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SPLC's 2019 Courage in Student Journalism Award winners uncovered lies by a local school board member

The 2020 Courage in Student Journalism recipient is BluePrints magazine at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Georgia, which pressed a local school board and newly appointed board member for honesty and transparency.

The Student Press Law Center and its award partners honor the work of Stephany Gaona-Perez, Brittany Lopez, and Jacqueline Wright. And when these student journalists were criticized and publicly ridiculed as the “Scooby-Doo Crew,” for raising uncomfortable truths, they had the steadfast support of their adviser, Marc Ginsberg.

The trio of reporters demonstrated that a newly appointed board member misled the public about being an alumni of their school, and was raising money for a U.S. congressional run he is too young to be eligible for. Their reporting also detailed how the board failed to follow its own policies for special appointments. For example the appointment did not follow rules that required two letters of support. 

“These young journalists braved public ridicule and stonewalling as they methodically pursued public documents and asked probing questions of a major institution in their community,” said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “Accountability reporting is the bedrock of local journalism, and these students provided an essential public service by making their local school board more transparent.”

The Courage in Student Journalism award is jointly sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, which provides the $1,000 prize to BluePrints, and the National Scholastic Press Association. The award is being presented on Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. EST during the virtual National High School Journalism Convention.

More about BluePrints

With deepest gratitude and best wishes...

... for her many contributions to SPLC and the cause of student journalism, we want to let you know that director of engagement Diana Mitsu Klos, who has been with SPLC since 2017, will be leaving at the end of the month. We wish Diana the very best as she pursues her next steps and know that she will continue to be a great friend and ally to SPLC and student journalists everywhere.

Good luck and thank you, Diana!

Q: What if a person who is mentioned on a reader comment board wants the identity of an anonymous commenter?

A: The short story is that you are under no obligation to give that information to the person without a court order. Usually, if a person wants to track down the author of an online comment, the person will have to prove that he exhausted all other options before turning to the media. If you are ever subpoenaed to disclose the author of a comment, contact the SPLC or another media law attorney that will be able to assist you.

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