Student journalists are standing at the forefront of history

Schools may be closed and legislatures adjourned, but it takes more than that to slow down New Voices. Over the last month, the governors of Colorado and Virginia signed laws increasing student press freedom protections. New Voices chapters have sprung up in new states. And student journalists have risen to the moment, producing incredible work documenting the COVID-19 crisis and telling the stories nobody else can tell.

In many communities, you are the only voice speaking for and to students, helping your classmates get meals and prescriptions, and highlighting the stories of seniors, exchange students, athletes, service workers, entertainers and friends. You should not have to worry about censorship or prior review. This moment in history relies on a free student press reporting without self-censorship or fear of reprisal. So does the future. 

New Voices advocacy works from home. Easy actions now will shape the future. Here are ten things you can do from home that will make the New Voices movement stronger when your legislature reopens:
  1. Send copies of your COVID-19 coverage to your legislators, especially your bill sponsors. Show them the critical work you're doing, keep them informed about what's happening in the community they represent and remind them you need student press freedom. (And also send your work to SPLC!)
  2. Find new coalition partners. Now is a great time to reach out to new groups and form a strong coalition for 2021. This can include open government groups, student rights groups, civics education groups, health education groups or anyone who cares about the free press. Talk with Hillary to brainstorm who to reach out to first.
  3. Get your city or town legislators on board! Your legislators are stuck at home too; give them something fun to work on. Reach out to your city or town council member about introducing a resolution in support of statewide New Voices legislation. 
  4. Hold a New Voices training (or several!) with SPLC via Zoom. Want to talk about how you can use this moment in your advocacy? Demystify the legislature? Introduce New Voices to new people? Learn how to handle legalese? Sign up for one of our Trainings on Demand here.
  5. Host a strategic planning session or virtual statewide New Voices convention with SPLC. Ready to start a new chapter or get started thinking about 2021? So are we! Submit form here.
  6. Organize a letter writing campaign. Get some friends together and start sending letters to your legislator asking them to support student press freedom legislation. Check out our letter writing guidelines here.
  7. Write an op-ed for local papers about the unique role of student journalism during the COVD-19 crisis. Get your work seen outside the school community.
  8. Host a regional Zoom call to share your experiences and what you're doing now to keep your communities informed.
  9. Collect some data. Find online or request your state or district’s student media policies - especially if you live in a state that already has a New Voices law.
  10. Step up your social media game. Tweet out all your links, do a Day in the Life on TikTok, host a chat, etc. Tag @SPLC so we can see it!

Reports from the states

Victory! Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed into law legislation expanding student press freedom. Colorado has had a Student Free Expression law in place since 1990, but the law failed to protect student media advisers from retaliation or retribution when they stood in defense of their students' rights. The pre-Internet law failed to anticipate the move to digital and broadcast student media. Check out the press release here.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation codifying press freedom protections for public college students and protecting college media advisers from retaliation for standing in defense of their students' rights. In its letter to the governor, SPLC urged Virginia to consider HB36 only the start of their work on student press freedom and pass comprehensive protections for high school student journalists in 2021.

Don’t forget to send us the things you’re proud of this month!
Send here

Pro tip:

Take care of yourselves. Here is a picture of puppies!

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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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