Archive for the ‘college crap’ Category


UGLY LOVE

I love SPJ.


I love it for an ugly reason: I crave money. And my cravings aren’t cheap.

Over the last dozen years, I’ve blown $70,000 of SPJ’s cash, much of it on weird journalism programs…

These programs have one thing in common: None are lectures or panel discussions. You actually do something, instead of just listening to someone.

I’m feeling especially amorous right now. SPJ recently funded three new participatory programs, all from different parts of the same organization. Click the ugly logos below to learn more or sign up…

Paper Money

The bullet: A nationally renowned advertising expert will visit up to 10 struggling college newspapers. Apply now through June 25 for free hands-dirty instruction this fall.

The battle: Why would the nation’s largest journalism organization fund sales training? Because SPJ knows without paid ads, there’s no free press. This country already has enough news deserts. We don’t need them spreading to college campuses.

The bill: $2,500 from the SPJ Foundation, with matching money from Flytedesk, a college media ad agency.

PRESS the Flesh

The bullet: This fall, SPJ past president (and current ethics chair) Lynn Walsh leads college journalists to Capitol Hill, where they’ll lobby Congress on free-press issues – with the help of a professional DC lobbying firm.

The battle: SPJ and other free-press advocates have had dismal luck lobbying lawmakers. (Federal shield law, anyone?) So we’ve hired grizzled lobbyists to train fresh-faced young people. Maybe our luck will change.

The bill: $1,500 from SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund, with in-kind support from ACP, CMA, FIRE, and SPLC – the first time all these groups have worked together.

News Swap

The bullet: Readers and sources take over a college newspaper, publishing their own special summer issue. They’ll become the editors – and the editors will become their reporters.

The battle: Media literacy is crucial but dull. What if we can teach about a free press by giving one away? If this debut works, we’ll spread the concept nationwide. (Last time that happened, it was called Muslimedia, and the SPJ Foundation paid us to host it in California, Illinois, Iowa, New York, and Oklahoma.)

The bill: $500 from SPJ Florida and $600 from SPJ Region 3.

Don’t listen!

Confucius didn’t really say this, but someone smart did…

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

That should be posted on the website of every journalism school and media organization, like the warning labels on opioid bottles: “May cause addiction.”

Done right, journalism should be habit-forming. Alas…

J-schools and groups like SPJ teach pithy reporting and riveting writing, because we know our readers and viewers are busy people – yet we do so through boring lectures and meandering panel discussions.

Journalists do shit for a living. Why must they listen to so much shit in school? What if journalism was taught like it’s made? What would that look like?

It might look like these programs I’ve just described. That’s why I love SPJ. It spends money so you can learn by getting off your ass, instead of sitting on it.


If you’re curious about any of these programs, want to help, or simply want to steal the idea(s) for yourself while getting free money, hit me up.

Win Woodward

woodward

Want to interview this guy?


You can argue Bob Woodward is the nation’s most famous reporter – the pinnacle of shoe-leather journalism in an era of celebrity dilettantes who pursue their brands more than stories.

If you believe everything old becomes new again – kind of like comic-book heroes and crystal meth – then maybe old-fashioned journalism will make a comeback. We’ll find out in October in Washington, DC, when Woodward is a keynote speaker at the nation’s largest college media convention.

Woodward will be interviewed by five students whose parents were still in school when he made his name covering Watergate.

It’s a risky move for the Associated Collegiate Press, which organized this convention. If you’ve ever watched a White House or NFL press conference, you realize just how many dumb questions pro journalists ask.

But ACP executive director Laura Widmer is undaunted.

“At ACP in D.C., we don’t just want to teach journalism, we want our students to experience journalism,” Widmer says. “What a great opportunity for a college journalist to be onstage and interview one of the most famous reporters of our time. That’s an experience they won’t soon forget.”

To land this gig, students need to apply just like they would any other job. SPJ will help review the resumes, clips, and cover letters. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, click the photo below for more details. Got questions not answered here or there? Email me.

askbob

What really matters

Gideon Grudo and Tyler Krome

Black Lives Matter doesn’t matter this much.


At Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, the private liberal arts school is in the middle of a very public controversy.

Last week, the student newspaper ran a column called Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think. Written by staff writer Bryan Stascavage, it opined…

It boils down to this for me: If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement, I cannot support the movement. And many Americans feel the same. I should repeat, I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists.

Stascavage ended with…

At some point Black Lives Matter is going to be confronted with an uncomfortable question, if they haven’t already begun asking it: Is this all worth it? Is it worth another riot that destroys a downtown district? Another death, another massacre? At what point will Black Lives Matter go back to the drawing table and rethink how they are approaching the problem?

In the days since, Wesleyan activists with Black Lives Matter have done a lot more than write a letter to the editor. The Boston Globe has reported, “Wesleyan students want to shut down their own newspaper for its Black Lives Matter coverage.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education added that slightly less reactionary students are demanding, “space on the newspaper’s front page should be devoted to submissions from minority voices.”

That led Argus editors to post a staff editorial apologizing for “our carelessness in fact-checking. The op-ed cites inaccurate statistics and twists facts.” However, they didn’t list those stats and facts. They also apologized “for the distress the piece caused the student body.”

This entire mess distresses Frank LoMonte. He’s executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“It’s totally legitimate for them to protest the paper if they feel ill-served,” LoMonte says of the Black Lives Matter students. “But it goes too far to insist that every issue set aside front-page space for a minority-perspective or to threaten the paper’s funding.”

LoMonte continues….

Obviously, a private college isn’t legally obliged to continue funding the paper, but it would set a terribly intimidating precedent if making readers mad resulted in being de-funded. Would the readers really be better served by no newspaper at all? Obviously not. If the dissenters want to come up with a better newspaper, great, they can apply for funding and compete in the marketplace.

LoMonte’s days are spent defending student journalists from censorious administrators. In this twisted case, he’s defending students from students – and he has Wesleyan administrators on his side.

“Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable,” wrote Wesleyan president Michael Roth. “We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking.”

Attention Wesleyan Black Lives Matter: You know you’ve lost your campus’s hearts and minds when frequent enemies are aligned against you. Even worse, you know you’re toast when Gawker makes fun of you with “lmao.”

As an SPJ national director, I’ve emailed the shell-shocked Argus editors, offering to help them any way I can. But since everyone is piling on the student protesters, I want to make them this public offer…

If Wesleyan’s Black Lives Matter will stop trying to shut down their student newspaper, I’ll help them start their own. 

As LoMonte says, media can “compete in the marketplace.” I’ll help raise money for web and print publishing, and I’ll  assist with all the boring logistics so the students who hate The Argus can create a media outlet they like.

This isn’t a shtick, ploy, scheme, or bluff. The last time I offered to help students start their own publication, they raised more than $5,000. I truly believe anyone who commits an act of journalism not only informs their readers but also themselves. That’s my only greedy self-interest.

So all it takes is this: Any of 147 students who signed the Wesleyan petition complaining The Argus “neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color,” I’ll help you create that safe space. But you have to maintain it. I hope that matters enough for you to email me.

Iowaaaahh!

The city of Muscatine, on the Mississippi River, has just over 20,000 residents.

Call it a full court press.


A dozen students in a small Iowa town have sued their whiny college for censoring the campus newspaper and firing their adviser.

But they’re not waiting around for a judge to rule – the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, and these (mostly) women want to burn rubber.

So they’re starting their own newspaper.

And you can help.

Clockwise from top: Mary Mason, Alexis Huscko, Tarsa Weikert, Omar Ocampo

Meet these pleasant people.


Two words you rarely see together are polite journalist, but that describes the entire staff of The Calumet, the student-run newspaper at tiny Muscatine Community College. (Enrollment: under 2,000.)

They’ve never ambush-interviewed anyone, asked leading questions, been passive-aggressive, or stretched the truth to make their stories sexier.

No, they just wrote mostly nice and innocuous stories that still got them in serious trouble. Why? No one knows, but it’s both funny and sad.

