Sen. Susan Garrett
129 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Sen. Susan Garrett,
We write to lend the support of the Society of Professional Journalists and its largest chapter, the Chicago Headline Club, to Senate Bill 729, which you introduced to the Illinois General Assembly last month.
On behalf of the Society's 9,000 members -- more than 500 of whom live in Illinois -- we also want to thank you for authoring a bill designed to protect the First Amendment freedoms of college journalists. Please include this letter as part of the record as this bill moves forward.
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.
Our gratitude extends to Sens. Dale Righter and Bill Brady, who have co-sponsored this legislation. We commend all of you for your commitment to college press freedoms, and we wish you the best of luck as this bill moves closer to becoming law.
President, Chicago Headline Club
Vice President, Freedom of Information, Chicago Headline Club
National President, Society of Professional Journalists