Cronkite New Voices Act Silenced For The Year

AUGUSTA, GA (May 14, 2016) – The Cronkite New Voices Act, which would offer protection from censorship to student journalists and advisers, was put on hold when the Missouri General Assembly failed to vote on it Friday and the legislative session came to an end. HB 2058 had passed in the Missouri House of Representatives and was being held in committee, waiting for a Senate vote. But Senator David Pearce (R-Dist. 21) held the bill in committee, which let it die by not reaching the Senate floor for a vote before the session ended. “The bill cannot come back to life until the next session,” NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said today. NPPA’s leadership had expressed support for the bill and had encouraged members to contact Pearce to express favor for the measure. Pearce is also the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “This is a very important issue, not only for students but for all future and present journalists,” Osterreicher said about HB 2058. “The act would protect student journalists and advisers from censorship unless what they publish is, among other things: a violation of federal or state law, defamatory, or constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Moreover, that bill would effectively take precedence over a 1988 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier.” That case held that student journalists’ First Amendment rights were not violated when the high school principal prevented them from publishing articles containing objectionable material in the school newspaper. If HB 2058 had passed, Osterreicher said, student journalists would have be entitled to the free speech protections enunciated by the high court in 1967 in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, unless school officials could prove that the conduct in question would “materially and substantially interfere” with school operations. Osterreicher urges NPPA members to not forget about this measure and to remember to once again contact Sen. Pearce to voice their support when the Missouri Legislature again convenes.