Monday, January 28, 2008

Spokesman-Review supports SB 6449

For the second time in as many years, the Spokesman-Review in Spokane has editorialized in favor of student free press legislation.

In today's editorial, the S-R endorsed Senate Bill 6449 as sound educational practice. An excerpt:

We encourage thinking from birth. Thinking -- including the comparison and evaluation of competing ideas -- is a desirable trait at any age, and we want our schools to cultivate it.

One of many logical ways for that to happen is to establish and empower student newspapers in high schools, colleges and universities. Give students a real-life experience in First Amendment freedom. ...

The proposal strikes a fair balance. Still, if it becomes law, it would be remarkable if student publications didn't sometimes cause ulcers and anxiety. It would be disappointing if they didn't.

In time, inexperienced teens develop into skilled drivers, but not without ample time behind the wheel. The same approach will help children grow into citizens.

The link is here, although you'll need a paid registration to read the article.

In the past year, most of the dailies in the state have come out in favor of the proposed legislation. Publications who have publicly supported the bill include the USA Today, the Seattle P-I, The News Tribune, and The Everett Herald. The only major daily in the state to oppose the bill has been The Seattle Times, although WJEA members refuted the Times' claims in these letters to the editor.


Did your student newspaper undergo a redesign this year?

If so, I am presenting a session on redesigns at state and would appreciate it if you could send me some before and after PDFs. Please send them to

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Senate Bill 6449 needs YOUR help!

We've been writing a lot here about the latest incarnation of the Student Free Expression Bill, Senate Bill 6449. We are confident that if it can pass its most difficult challenges in the Senate, then it will pass the House of Representatives and, pending governor approval, will be passed into law.

However, it does have some significant hurdles to get over, and that is where YOU come in.

According to Bryce McKibben, president of the Washington Student Lobby, a strong grass roots effort contacting individual senators would make a huge difference right now. Here is part of what he said in an e-mail yesterday:

We are in need of a sustained, grassroots advocacy campaign. ... What we need is for Senators Rodney Tom (in particular, pictured above), James Hargove, and Bob McCaslin to hear from teachers, parents, and student journalists -- student editors in particular -- about the bill. We need to counter the pervasive argument that there is only opposition out there. Our organization does NOT have the resources available to mobilize this important community, so we need your help there. A lot of help.

The reason those senators are so important right now is because they are considered swing votes in the Judiciary Committee. In order for the bill to have a shot at being passed, it must first make it through that committee with five of the eight committee members voting for it.

How can you help? Here are some strategies:
  • Write a hand-written letter addressed to the senators above. You can find their addresses by clicking on their names above. (This tends to be the most effective method.)
  • Send an e-mail to any of the senators above. You can do that via a form on each senator's site.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000.
This bill clarifies the law with regard to rights and responsibilities of student journalists, their advisers, and school administrators. If it passes, Washington would follow in the steps of seven other states that have passed similar legislation. The current bill is nearly identical to HB 1307 that was introduced first in the House last session, where it passed, only to die in the Senate. This year, the bill was introduced in the Senate first, by Sen. Joe McDermott (34th Dist).

For a full story on the bill and further background, go to

WJEA president Kathy Schrier contributed to this report.

Designers need a good laugh, too

If you're an adviser or student designer and you've ever found yourself wanting to scream at some of the design no-nos of your novice paginators, this site is for you.

I'm pretty sure it's serious.

Hat tip to Mark Murray for passing this along via tha JEA Listserv.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Summer workshop opportunity at Seattle U.

Seattle University is once again offering its all-expenses paid summer workshop, only it is now for the first time accepting applications from all student journalists. It had been limited to minorities in the past.

The workshop is from June 20-27; applications are due April 7. For more information, visit the workshop Web site. Applications can be downloaded there.

Update on free expression bill

The folks over at J-Ideas -- housed at Ball State University in Indiana -- have updated their Senate Bill 6449 story, and it includes quite a few relevant quotes from interested parties.

Most interesting is this quote from the Association of Washington School Principals, which vigorously opposed House Bill 1307 last year:

For this year's bill, Communications Spokesperson Jocelyn McCabe said the organization's members are talking with each other to disuss their thoughts on the bill, which generated "lots of debate" last year.

"We have been working with the WJEA since the end of session last year and have made good progress on this issue," McCabe said. "The legislation has prompted some good discussions between students, advisers and administrators about roles and responsibilities, and we’ve appreciated the opportunity to share the principal’s perspective on student press issues."

Friday, January 18, 2008

P-I's Monica Guzman agrees to keynote WJEA state conference

We at WJEA hope you're getting geared up to attend the annual WJEA State Journalism Conference -- now less than two months away on Saturday, March 15, at Auburn High School -- because we sure are. Today, we secured the conference's keynote speaker: Monica Guzman, online reporter extraordinaire from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Guzman is most well known for her prolific contributions to the P-I's Big Blog, "a rolling digest of the best in news, culture and entertainment." She's a self-described "product of her wired generation" -- that's her Facebook profile picture to the right -- and is fired up about getting to speak to the next generation of journalists. From her bio:

Monica Guzman is the P-I's first online reporter and the main contributor to its new online project, the Big Blog.

Monica joined the P-I in January as a Hearst Newspapers Fellow, covering the culture of technology in a weekly column and a blog, Net Native.

A product of her wired generation, Monica obsesses over her Facebook profile and can't remember what life was like before e-mail. She calls it a good afternoon when she can tinker with her piano and her Ibanez and a good evening when she can get out and enjoy the nightlife. A huge film fan, Monica will often cry at movies people have no business crying in and has been known to get moody if she doesn't see at least one movie in a theater every week. She can't cook, but she's trying.

