New Voices brings First Amendment issue to New Jersey

Student press rights topic at NJ statehouse

Holly Johnson and Tom McHale’s compelling essay first appeared in New Jersey as a guest column in the Times of Trenton.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, aptly called it “inspiring” and said it “resoundingly sets forth the challenges that students and advisers are facing up against  by image-obsessed institutions and howstate legislation can make all the difference.

Johnson and McHale remind us that legislation protecting free high school and college presses involves protecting First Amendment rights—and the rights of students to grow and learn as independent thinkers and decision-makers.

The authors write, in part: “When administrators act as editors, speech is chilled; students learn to self-censor rather than exercise their constitutional rights responsibly.

The result? Students lose an opportunity to develop into the ethical, inquisitive citizens their administrators had hoped to nurture.”

The Student Press Law Center offers guides that can help advisers navigate what can be, as the center notes, “a tightrope.”

Among the many resources on the SPLC website are these guides:

  • SPLC tip sheet for student media advisers — A guide to fighting (and surviving) censorship.
  • Student media advisers and the law — A legal help guide for surviving what is often the toughest job in school.
  • Also advocating for free speech rights for students is New Voices USA, a group of students, educators and professionals from around the country working to protect student speech rights through legislation. Here is a link to New Voices USA and the New Voices Campaign: New Voices USA | Facebook

Want to develop better news consumers and citizens? Protect student journalism

New Voices aim: expand protection in New Jersey 

By Holly Johnson and Tom McHale

Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, but these days we see legitimate news organizations being called liars on the one hand, and shadowy organizations spreading fake news stories on the other. We need a generation of citizens with a heightened aptitude for telling the difference between fact and fiction. Our democracy depends on it, and those of us who teach journalism to the next generation are doing all we can to ensure our students have that capacity. Our lessons emphasize research, fact checking, ethics and professionalism.

Student journalists who are trusted to make editorial decisions about what their readers need and want to know, and how best to handle controversial topics, develop a capacity to communicate effectively and to think critically. They foster a culture of civic discourse amongst their peers.

Unfortunately, many administrators, worried about the image of their school, have opted to exert editorial control over student newspapers. While their intentions may be good–to cast the school in the most favorable light, to ensure students don’t read about topics that may seem too sensitive for some–the results are often calamitous for all involved. The pedagogical process is undermined, and the administrators open themselves up to criticism from all quarters.

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From Writing for the College Newspaper to Multi-Media Journalism

Originally titled “Writing for the College Newspaper,” a Harford Community College class has transformed to “Multimedia Journalism.” (Photo:Stephen Smith)

The Evolution of a Classroom Approach to MC 208

By Claudia Brown
Harford Community College


In nearly 15 years of teaching at the college level, I have developed a successful formula for most of my classes that may be adjusted based on the student population, current events and a variety of other factors. However, MC 208, a class I began teaching in 2010 at Harford Community College, near Bel Air, Maryland, has proven the exception.

I have taught this course 10 different ways and plan for a new approach next semester.

Changing trends in the field have mandated these modifications, which have proven successful with students and led to national recognition for our college’s publication.

I started teaching MC 208: Writing for the College Newspaper in the spring semester of 2010. I had just taken over the position of newspaper adviser to “The Harford Owl,” a monthly newspaper at Harford Community College. Students wrote articles, took photos and sketched out newspaper design on paper. About half of the newspaper’s content was generated by faculty and staff contributions and the other half produced by students with the adviser/course professor writing headlines, taking photos and designing the publication in InDesign.

Continue reading From Writing for the College Newspaper to Multi-Media Journalism