Student Press Law Center
|Purpose||An advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus.|
The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) is a non-profit organization in the United States that aims at protecting the freedom of the press for student journalists, usually from high school and university student newspapers. It describes itself as "an advocate for student free-press rights [that] provides information, advice and legal assistance at no charge to students and the educators who work with them."
The SPLC was founded in 1974. It is the only legal assistance agency in the United States with the primary mission of educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment and supporting the freedom of expression of student news media to address issues and express themselves free from censorship.
The SPLC is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) corporation. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was previously headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, where it shared a suite of offices with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- Provides free legal help and information as well as low-cost educational materials for student journalists on a wide variety of media law topics, including laws regarding defamation, freedom of information, copyrights, invasion of privacy, reporter's privilege, obscenity, censorship, and the First Amendment. Around 2,500 student journalists, teachers and others contact the center each year for help or information.
- Files amici curiae in cases where student media rights could be effected.
- Operates an Attorney Referral Network of approximately 150 volunteer media law attorneys across the country who may be available to provide free legal representation to local students when necessary.
- Maintains a full-service news operation covering issues relevant to student journalism. The Center's journalists write online news stories about ongoing censorship and open-records controversies, and produce the in-depth SPLC Report magazine in print and online.
- Presents annual awards to recognize student journalists, educators, and administrators that have shown courage in standing up for student press freedom.
- Maintains a free Freedom of Information Law Letter Generator that creates a public records request tailored to the law of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, for use by student journalists and others seeking access to public records.
Governance and staff
The organization is run by an executive director and a corporate board of directors composed primarily of journalism educators, professional journalists, and attorneys. The current executive director is Frank LoMonte, who began at the Center in January 2008. He was preceded by Mark Goodman, who led the organization from 1985 to 2007 before accepting a position as professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University.
In addition to the executive director, the SPLC permanent staff consists of a full-time attorney advocate and an office manager. A full-time publications fellow serves as managing editor of the Center's news content, much of which is produced by journalism student interns, who work at the Center for a semester. In addition, the SPLC works with a development/communications consultant and a West Coast consulting attorney based in Ferndale, Washington.
The SPLC is supported by contributions from student journalists, journalism educators, and other individuals, as well as by donations from foundations and corporations. On January 23, 2007, the center announced it had successfully completed a three-year $3.75 million endowment campaign, spurred by a challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.