ASNE calls on states enact laws protecting student journalism


The American Society of News Editors has unanimously adopted a resolution that welcomes new state laws in Illinois, Maryland and North Dakota that protects the ability of college and high-school journalists to write about issues of public concern. ASNE calls on all other states to follow its lead.
The resolution states that "a free and independent student media is an essential ingredient of a civically healthy campus community, conveying the skills, ethics and values that prepare young people for a lifetime of participatory citizenship."
"Student journalists need to have confidence they can report freely without fear that they will be restrained from publishing stories that might be unpopular," said ASNE President Pam Fine. "Kudos to the states that have passed legislation that recognize and support their efforts."
The ASNE Board of Directors enacted the resolution in response to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's July 29 approval of the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act (HB 5902), which made Illinois the 10th state in the nation and the third in the past 12 months, to enact statutory protection for student journalists that goes beyond the minimal rights guaranteed to students under federal law. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court gave schools broad censorship authority over student media produced as part of a curricular activity. States, however, may provide enhanced protection above the floor established by the Court. A national “New Voices” initiative is working with advocates in at least 19 other states to bring a more balanced approach to the oversight of student media, with bills now pending in Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey.

Founded in 1922 as a nonprofit professional organization, ASNE promotes fair, principled journalism, defends and protects First Amendment rights, and fights for freedom of information and open government. The resolution notes the leading role of ASNE in supporting the preparation of young journalists, including organizing the High School Journalism Institute, through which more than 2,340 secondary school teachers received in-depth training in journalistic skills.

ASNE is the most recent of a growing list of journalism authorities calling for legal reforms to protect student media. At its national convention last September, the Society of Professional Journalists endorsed the New Voices movement and called on its members to support similar legislation in their own states. New Voices also has the support of the National Council of Teachers of English and the Journalism Education Association.

“The consensus of those most knowledgeable about how journalism is practiced and taught is overwhelming,” said attorney Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “Students can't learn to be inquisitive, independent-minded journalists, or inquisitive, independent-minded citizens, when schools exercise total control over everything they say and write.

“If the nation's chemists or physicists came together and told schools that they were teaching chemistry or physics in ways inconsistent with the best practices of the field, we'd see immediate change. Now the nation's journalists have come together and told schools that heavy-handed institutional image control mis-educates young people in ways irreconcilable with the best principles of journalism. ASNE's authoritative voice is a wakeup call to schools and legislators everywhere to join the information age and rethink outdated censorship practices that belong on history's scrap heap alongside book-burning.”

Headquartered in the District of Columbia, the Student Press Law Center is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1974 to provide free legal assistance and training tailored to the needs of student journalists and journalism educators at the college and K-12 levels nationwide. Information about the work of the SPLC and an array of free legal research materials can be found at