UPDATE: HB 1307 makes it out of committee, off to Rules

About a week ago, I asked for your support of House Bill 1307, and I want to give you a brief update on the bill's progress.

We got a great piece of news Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 to send the bill to the next step in the process, which is the Rules Committee. This 24-member committee controls whether the bill eventually goes on to a vote on the House floor.

We still have a lot of work to do.

First off, the committee vote went right along party lines, with the seven Democrats voting for it, and the four Republicans voting against it. I'm mystified as to how free speech is a partisan issue -- both conservatives and liberals benefit from it -- but this is where we find ourselves. One of the keys to getting this bill passed will be generating some bipartisan support. (Here's at least one conservative who sees the value of free speech.)

Second, the half-hearted arguments of the organizations opposing the bill at the hearing will not be a portent of things to come. Each of these organizations have paid lobbyists working on their behalf who will be trying their darndest to kill this bill behind closed doors. We, on the other hand, have a grassroots campaign.

It will be doubly important that those of you who support this bill make your voice heard with your legislators -- especially if they are Republicans. Ask them to have the courage to support this bill, and let them know where you -- and your vote -- stand.

Lastly, this bill is generating a lot of passionate opinions on both sides. We anticipated opposition from those being stripped of their misguided power, but I can honestly say that I did not anticipate the lukewarm-to-outright-cold response we've received from the professional media, seen here:

The flaw with their logic, of course, is that administration is not the owner or publisher of a student publication. And they also conveniently neglect to mention that six other states have similar laws, and students seem to be doing a fine job there making content decisions. Here is a copy of the text of a letter to the editor I sent to The Seattle Times. (And, by the way, not all professional media are opposed. The P-I's Associate Publisher Ken Bunting wrote this piece in favor of the bill, and also testified for the bill at the hearing.)

As a journalism educator at Emerald Ridge High School, I am shocked and dismayed by your total lack of effort to understand the complexities of the relationship between student journalists and the administrators they cover in your editorial, “Young journalists, meet your editors.”

And as a professional journalist who once worked for one of your competitors, I’m extremely disappointed by your apparent plan to undercut the development of our next generation of journalists.

The relationship of student journalist to administration is not one of writer to editor, as you suggest. That analogy works in a commercial environment, where each party’s goal is to work in the best interest of the publication and the readers it serves.

A better parallel in a school environment is one of journalist to government.

As state employees, administrators are the government in schools. They are the primary decision makers of that community, and they often are the subject of the stories these journalists write – not the case with professional editors. If the Seattle Times was doing an investigative story on potential misconduct by an editor, would that editor be allowed to review the content before it went to press? Absolutely not – it would ruin your credibility.

Student newspapers serve a watchdog role within their schools, and administrators who insist on taking an intimate role in the publication process not only cause major credibility issues for these journalists, but they create an inevitable chilling effect on the free flow of information.

Instead, administrators should concentrate on what has been proven to be the best educational course of action: Hiring or training up highly qualified advisers who teach student journalists how to make responsible journalistic decisions, then allowing students to put it into practice. It’s how my principal operates our school, and how my students have won numerous national journalism awards, including the NSPA Pacemaker award.

I fear for the future of a democracy where our own journalists are advocating for government to determine the content of our press.

As you can see, we have a work cut out for us. Please, actively support this bill!


your brother said...

I'm friggin' baffled. Effin' Seattle Times. I really, truly am baffled. Either they are ignorant to what's really going on in too many schools which would make me feel only marginally better, or they are choosing to ignore it for some personally beneficial reasons to their publication, which is just confusing to me. Either way, I'm pissed about it. Let's have a moment of honesty here: how many administrators have you worked 'under' as a student journalist who needed to "attend workshops with journalists to learn about how journalism works and how editorial decisions are made?" Quoting an opinion from a dude who's advocating censorship of a free press as if it benefits a free press more than just allowing its due freedom. That's bush-league. Effin' Seattle Times.

Good letter, though. Lemme know if it gets published and if you get any reaction to it. Keep fightin' the good fight.

The Nuss said...

It's not in Saturday's paper. I'm hoping for Sunday ...

The LTE editor said that she's received a lot of letters on this, so I imagine they're probably saving them for Sunday. I'll link to whatever runs from the blog.