Monica has worked previously at the Houston Chronicle, the Midland Daily News in Michigan and Foster's Daily Democrat in New Hampshire, covering police and breaking news, higher education and arts and entertainment.

You can watch her on KOMO/4 News at 4:20 p.m. and listen in to KOMO 1000 radio at 4:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, when she rounds up the news that's got Seattle talking.

Monica holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Registration forms will be available on soon, so be looking for those. In the meantime, we'll be working hard to line up all the session speakers for the conference. We'll pass those along as we get confirmations.

Free expression bill referred back to judiciary

All the speculation was for naught, as the Senate K-12 committee referred Senate Bill 6449 -- the Student Free Expression Bill -- back to the Senate Judiciary Committee without comment this morning.

Three of the sponsors of the bill -- primary sponsor Joe McDermott (D-Seattle), and secondary sponsors Adam Kline (D-Seattle) and Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island) -- are on the judiciary committee. Kline is the committee chair.

The members of that K-12 committee are as follows. Clicking on each senator's name will take you to a page where you can contact that senator. You can also look up your own district's senator by clicking here.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Washington Post commentary takes Hazelwood to task

Given the spirit of the season with Senate Bill 6449, I thought I'd pass along this great piece that ran in the Washington Post a week ago. If only everyone in the professional media felt this way.

Writes Richard Just, deputy editor of the New Republic:

My own experiences have convinced me that today, the vast majority of students are unable to practice true journalism at their high school papers. For the past six summers, I have directed a program for about 20 high school journalists at Princeton University. All the students are talented writers and thoughtful intellectuals. Yet, by and large, they work for newspapers that are either explicitly censored or restrained by the looming threat of official disapproval -- newspapers that read more like school-sponsored news releases than true journalism. Many have been taught to write fluffy profiles of teachers and to celebrate the achievements of their sports teams; fewer have been encouraged to challenge, to criticize or to investigate. Perhaps the most important part of our program's curriculum is to help students unlearn the instincts they have acquired at their high school newspapers.

And then, the kicker -- an argument many of us have been making for years.

No high school principal would dream of telling the basketball team that it could run drills but not play games, or permit the drama club to rehearse but never to stage shows. Yet, thanks in part to Hazelwood, many high schools train their students in journalism without allowing them to truly practice it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bill assigned to K-12 committee; two more senators sign on

In what was an unexpected twist today, the Student Free Expression Bill -- SB6449 -- was assigned to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. It had been expected that the bill would be referred to the judiciary committee as it was last year.

The good news is that primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Joe McDermott (D-Seattle), is on that committee, as is secondary sponsor Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island). Perhaps even better news is that the chair of that committee, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-Seattle, pictured right), has been added today as a secondary sponsor, as has Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Kent).

High schools were stripped from the bill in the senate judiciary committee last year, so perhaps a change of venue bodes well for the bill being sent to the floor.

The members of that K-12 committee are as follows. Clicking on each senator's name will take you to a page where you can contact that senator. You can also look up your district's senator by clicking here.

Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coalition, Sen. McDermott announce new student press rights legislation

The arrival of the 2008 legislative session means the return of legislation aimed at affirming and protecting student free expression, as the Coalition for Responsible Student Expression and Sen. Joe McDermott (D - Seattle, pictured right) announced the introduction of Senate Bill 6449.

The bill is nearly identical to the one that was passed by the House of Representatives last year, HB 1307, before high schools were stripped from the bill in committee in the Senate.

“Gaining experience in real life journalism is an important part of the learning process,” McDermott said. “This puts students that much closer to success in their professional careers.”

Supporting the bill is the
Coalition for Responsible Student Expression, made up of 16 organizations, including WJEA, and the sponsor of HB 1307, Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D - Des Moines).

“I worry about a generation growing up without an appreciation of their constitutional rights and how to exercise those rights and responsibilities,” Upthegrove said. “One of the best ways to develop an appreciation of constitutional rights is to model and apply those constitutional freedoms in the school environment. This is why I introduced legislation last year, and why I will be supporting Sen. McDermott’s bill this year.”

Also sponsoring the bill are senators Adam Kline and Brian Weinstein -- both vocal supporters of the bill last year as members of the judiciary committee -- and senators Ed Murray and Jean Kohl-Welles.

Related links:

Mission statement of Coalition for Responsible Student Expression

Here is the full text of the mission statement of the Coalition for Responsible Student Expression. The coalition is supporting the passage of Senate Bill 6449, the senate incarnation of a student free expression bill:

"The Washington Coalition for Responsible Student Expression believes that student journalists should strive for accuracy, fairness and balance in order to achieve and maintain credibility and to bring to the public, as Walter Lippmann said, “a view of reality upon which the citizen can act.”

"Student journalists also must be responsible to the laws that govern the press – such as libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement and obscenity – and should strive to maintain the highest standards of journalistic ethics. Also, their work must not materially and substantially disrupt the school day.

"At the same time, student journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know, and they should be accountable to their readers, listeners, or viewers.

"A free student press reflects the intellectual health of a vibrant, dynamic school. It helps create a respect for diversity, provides a voice for students, and establishes a link between students and school officials.

"This coalition of concerned organizations and individuals support the First Amendment rights of student journalists and a strong, robust student press, not only in Washington state but across the nation."

Members of the coalition:
  • Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Washington
  • Association for Women in Communications – Seattle Professional Chapter
  • Dow Jones Newspaper Fund
  • J-Ideas
  • Journalism Education Association
  • Kent State University Center for Scholastic Journalism
  • Poynter Institute for Media Studies
  • Society of Professional Journalists – Western Washington Professional Chapter
  • Student Press Law Center
  • University of Washington – Department of Communication
  • Washington Community College Journalism Association
  • Washington Journalism Education Association
  • Washington News Council
  • Washington Newspaper Publishers Association
  • Washington Student Lobby