Here’s an example from editor Mary Mason (top left)…

A building had 13-15 door handles that weren’t working, and students wondered why. So we wrote a story explaining the handles cost several hundred dollars each to fix, and that they had to be specially ordered. The administration felt the story was negative.

It gets stupider…

Rick Boyer is gonna hate this photo. So share it with your friends.

Meet a silly censor.


This is Rick Boyer, MCC’s chairman of the math and science department.

A few months ago, The Calumet listed all the faculty who had won grants – not what you’d call hard-hitting investigative reporting. But Boyer sure took it that way.

The harmless and even boring story (which you can read here) ran with smiling photos of the winners, which the school made readily available.

The next day, Boyer called the newsroom and, according to the students’ lawsuit…

asserted that The Calumet did not have the right to use his photograph and that The Calumet must obtain his consent in the future before using his photograph or a photograph of anyone else on campus. Boyer then hung up.

Perhaps Boyer has a body integrity disorder. Or maybe he’s a fugitive from justice. Either would explain why his LinkedIn and his Facebook profiles have no photos of his face. So I’m running Boyer’s photo here, with the hope he’ll call and yell at me, too. (Mr. Boyer: my Skype handle is michaelkoretzky.)

I don’t know why a math professor needs to approve all the photos in a student newspaper, but that’s not as weird as this…

Ladrina Wilson got promoted to dean for abusing rules to protect minorities. Maybe she'll become a college president if she accuses students of murder.

Meet a sinister censor.


This is LaDrina Wilson, who was MCC’s “equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer” last year.

I’m not exactly sure what her job was, but I do know she wasn’t very busy. How else to explain her investigation into The Calumet’s staff?

Wilson went after the students for a hard-hitting story about…who gets named “Student of the Month.”

Seriously.

The Calumet reported on one woman who was named Student of the Month twice in one year. Who chooses? The Student Government adviser – who just happens to be the woman’s uncle.

That adviser filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against The Calumet’s adviser, James Compton. How that story makes the adviser a discriminating boss is beyond me, but Wilson launched an investigation. MCC even hired a private investigator to interrogate Compton and the students.

“The student journalists felt pressured and intimidated,” the lawsuit says.

Wilson’s investigation eventually concluded the students did nothing wrong by reporting on who gets chosen Student of the Month. Imagine that.

Then Wilson got promoted. She’s now dean of students at another Iowa community college. Which infuriates this guy…

Frank LoMonte can't figure out why MCC hates its student newspaper so much, but it really bugs the crap out of him.

Meet an angry attorney.


This is Frank LoMonte. He runs the Student Press Law Center, which defends high schoolers and college students from hyper-sensitive principals and presidents.

He spent hours investigating MCC. His take…

You can say a lot of bad things about the people who run Muscatine Community College, but one thing you have to give them is: They keep their promises. They promised the editors of The Calumet that if they published a story about how an unhinged MCC administrator threatened the newspaper – for publishing his head-shot photo without his express consent – that the newspaper’s adviser would lose his job. And sure enough, they were good to their word.

LoMonte concludes, “You really can’t get a more open-and-shut First Amendment violation than this one, and yet MCC has decided to waste the taxpayers’ money hiring lawyers to try to defend the indefensible.”

He’s most irate about a nice-guy newspaper adviser losing his job because he stuck up for this students…

James Compton

Meet the assailed adviser.


This is James Compton. He’s an English professor who advised The Calumet until he was fired – by email from a dean.

“I still have my job there teaching English,” Compton says. He admits to feeling “guilty relief” at no longer working with the student newspaper: “Being questioned by a private eye was never one of my professional goals.”

He’s being replaced with a part-time adjunct professor “who will have no workplace protection,” Compton says. “This breaks a run of full-time teachers as adviser that began when The Calumet started up in 1951.”

Compton is a quiet, laid-back guy who says, “I have no specifics as to what I’ve been guilty of.” His best guess? “I believe anything the students researched and reported – if it wasn’t outright positive – was viewed as an attack on administration and those close to them.”

