New Voices, new choices

New Voices coalition fights to end censorship of student journalists


Marissa Lammie

Dan Furmansky and Hillary Davis from the Student Press Law Center discuss the New Voices legislation with student journalists who advocate for the New Voices coalition during the 2020 virtual Student Leaders Institute from July 6-9.

Our First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press are some of our most valuable human rights. They give us the legal ability to speak out and voice our opinions through many different platforms, and are especially crucial during an election year such as this.

Journalists, and all people associated with media in high school, are exposed to censorship in one way or another. This is due to the fact that there is no law in place that allows student journalists to write or post whatever it is they want to. Most people do not know that they are being censored, and most of the time, the stories that get censored are the stories that need a voice to be told. 

As journalists, our job is to bring light to stories that are buried. Our job is to interview people that need our voice so that we can help shed some light on what they have to say and what they are going through. But, as journalists, it can be difficult to do this when we are being censored and are unable to write the important stories that need to be talked about the most. New Voices was created just for that problem. 

New Voices is a campaign run by Hillary Davis, the Student Press Law Center and many others who want to help student journalists bring attention to the fact that they are being censored, and then put an end to it. New Voices allows us to lobby our legislators to help pass a law that would no longer censor student journalists so that they would be able to bring light to the most important, and sometimes controversial, stories. 

Over the summer, the New Voices campaign held a leadership program that lasted from July 6 through July 9. There were 22 student journalists from nine different states that attended the four-day zoom meetings. This leadership institute was designed to get student journalists from across the country together to discuss the importance of New Voices, as well as what they could do to help pass the legislation in their own state. 

During the institute, students gathered within their state to figure out where exactly the legislation was, and how to further it through developing a social media campaign. Many professionals attended this such as Dan Furmansky, Alexis, Katy Temple and many more. There were also guest speakers who spoke about their pasts as journalists, why this mattered to them and why it matters today. The students within the states may have been from the same schools, but many were not, which allowed many ideas to surface to the table. On the final day of the meetings, the students presented their social media campaign plans and received feedback from the other states. 

Following the institute, each state continues to meet with Hillary Davis to continue their social media plans, discuss their progress and to get more feedback on how to keep expanding the New Voices campaign. Each state also has plans to meet with their state leaders each month to get even more feedback. These state groups work together for the collective goal of having New Voices passed, allowing student journalists to write as they please and continue to give voices to those who do not have a platform.