Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WJEA state conference deadline just a few days away!

Don't miss out on what is shaping to be one of the very best WJEA state conferences yet.

The event is on March 15 at Auburn High School, and is going to feature write-off competitions, a keynote from Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogger Monica Guzman, presentations by advisers and industry professionals that will give you knowledge you can take with you to make your publication immediately better, and an awards ceremony that will celebrate the accomplishments of student journalists around the state.

Still not convinced? Check out some of the presenters we've got lined up for the day:
  • Chris Pirello, podcaster extraordinaire from the University of Washington
  • Mike Sando, football writer for
  • Brian Schraum, instigator of the student press legislation in Washington and recent graduate of Washington State University
  • Kathy Schrier, WJEA president
  • Julie Simon, Graphics and Design Editor for the Seattle P-I
  • David Montesino, Assistant Managing Editor for Visuals at The News Tribune
  • Judith Endejan, lawyer for Graham and Dunn speaking on reporter privilege
  • Patrick O'Callahan, chief editorial writer for The News Tribune
  • Mike McLaughlin, desk editor at the Seattle P-I
  • Dan Hardebeck, 2007 WJEA adviser of the year from Timberline HS
  • Scott Bush, freelance designer
  • Students such as Matt Anderson, editor-in-chief of the Puyallup HS Viking Vanguard, and the editorial board of JagWire newsmagazine at Emerald Ridge HS.
  • And me! (Jeff Nusser, adviser at Wenatchee HS)
And trust me when I tell you more are on the way. What are you waiting for? Download your registration materials here. Or, if you like, you can do it all online now! Check it out at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

WJEA state conference now less than four weeks away

The 2008 WJEA state conference featuring keynote speaker Monica Guzman of the Seattle P-I is now less than four weeks away. You can download registration materials here for a great day of competing and learning on March 15 at Auburn High School.

Find more information at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Indiana in the spotlight again - and not the good kind of spotlight

Some of you might remember the plight of Amy Sorrell and her staff at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School in Indiana last year. Well, another case of censorship has reared its head in that state about 150 miles away in Franklin.

The staff of the Franklin Community High School student newspaper The Electron -- an uncensored open public forum for 25 years -- wrote a series of articles in a two-page spread on safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases. The principal, Craig McCaffrey, disagreed with the way the articles were written and felt there should have been more of an emphasis on abstinence. Now he wants prior review.

You can read all the details over at J-Ideas, which has reprinted an article from the local newspaper on its Web site. (Update: Here is the story from today's Indianapolis Star.) Essentially, the principal would like the ability to censor the publication because he disagreed with the content, something that is not protected even under the Hazelwood decision.

How can you make your voice heard?

If you would like to reach McCaffrey to voice your concerns about his unfounded censorship, you can reach him via e-mail here. If you would like to send a note of support to the adviser of The Electron or her staff, you can reach Carmen Mann-Lynch here. If you would like to contact the Franklin Community School Corporation's school board, you can find all five members' e-mail addresses here.

Reminder: Deadlines loom

Don't forget, there are some deadlines coming up for journalism-related recognitions.

First, the deadline to apply for WJEA scholarships is Friday. Most of the awards require some amount of preparation, so if a student is planning on applying for one, they need to get on it.

Second, the deadline for NSPA Honor Roll applications is Friday as well. Any student who has been on the staff of an NSPA member publication for at least a year and has a cumulative GPA of 3.75 or greater is eligible. Seniors who apply and submit some additional information are eligible for $1,000 scholarships.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More words of encouragement

Although he elected not to hold a committee hearing on Senate Bill 6449, Sen. Adam Kline said that he still firmly believes in the mission of the bill and believes it has value (via J-Ideas):

"Freedom breeds responsibility," Kline said. "Yes, (passing the bill) is a much needed improvement--a statement of trust."

Kline also said there is nothing in the bill that he would change, and he will persist at supporting the bill, explaining, "we adults are not good at letting go."

Sen. Joe McDermott, the bill's primary sponsor, also elaborated on his planned reintroduction of the bill in 2009.