Still, he saw the students get results. Remember those broken door handles? “They watched maintenance attempt to fix multiple broken door handles in a building the same day another reporter had interviewed the head of maintenance.”

Then there was the urinal…

“Tarsa Weikert saw the head of maintenance replace a broken urinal within hours of her interviewing him. The urinal had been broken for nine months.”

And more importantly, this…

“When there was a report on a parking lot feeling unsafe at night due to darkness, they saw the electric truck appear the day after publication to install new lights.”

Yup, sounds like a rowdy gang of anarchists to me. Now they’re doing this…

The Spotlight is going to be a very nice newspaper published by some very nice students.

Meet The Spotlight.


While the students wait for their lawsuit to mosey its way through the legal system, they’ve launched their own print newspaper, called The Spotlight.

It debuts next week. Printing the paper will cost around $500, so SPJ Florida and SPJ Region 3 have offered to match any donation up to that amount. That gives The Spotlight enough cash to cover their first two issues, and enough time to sell ads to pay for the issues after that.

Will you donate a dollar or five? Click here or on any photo…

Unless they’re shy, all donors will be listed on The Spotlight’s website and printed in the dead-tree edition.

Says editor Mary Mason: “Our goal is to get people talking, to start a dialogue.” They already have…

The Spotlight is going to be a very nice newspaper published by some very nice students.

Meet the future.


You might be asking yourself, “Why should I give a crap about – and my money to – a dozen courteous reporters in Iowa?”

Frank LoMonte sums it up best…

What we’re seeing at MCC is perhaps the most unsubtle and heavy-handed example of the escalating war on journalism at campuses across America. The message to colleges must be that when you attack a newsroom, you’re kicking a hornet’s nest – you’re not going to be able to control what comes out, and it’s going to sting real bad.

Help us create a buzz, both in and out of Iowa.

Bloch and tackle

Don't mess with Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch was just plagiarized. So why is she smiling?


Because the 21-year-old college editor proved a local reporter copied her story, proved he had done the same to others, and stood up to the publisher who vaguely threatened to sue her.

That all happened last week. By Friday afternoon, the plagiarizing reporter was suspended and the publisher had announced an internal investigation.

Not bad for a week’s work.

Here’s what happened, and what we can learn from it…

Bloch is the newly elected editor of the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, and not long after she reported about a police investigation into a student rape off campus, she discovered The Boca Raton Tribune had done the same – lifting entire paragraphs from her story.

Her faculty adviser emailed the Tribune, politely asking for elaboration. No reply. A few days later, Bloch called but couldn’t get past the receptionist.

So being a journalist, Bloch investigated her plagiarist and – to no one’s surprise – learned he had done it before. His targets included not just a major regional daily but national sites like Wired and The Daily Beast.

Bloch wrote a column on the University Press website that began like this…

At FAU, if I get caught plagiarizing a paper, I’ll get an F. It would go on my transcript and on a repeat offense, I could get expelled. But if I do it at The Boca Raton Tribune, I’ll get a paycheck.

Ouch.

Bloch promoted her column on social media, and Poynter staff writer Ben Mullin tweeted it, as did best-selling author Jeff Pearlman to his 49,000 followers. A local website called Rise Miami News covered the story, quoting Bloch: “Copying and pasting whole paragraphs from my story is pretty ballsy.”

Not surprisingly, within hours of Bloch’s column going live, the publisher called her — to demand the story be spiked. She didn’t back down. The publisher called the newspaper’s faculty adviser and mentioned calling a lawyer. He didn’t back down.

By the time I spoke with the publisher Friday afternoon — because SPJ Florida and Region 3 like to spend money on lawyers defending journalists — he realized his threats weren’t budging his targets. So he announced the reporter was suspended and he was investigating.

“She brought up very good points,” the publisher told Rise Miami News. “We want to teach young people good journalism, and this is not the right way.”

Bloch did it the right way. Journalism can not only comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, it can punish a plagiarizer.

College Top 10

CT10

Meet the best college journalists in the South.


