SPJ launches SMACK watchdog group to assist student journalists
Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Koretzky, SPJ Region 3 Director, email@example.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists this week launched SMACK – Student Media Aid Cash and Know-How -- in an effort to build upon the work it is already doing to provide support to student media being censored or threatened.
The college media support program was first discussed during the Excellence in Journalism conference in September in Orlando, Fla., and was given the green light by SPJ National President Paul Fletcher. It is being spearheaded by SPJ Region 3 Director Michael Koretzky, who is working closely with Associated Collegiate Press, College Media Association and Student Press Law Center on the program.
“We want to know when student media is being censored or threatened,” Koretzky said. “This program will allow SPJ to be connected to college media in new and deeper ways.”
“We figured out how to have fun fighting for the First Amendment,” he writes on the College Media Watchdog blog. “We learned how to shame censors and hassle the harassers. We may not always win, but we always get the last laugh.”
SMACK will help student journalists who are being censored or bullied by university administrations, student governments or others. It will assist students whose newspapers are shut down in starting their own independent publications, and will offer tech advice, recruit copyeditors – whatever is needed to help student journalists do more journalism. It will help with fundraising efforts to help censored student journalists start their own newspapers. If legal action is taken, it will help students apply for assistance from SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund to help pay for an attorney or other legal fees.
“SPJ has been working with other journalism organizations to support college journalists for decades, but SMACK helps to pull all those efforts together, creating a force to be reckoned with for anyone who tries to silence or intimidate student journalists or those who are advising them,” Fletcher said.
“Unfortunately, we hear increasing numbers of stories about university administrators trying to dictate what is published in student publications. Student media advisers’ jobs are threatened if anything negative is written about their university. Student journalists and their advisers must be free to do journalism without those threats to their education or jobs.”
SMACK will also build on efforts already started by the J-Team and will recognize the edgiest student journalists in the country with the newly created Bayonet Awards.
“All of this combines to make a single, snarling watchdog group that should help smack some sense into college media censors,” Koretzky said.
For more information, questions, or to tell your college media stories, submit this online form or email Koretzky at email@example.com.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.