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SPECIAL EDITION: New Voices kickoff #3!


Outreach and organizing can be the hardest part of advocacy, but it’s also the most valuable. New Voices bills pass when students come back year after year, in numbers as large or larger than the year before, to show that neither censorship nor student journalists will simply fade away if ignored long enough. 
 

This means recruiting new advocates every year, many of whom are new to student journalism, let alone to censorship. It also means reaching out to new areas of your state to increase your momentum and pique the interest of even more legislators. And, it means talking with New Voices advocates in other states to hear what has worked for them and what might be beneficial to you.


If you are part of an active New Voices group but are not already a member of the New Voices Slack, respond to this newsletter to let us know. There you will have access to the entire New Voices community. We encourage you to check in with one other, share what has worked for you and ask questions if you have them. We’ll also be announcing student and adviser New Voices advocate Zoom meetings in the very near future. 

 

The first state legislatures start their 2021 sessions in 53 days. We’re ready.

Questions to ask yourself


How can I target each member of my committee?

The first hurdle is always to get your bill out of committee — the rest of the legislature comes later. While you should ensure that your coalition represents all parts of the state so that nobody can claim this is only an issue for some communities, it is a good use of your time and energy to focus on the communities from which your committee members hail.

 

Most New Voices bills go through the Education committees in each legislative body. Committee memberships are generally determined in the first couple weeks of the legislative session, but you can use the lists from last year — which are likely still on your legislature’s website — as a starting point. Unless your legislative leadership is changing (because the Speaker or Senate president lost re-election or one political party lost majority), most members who have been re-elected will carry over to the new legislative year. Find the districts your committee members represent and focus recruitment on those areas. Remember: you don’t only need to recruit student journalists! They may not feel safe getting involved, but other constituent voices do matter — and other student groups on campus may have a lot to say about the newsworthy things they aren’t being told.

 

Do students actually know they’re being censored?

You may know a lot about HazelwoodTinker, the First Amendment and censorship. But most people — including many student journalists — don’t. Often it is not until a district has an egregious censorship case that students realize they’ve been subtly silenced or self-censoring for years. We don’t have to wait for legislation to help students right now.

 

Host a webinar or launch a social media campaign educating student journalists and others about student media censorship. Talk about your own experiences, whether you were censored or have examples of what could produce because you have supportive administrators. You can use the censorship examples available in Resources, below. You can also book a virtual speaker through SPLC, or reply to this email to set up a webinar with Hillary. Even if a student doesn’t join New Voices, you may be empowering them to push back against censorship they are actively experiencing.

 

What did I need to hear to get involved?

Think back to when you were a baby advocate — what got you on board? What did you need that you didn’t have? Then think of a student who is the polar opposite of you — are the same resources going to work? Different advocates come on board for different reasons — make sure you are tailoring your communications to a wide variety of audiences. 

Task of the day

 

Look at a map of your state and the communities you currently represent, and locate the gaps.

If all your advocates come from cities or from the same twenty mile radius, it’s very easy for your legislators to dismiss New Voices as a “those places” problem. While it may be much more difficult for you to reach into communities you don’t have an immediate connection to, effort now will likely pay off in the long term.

 

Plan your webinar or educational campaign.

Pick one day this year to spend talking statewide about student press freedom, whether or not you talk about New Voices directly. You don’t have to do the major planning yet, but commit to a date and a basic idea. (Psst: Student Press Freedom Day is in February.) If new advocates aren’t ready to jump right in when the legislature starts, a well-timed campaign may help push them — and your momentum — forward just when you need it a few months from now.

Resources:

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Forward it to anyone you know who is interested in New Voices, and ask them to sign up themselves here.

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