They’re the 2014 winners of the College Top 10, a unique journalism contest run by SPJ’s Green Eyeshade Awards – itself a unique contest.

For more than 60 years, the Green Eyeshades has recognized the best pro media work in the southern United States. It’s one of the oldest regional journalism contests in the nation.

Instead of simply rewarding one good story on one particular topic, the Green Eyeshades sought the best students who were consistently good at one thing. They had to submit multiple pieces on a single subject.

Alas, this year’s entries were terrible, except for a handful. Below are those few.

The judges didn’t declare winners in half the categories: design, movies, music, science, and sports. Why? Because nearly all the entries were solid and safe and just good enough. And that’s not what this contest is about – nor is “solid and safe” how you pursue a fulfilling career. Unless, of course, you want to work for 40 years to be “just good enough.”

Here are the winners who rebelled to excel…


Dylan Bouscher, Florida Atlantic University

Best Student Government reporter: Dylan Bouscher


Judging comment: This was tough: Reward one of the reporters who quite capably and incrementally covered SGA but never took a risk? Or recognize the only reporter who shot for the moon and hit the target, albeit with a glancing blow? Dylan Bouscher was the only entrant to feature video, which is novel because SGA is not a beat that lends itself to alluring B roll. The results were as good as one could reasonably expect. As for content, Bouscher tried mightily to explain complex topics, not always successfully. But he’s a reacher, and he’ll eventually eclipse his peers who are too timid to fail – and thus will never learn and excel.


Boucher’s comment: Growing up, I hated being told no. Once I started covering Florida Atlantic University’s Student Government and administration, that changed. Being told no to interview and records requests, from students and administrators whose paychecks I helped fund, only unleashed my passion and curiosity for watchdog reporting further. But my best stories didn’t result from hostility. They came from leveling with people: students and classmates trusting me to be human about the corruption and mismanagement. Doing that made working for the student newspaper by far the most fun and enlightening aspect of my college experience.


Max Jackson, Florida Atlantic University

Best photographer: Max Jackson


Judging comment: I judged this category last year and had the same problems this year: Great photogs who shoot the same darn thing everyday. Attention next year’s applicants: Take a hint from Jackson. He sent in a perfectly passable (no pun intended) pic of a quarterback looking downfield, but he also submitted a moving portrait of a dwarf at a medical marijuana debate – not your typical assignment. His third photo was the opposite – the school’s mascot with a bunch of kids. That’s usually a shoot and scoot, but Jackson captures a great moment, and his technical skills are beyond dispute.


Jackson’s comment: One of the most rewarding aspects of photography is that ability to capture a moment in time that will never occur quite the same way again, which I think many photographers would agree with. Each time I pick up my camera there is no certainty of what I will capture, whether it is the winning touchdown, or getting the perfect golden hour.  On the other side of that, is the knowledge that you need to “nail this shot” because there are no reshoots in live action photography. This passion I have developed, almost an addiction, has and continues to take me places that I never could have imagined the first time I held a DSLR.


Hannah Jeffrey, University of South Carolina

Best feature writer: Hannah Jeffrey


Judging comment: A surprisingly strong category – and from what I hear from other judges, the only one. The winner in this close race was Jeffrey, and not for any major philosophical reason like the other category judges have remarked. It’s simply that Jeffrey did the best across the board: She found fascinating people, got them to talk like normal people, and wrote about them for all people. It’s also interesting how she keeps her articles short and punchy, using subheads to great effect and generally eschewing the feature writer’s penchant for look-at-me composition and length. A humble feature writer!


Jeffrey’s comment: I’d argue features are the most satisfying yet most difficult kind of stories to write. Your reporting has to be thorough and extensive or else you won’t get the whole story — the feature interviews I’ve done that stick out have lasted a a few hours, at least. But features are all about picking out the good stuff, giving some color and making people care. You could hear a story, think “that’s a great story” and move on. But if it’s a really great story, it deserves details and attention.


