similar pranks occur yearly — to the chagrin of the yearbook staffs who try to prevent them. Read more

Student journalists work around Internet filters to reach audiences

Learning to use social media is a crucial skill for student journalists in the digital age, advisers say. At many schools though, school district-imposed Internet filters block most or all of the websites students need. Read more

D.C. middle and high school students collaborate to create newspaper

In a city with few student newspapers, a group of high school journalists have helped middle schoolers buck the trend and create their own newspaper to cover issues that concern them. Read more

Closed presidential searches proliferate among colleges across the country

Even in states where public records and open meetings laws make college president searches public, schools have found ways to keep the search secret, much to the chagrin of open government advocates. Read more

States make moves to protect students’ rights to online privacy

Nine states have passed privacy laws, with dozens more considering similar legislation. Now that the laws are going into effect, some schools are having to change policies, particularly with regard to athletes. Read more