Magazine

Accessing personnel records: A balancing act between privacy, public’s right to know

This article looks at the frustrating obstacles journalists often face in trying to obtain access to personnel-related records from college and schools. While the law sometimes entitles these agencies to withhold highly embarrassing or confidential documents, it’s an oversimplification to say – as many agencies do – that “personnel” is a blanket excuse for denying a public-records request. Read more

FERPA defense play: Universities often cite the federal student privacy law to shield athletic scandals

At the University of Oregon, Vanderbilt University and the University of Montana, FERPA was cited to withhold records and information related to sexual assault allegations. FERPA was even cited at Florida State University to withhold records about Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, who has been accused of sexual assault in December 2012. Read more

Under the dome: As professional news outlets vacate state capitols because of budget constraints, student journalists move in to fill the gap

In four states, student journalists outnumber journalists from professional outlets assigned to the statehouse full-time, where they ensure citizens have access to information about how the state spends their tax dollars and decisions on education, criminal justice and safety regulations. Read more

Nudes you can use: What happens when college news organizations choose to bare it all?

Each school year, student newspaper staffs publish nude images. While some argue the images accurately convey a newsworthy event, others are published to be edgy, like at the University of Buffalo, where the student newspaper’s annual sex issue features articles about sexual health and related topics. Often accompanying the articles are sexually explicit images some people argue are unsettling to see in a newspaper. Read more

Are body-mounted cameras the answer for transparency in police departments?

Despite a promise of increased transparency in police activities, state public records laws may shield the footage from the public. Footage likely won’t be released if it is part of an ongoing investigation or if certain details, such as the identities of victims in sensitive situations, cannot be redacted. Read more

Nontraditional focus: Student newspapers grapple with a shifting demographic

With added responsibilities and differing life experiences, nontraditional students — a growing population — often feel they are not well represented in their student newspaper. When nontraditional students join the newspaper staff, however, they are often able to broaden the organization’s news coverage. Read more

In Texas, access delayed: Public records appeal process invites abuse

Texas law starts with the assumption that a requestor is owed records within 10 days. But asking the attorney general for an opinion stops the clock and can push the agency’s response time back by a month-and-a-half — which makes the process vulnerable to manipulation by an agency seeking to run out the clock on a deadline-sensitive request. Read more

Active voice: SPLC project strives to empower women in student media

Nabiha Syed, a media attorney for Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, and a member of SPLC’s Board of Directors, introduced Active Voice, an SPLC project that aims to help young women who face challenges in speaking out. Read more

'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

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

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