Roberto Roldan, University of South Florida

Best administration reporter: Roberto Roldan


Judging comment: A disappointing category doesn’t mean the winner is disappointing. Roldan is unafraid to take on administrators, whether it’s questioning how they hide tuition hikes or hide expenditures behind “direct support organizations.” Roldan does a yeoman’s job explaining complex topics without oversimplifying or sensationalizing. Other entries in this category tackled big and important topics, but they failed in the execution: lacking clear narratives with impenetrable background. It’s not the reporting that’s so hard in government reporting, it’s the explanation – the why should I care? Roldan simply answers that question better than his peers.


Roldan’s comment: As journalists we talk a lot about holding those in power accountable, but a lot of times we relegate our time to stories that are safe, don’t piss people off and are quick turn around for the 24/7 news cycle. Most of my stories that dealt with issues of transparency and accountability in student government and university offices fell on deaf ears (so it goes), but one or two stories caused administrators to make measurable changes toward increased transparency — the ultimate reward for good journalism.


Cassidy Alexander, University of North Florida

Best columnist: Cassidy Alexander


Judging comment: Too many columnists are timid, both in topic and tone. Alexander is willing to mock a city council president (for his objection to a nude picture in a contemporary art museum) and riffing of her school’s attempt to create traditions. (“The university seems to have missed a very important point – a tradition is not something you can just compose into a list and announce at a party.”) She’s also willing to build from there, adding creative thinking to breezy writing.


Alexander’s comment: I see columns as opportunities to interpret the news for an audience that doesn’t always have the time or the background knowledge to do it for themselves. Bad things happen every day when people don’t understand what’s going on. It’s my responsibility to my audience to make things as clear as possible for them, no matter how daunting the topic is. When I’m mad about something and my writing makes someone else angry too, I’ve done my job. That’s what change happens.


Think you can do better? Enter the College Top 10 next year and prove it. Questions? Email me.


Losing his faculties

This older gentleman? A teenager is wiser than he is.


Ed Meadows is president of Pensacola State College in the Florida Panhandle. He made the most headlines of his long career just last week, when he told the 18-year-old Spenser Garber, co-editor of the PSC student newspaper, three silly things…


1. Garber shouldn’t cover the school’s contract negotiations with faculty. That will only “distract students from their studies.”


2. If faculty leaders update Garber on their negotiations, everyone is violating the law. Besides, Meadows said, “What benefit would it be for students to know?”


3. It’s impossible for Garber to write a balanced story on faculty negotiations – because Meadows refuses to speak to the newspaper. “Good journalism requires two sides to every story and, unfortunately, I can’t give you the other side,” Meadows says. Therefore, nothing should be written at all.

The story quickly bled beyond the Panhandle’s borders.


It traveled at the speed of sound from a higher-education website (Gag Order in Sunshine State) to a campus watchdog group (Fla. college censors student reporters, tells them to stick to ‘basketball games’) to a student legal center (Fla. community college president discredits student newspaper’s reporting, gags faculty) to a student rights group (Pensacola State Official Offers Embarrassingly Bad Justifications for Censorship of Student Media).

But Garber has grown increasingly uncomfortable with the coverage’s hyperbole, which peaked when Gawker got involved (Florida College President Is Either a Thug or a Moron).

When I spoke with Garber last week, two things impressed me…


1. He’s not easily intimidated. At 18, he’s more fearless than many older college journalists I’ve known. In (too) many cases, students crumple at the first sign of conflict, trading defense of the First Amendment for some vague sense of self-preservation – which, of course, is exactly the opposite way to achieve that goal. So Garber says he’ll keep covering the stories his readers want to know about.


2. He’s not easily excitable. Garber is adamant that he’s not out for blood. He doesn’t want Meadows fired over this. Meadows is wrong, he says, but no one has threatened to shut down the paper or prevent him from writing what he wants. Garber struck me as the most mature person in this dust-up: He’s disappointed in Meadows but not angry at him, and he’s calmly trying to add some nuance in an echo chamber of online hyperbole.


I asked Garber, What would you want to tell journalists about what’s happened? Below is his open letter he wrote over the weekend.