"I do believe that awareness of student press rights is important and putting this bill forward opens the communication line to create a bill that can gain agreement," McDermott said. "In the short term, I believe some people are concerned that, on rare occasion, instruction will be interrupted when student journalists touch a nerve in their community -- something I know as a legislator the press can do at times."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

WJEA scholarship deadlines creeping up!

The Washington Journalism Education Association offers a number of scholarships to student journalists and advisers in our state, but deadlines are looming -- applications are due Feb. 15.

Winners for the following awards will be announced at the WJEA State Conference, to be held March 15 at Auburn High School:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Take heart, Washington

Even with the news that Senate Bill 6449 has met a premature death, encouragement is pouring in for those of us who fought on its behalf.

First, this from Rep. Dave Upthegrove, who sponsored the original incarnation of the bill (House Bill 1307) last legislative session, via J-Ideas:

“We always knew it was a long-shot this year, but we felt it was important to introduce the bill in the Senate to begin the discussion in that chamber and to keep a spotlight on the issue,” Upthegrove said. “The Legislature will re-organize after the November election, and there may be new Senators and new committee assignments. We absolutely will reintroduce the bill next year.”

And then this, from Mark Goodman -- former executive director of the Student Press Law Center:

For what its worth, it was your efforts there in Washington that brought this effort back to life around the country after over a decade of dormancy. Legislators and others are talking about student press freedom as an issue of educational policy because of you folks. From the perspective of all of us watching from afar, we owe you a lot. Thanks for your hard work. Like Brian (Schraum), I believe success will come.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Student Free Press Bill dead for 2008

Sen. Adam Kline, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has declined to give Senate Bill 6449 a hearing, effectively rendering the legislation dead for the second consecutive year.

What happened? It's unlikely the bill was going to gain the necessary votes to make it out of committee in its present form -- with high schools included -- and in this short, 60-day session, bills that aren't on the fast track often get cast to the wayside.

However, as a famous man once said, this is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. We will all work hard to get legislation introduced next year, and the committees -- which hold so much power in the process -- likely will get shifted somewhat in 2009. Additionally, the opportunity still exists to educate your legislators in the meantime.

Here are the thoughts of Brian Schraum, the former Enumclaw High School and Washington State University student journalist who was the inspiration behind the initial bill and has worked tirelessly on its behalf the past two years:

Dear friends,

Writing this for the second time sure doesn’t make it any easier.

Today we learned that SB 6449, the latest incarnation of Washington’s student press freedom legislation, will not be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I know this is disappointing. I’m disappointed too – especially that the passionate students, educators and journalists who support this bill didn’t have the opportunity to speak in Olympia again. We student press advocates are a feisty bunch. And we’re not done yet.

We’ve asked a lot of you over these last two years. We asked you to get involved. We asked you to spread the word. We asked to you to believe – to believe in the importance of this legislation and that passing it was possible.

It IS possible.

And it will happen – that much I’m convinced of. We passed this legislation in the House, and I honestly believe we came within just a few committee votes in the Senate. Next year the tune starts playing in Committee Musical Chairs, and things change. And the opportunity to educate our elected officials in this session continues.

We’ll have plenty of time to dissect this effort, to look at what went wrong and what didn’t. I’d urge you not to point the finger of blame at anyone just yet. For now, I think it’s safe to say this outcome was more political than philosophical.

So instead of growing cynical about a process that hasn’t yet been successful, I’d ask you to use that energy to thank a few folks. Thank the 18 member organizations of our state- and nation-wide coalition of folks who believe so strongly in student voices and real journalism. Thank Sen. Joe McDermott, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, Bryce McKibben of the Washington Student Lobby, Kathy Schrier of the Washington Journalism Education Association, and so many others for their invaluable contribution to this effort.

And thank the Association of Washington School Principals, which took the time (when others wouldn’t) to hear us out and realize we do more for students when we understand each other. That dialogue is the beginning of something big.

I’ll ask one thing more: don’t give up. Your efforts will matter throughout this year and into the next more than they ever have before. I’m with you. I may literally be packing up the U-HAUL and moving on down the road in life – but I’m with you on this, now and always.

Great things don’t come easy or by chance, but from the hard work of a dedicated few.