New CA Law Protects College Newspapers
August 29, 2006 2:01 PM
A state bill that protects college newspapers in California from censorship became law on Monday, essentially giving them the same rights as major, independent newspapers.
The bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB 2581, was authored by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/Daly City, and introduced Aug. 18 at the SF State Journalism Department
It is the first bill of its kind in the nation.
“Today, California is leading the way in making sure true freedom of the press is alive and well on our college campuses,” Yee said.
The legislation specifically says that college newspapers, including broadcast journalism, at UC, CSU and community colleges cannot be subjected to prior restraint. In addition, it prohibits university officials from disciplining a student for activities related to speech or press related endeavors.
“Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Schwarzenegger said in a press release. “Students working on college newspapers deserve the same rights afforded to every other student journalist.”
News of the law was welcomed at the SF State Journalism Department, though the campus publication Golden Gate [X]press is already mostly an independent publication because its content is edited by students, not professors or university officials, said Professor Erna Smith, chair of the Journalism Department.
“Our policy has always been no prior restraint,” Smith said.
Smith said that prior to the law California already had a good track record when it came to student press and censorship issues.
“This law underscores that this is the way it goes,” Smith said. “It’s the best way to teach responsible journalists.”
The bill is a preemptive measure to protect California college newspapers in the wake of a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this year, which ruled that a college administrator could require student editors to submit articles for review before they are printed.
The case, Hosty vs. Carter, involved two student editors and a reporter at the Innovator, a college paper at Governor’s State University in Illinois. The newspaper published a series of stories about the school’s decision not to renew a contract for one of the Innovator’s advisers.
As a result, the dean of student affairs at the school adopted a new policy that required the Innovator to submit articles for review by administrators. The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to consider the case.
“Although we will continue to push for the Supreme Court to validate the rights of college newspapers in California through AB 2851, we are taking the proactive steps to make sure similar censorship does not occur at our college and universities,” Jim Ewert said, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
The law will officially go into effect Jan. 1, 2007.
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