Journalists of the United States…


The past few weeks have been stressful to say the least. By trying to do my job as a journalist, national news sites like Gawker and Inside Higher Ed have picked up a story that isn’t really true.

On October 31st, a letter was sent to the Faculty Association of Pensacola State College. That letter was CC’d to the Corsair in an e-mail. In this e-mail, sent by lawyer Mike Mattimore, two laws were outlined stating that no college organization shall exploit students for personal gain. One specific law, Florida Statute Section 447.501(2)(f), had been ruled unconstitutional a while back.

Here’s where the misunderstanding started. I kept trying to tell the administration that the original information I obtained about a PSCFA straw poll was not from a PSCFA member. It wasn’t even a person that works at the college. They insisted that I had to get the information from a PSCFA member, even if it didn’t come from one that told me (these meetings are open meetings, anyone could have seen the straw poll vote).

After the letter was sent, things got blown out of proportion fairly quickly. Some people interpreted the letter as a restriction of the Corsair’s freedom of the press. That isn’t true. The letter was outlining the legality of the PSCFA talking to the paper, which puts the fault on the PSCFA, not the Corsair. Since the college’s realization of the unconstitutionality of Florida Statute Section 447.501(2)(f), they have changed their stance on the PSCFA’s ability to talk to the Corsair.

It is unnecessary to interview President Meadows about the “gag order” sent to the PSCFA, as it is a moot point. It is unnecessary to interview me about the Corsair’s restriction of freedom of the press, as it is nonexistent. There is no real news in a story about the faculty and administration negotiating a contract. If you want an update on the story, there will be a Board of Trustees meeting on November 18. Afterwards, there will most likely be a story uploaded to the Corsair’s web site.

Best Wishes,

Spenser Garber
Co-Editor at Pensacola State College

Schick Piss Fuck

The opinions expressed below (and above) are not necessarily those of the management of this blog.


Then again, they aren’t necessarily the opposite, either.

The man expressing those opinions is David Schick, a college journalist I’ve written about a few times before.

He’s a little nuts, I won’t lie. But I’ve always said this about mentoring students:

It’s easier to dull a sharp knife than sharpen a dull knife.

In other words: The biggest asshole on campus can mellow into an adult who keeps an edge, but how many college cowards grow up to take the right risks?

So I like the guy. Here’s Schick’s latest shtick, in his own words. Make of it what you will…

Last month was Free Speech Week. And when it comes to the First Amendment, I’m more than an advocate – I’m a fanatic.

To celebrate, I decided that I wanted to pay tribute to a couple of my favorite cases regarding free speech. One day last week, I wore my old Army battle dress uniform and made some minor alterations to the back. I spelled out “Fuck The Draft” in duct tape on the back.

The reactions were mixed. Some people just scoffed at the profanity, others asked me why I was wearing it—the real reason why I wore it, to educate people on the famous U.S. Supreme Court Case, Cohen v. California—and one of the Communications Law professors at my school laughed and actually took a picture with his phone.

In my first class, a philosophy course, one student told me that I could be tried under the Sedition Act and sent to jail for wearing it. You know, the Sedition Act that was passed in 1918 and repealed in 1920? That one.

On another day I paid homage to the late George Carlin and his Seven Dirty Words. In sharpie marker, I wrote out, “Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits,” on my journalism schools’ t-shirt they hand out to new students.

Remember the Communications Law professor who laughed before? Well, now I was “over the top.” I shook my head. Where did he draw that line? I wondered. Clearly “fuck” was okay in reference to a notable Supreme Court Case, but the addition of the other six “dirty words” in reference to a comedy sketch was no longer celebrating the First Amendment.

I carried on because “over the top” is how I am about the First Amendment. For me, there’s really no room for saying that one set of speech is okay but another is not.

And it may be cliché, but to correctly quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often attributed to Voltaire), even if “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Schick hits the fan

Sam Olens

If only they were all this quick and easy.


Yesterday, I wrote about Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general, who was picking on a University of Georgia journalism student named David Schick.

