Highlights from SPLC's conversation with Nina Totenberg

NPR’s Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg discussed the beginnings of her journalism career, her longtime coverage of the Supreme Court and offered advice to about 1,000 student journalists and advisers in an on-stage conversation with the Student Press Law Center’s Sommer Ingram Dean this past weekend.
Totenberg is revered and can be heard regularly on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition and the NPR Politics Podcast. Dean is a staff attorney at SPLC and has known Totenberg since she interned at NPR in 2013. 

The conversation was a keynote for the National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C., where SPLC also taught 13 workshops and took a group of 50 student journalists to tour the Supreme Court and the Newseum. 

Dean led the conversation through some of Totenberg's career-defining moments like the backlash she faced after breaking the Anita Hill story. She also talked about developing relationships with members of the Supreme Court, upcoming cases to pay attention to, and the importance of finding the "English translation" for legal jargon in news stories. 

Totenberg, who joined NPR in 1975, had pointed advice for women dealing with male hierarchies in newsrooms. “Choose. Your. Battles. Carefully,” she said slowly and directly. “Do not have battles you don’t have to have.”  

We were also delighted when Monday's episode of the NPR Politics Podcast featured an intro from the crowd at the Nina Totenberg event!

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Congratulations to the recipient of SPLC's College Press Freedom Award!

We are proud to announce The Lantern at Ohio State University is the recipient of the Student Press Law Center’s 2018 Reveille Seven College Press Freedom Award. The Lantern showed excellence in pursuing public records that surfaced a controversy involving the university football coaching staff. They also took the university to court for holding back police reports. 

“Not only was important news covered, but the actions taken by the student journalists paved the way for greater transparency, responsiveness and accountability," said Hadar Harris, SPLC executive director.

The award is jointly sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, the Associated Collegiate Press and Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. 
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Q: I am hearing rumors that a recently hired school official was fired from his job at a public college in another state and would like to find out more. Do I need to be a citizen of that state to request records?

A: In most cases no. The vast majority of states do not require that a person requesting public records be a citizen. But a handful do require citizenship, or allow (but not require) state agencies to include a citizenship requirement. Currently, Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia appear to fall into that second category. New Jersey law limits disclosure to “citizens of this state,” but the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has issued an opinion saying this provision does not prohibit non-citizens from making requests. If you are seeking information in one of the states above and run into roadblocks, you may be successful in working with in-state student media who might be willing to request the records you seek by proxy. 

The federal Freedom of Information Act allows any person to request government records for any reason, whether the person is a U.S. citizen or a foreign national.


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