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SPJ honors Cassidy Grom with Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award


Christine Cordial, Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, ccordial@spj.org
Isaac Taylor, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, itaylor@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to award Cassidy Grom with the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award. The award honors an SPJ student member who has demonstrated outstanding service to the First Amendment through their work in journalism.

A recent graduate of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, Grom led her school paper, The Echo, and is currently a reporting intern at New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger and Nj.com. She is also a graduate of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute in New York City. She will receive complimentary convention registration and travel expenses for Excellence in Journalism 2018.

During her sophomore year at Taylor, Grom was struck by a section of the university’s student press policy that allowed the school to censor reporting that could “taint the public image of the university.” Over the next two years, Grom observed continued suppression of the paper’s First Amendment guarantees as several articles were barred from being published online and newspapers would disappear from the stands when tour groups came through the university.

“I sat in meeting after meeting with university personnel,” said Grom. “They tried to get me to stop asking difficult questions and I tried to get them to change the policy. We would stare at each other, neither of us willing to budge. So this year, my senior year, I decided to survey our peer institutions in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. I thought if I could prove that those schools had more press freedom, I could finally convince our administration to change Taylor’s policies.”

Instead, Grom’s survey revealed a common theme among Christian universities, as 70 percent of the schools surveyed allow for advisers to control what stories are printed. To combat this overwhelming issue, Grom and her colleagues formed the Student Press Coalition, a research and advocacy group designed to explore and improve the intersection of press freedoms and Christian higher education.

The coalition’s research has been picked up by numerous national outlets and has spurred Taylor University to review its student press policy.

“Alumni from Christian schools reached out saying they were glad our research finally brought these issues to light,” Grom said. “Student editors called, sharing story after story of intimidation of the press, and thanked us for showing them they are not alone in their struggle to publish the truth on their campuses. Professional journalists emailed us, praising us for demanding a better education in ethical journalism; one even offered funding to help us continue the cause.”

Grom will be recognized at the Student Union held during EIJ18, Sept. 27-29 in Baltimore.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


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