Sunday, April 11, 2010

Editors tackle censorship at national convention in Portland, OR

Spoke editors will discuss recent censorship challenge in speech to convention and in seminar called "Fighting Back: Taking on Censorship"

PORTLAND, Oregon — Former and current Spoke editors are taking aim at censorship here this week at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association annual spring convention.

Henry Rome, the former Spoke editor in chief, will address thousands of student journalists and advisers on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the convention’s opening ceremony. Rome, who was named the 2009 National Student Journalist of the Year by JEA, will discuss how fighting censorship represents not just a fight to protect a newspaper, but a fight to protect democracy.

“It is a tremendous honor to address the convention and be able to discuss a topic that is of utmost importance in today’s journalism community — how students can defend against censorship imposed by many school administrators,” Rome said. “This censorship not only threatens student publications, but it threatens the very ideals that define this country: the freedom of the press and the free exchange of ideas.”

On Saturday, editors will join the Student Press Law Center in presenting a seminar called “Fighting Back: Taking on Censorship” that details the censorship fight at The Spoke. The seminar also will give students resources they can use at their own newspaper.

“We’re trying to show students not only how they can fight back against censorship, but that they can fight back — and win,” said Rome, who will present alongside News Editor Liz Bravacos, Assistant Managing Editor Meghan Morris and the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand. The seminar will be on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“Presenting The Spoke's experience with attempted censorship to student journalists and their advisers from across the country is an outstanding opportunity,” Bravacos said. “It's exciting to know that we can help students facing difficult situations and potentially generate positive change.”

Also at the convention:

Help for students, by students
The new Scholastic Press Student Partners program, of which Morris is a member, will have its first official meetings at the convention. The program, a task force of student journalists that acts as a watchdog against censorship, will have a booth at the convention and will conduct outreach efforts to members of the student press community.

The organization will also encourage students to share their opinion about what the First Amendment means to them through videos filmed by SchoolTube. The organization will also introduce the new “Editor’s Emergency Kit,” which includes important resources for publications facing censorship.

“After planning online since January, I look forward to meeting the Student Partners in person. We hope to raise awareness about the First Amendment and its relevance to student journalists, and help students facing censorship,” Morris said.

Zweifler in running for Student Journalist of the Year

Seth Zweifler, The Spoke’s current editor in chief, will learn if he is named the National Student Journalist of the Year for 2010. Zweifler was named the Pennsylvania Student Journalist of the Year in February, and is eligible for the national competition. 

Making your portfolio
Rome will present a seminar with JEA officials called “Producing a Winning Journalist of the Year Portfolio” on Friday at 11 a.m.

Stay connected
Be sure to sign up to learn more about Friends of The Spoke. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And stay tuned to this site for more updates from Portland.


Friends of The Spoke is an organization dedicated to defending the rights of student journalists at The Spoke and nationwide. The organization was founded in June 2009 by current and former editors of The Spoke, the student newspaper of Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa., to oppose proposed policies that would have led to censorship of the paper. After five months of discussions, press coverage and widespread local and national support, the district changed its proposal, replacing it with one that correctly identified and defined today's legal standards.

Now, Friends of The Spoke is focused on two goals: keeping the community — students, community members, alumni and state and national journalism organizations — informed about the latest news from The Spoke, and providing journalism programs facing censorship with resources to help aid their campaign.

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