Christine Tatum, President, (303) 881-8702
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists, which works to improve and protect journalism, issued a letter to Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Ill., in support of her efforts to introduce Senate Bill 729 that would strengthen press rights for college students in Illinois.
The letter stated in part:
“Collegiate journalists have the opportunity, rare among their peers, to practice openly in their field of study before they begin their career. This work teaches them the responsibility and good decision-making they will use later, as professionals, when they cover significant events at the local, state and federal level.
When college administrators rob them of these rights early in their training, they are robbing the public of the quality journalism that is so essential to a healthy democracy.
Unfortunately, this right has been compromised by recent court decisions, including a decision by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Hosty v. Carter. This decision permits prior review and restraint of college student publications, and it sets a dangerous precedent for future rulings.
Illinois has a chance to become a leader in collegiate student press rights with the passage of this bill. This piece of legislation grants no protections to speech not protected by the U.S. Constitution, nor does it place any legal responsibility on the shoulders of college administrators. Instead, it establishes all college media as an open forum, and it holds editors accountable for what they publish.
Senate Bill 729 correctly recognizes the value of an open student media as a training ground for the journalists of tomorrow.”
The bill heads to a state higher education committee next week. To aid in the bill’s passing, SPJ is encouraging journalists in Illinois to write letters to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. For a list of board members, please visit http://www.ibhe.org/aboutBHE/boardmembers.htm.
The Society of Professional Journalists is one of the nation’s largest and oldest journalism –advocacy organizations. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ and SDX, please visit www.spj.org.