I described how Olens was demanding Schick erase four pages of very public records from his personal blog. Last week, Olens filed a motion with a judge to force the 28-year-old to comply.

Yesterday, Olens withdrew that motion.

Why? Who knows.

I’d like to think it had something to do with SPJers posting those same public records on their own blogs in protest. Not ony did I do that, but so did SPJ President Dave Cuillier.

At least one attorney is convinced SPJ had something to do with it.

“Whenever there’s a blogger whose rights are being threatened, SPJ is the first to ride to the rescue,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “There’s no question this needless intimidation tactic would have dragged on for many more weeks without SPJ’s timely intervention. The attorney general’s office thought they could push around one little student blogger, but they didn’t realize they were taking on an entire profession.”

As for Schick, he’s happy yet confused: “I’m very glad the Attorney General’s office withdrew their motion, but I still don’t know the reason why.”

He concludes…

It’d be great if the AG’s office withdrew the motion because they realized it was legally unsupportable in the first place. But if they just withdrew it because they now realize — in the age of the Internet — it would be impossible to track down everyone who might already have republished this material, that’s less encouraging.

I disgaree with Schick. I doubt Sam Olens jumped out of bed yesterday morning and blurted, “My God, what have I done?!” before rushing to work and withdrawing his motion. He’s an elected official who saw some bad publicity barreling towards him, so he smartly got out of the way. I find that very encouraging.

Schick vs. hick

Sam OlensWant to enrage this guy in Georgia? Copy 21 pages of public records to your own website.


Somewhere in those pages are four that so offend Georgia’s Attorney General, he’s demanding a college journalist erase them from his personal blog. Last week, he asked a judge to force the kid to do it.

So what does Attorney General Sam Olens fear the public will learn? NSA snooping secrets? Benghazi scandal evidence? The recipe for Coca-Cola? (Coke is based in downtown Atlanta.)

“The four pages of documents,” says the motion Olens’ office filed last Wednesday, “contain the names of a number of individuals who applied for the position of president at one of the Board of Regents’ colleges or universities. None of these individuals was selected as a finalist for the position for which they applied.”

That’s right, Olens doesn’t want you to know the names of people who applied for a job and didn’t get it.

Perhaps Olens wants to spare those fine folks the embarrassment of everyone knowing they were passed over. Then again, they were outed only on an obscure blog written by a University of Georgia journalism student named David Schick.

So how did Schick get those names? Simple. He asked for them.

Olens’ motion contends Georgia officials “improperly” released those names, buried in 700 pages of public records Schick had been requesting for nearly a year.

Frank LoMonte

Want to enrage this attorney in Washington, DC? Whisper “Sam Olens” in his ear.


“It’s outrageous that Attorney General Sam Olens apparently doesn’t understand basic principles of First Amendment law that have been set in concrete for decades,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“The Supreme Court has said again and again and again that journalists have an absolute right to publish information they obtain without breaking the law, and no court can order them to stop the presses – much less the more drastic step of ‘unpublishing’ something distributed months earlier.”

What angers LoMonte is the triviality of it all.

“States have been conducting college presidential searches in the open for many, many years,” he says. “The idea that there’s some privacy right in being a candidate for college president that overrides the First Amendment is frankly nutty.”

LoMonte concludes, “Courts can’t stop a journalist even from publishing leaked classified documents or the names of rape victims, and the evaluation of candidates for college president looks like pretty small beans next to those. I’m certain that the judge will laugh this motion right out of his courtroom.”

Davd Schick

Want to assist David Schick? Annoy Sam Olens.


Click the image below to view 21 pages of public records from Schick’s original 700-page request (more on that in a minute). Then post them on your own website and tell Olens about it. I just did…

Mr. Olens: I heard about your office’s motion to compel a college journalist to remove four pages of public records from his website. Since the motion didn’t specify exactly which pages those were, and since David Schick and his attorney won’t tell me – it’s “pending litigation,” after all – I’ve discovered 21 pages that qualify. Since I’m reasonably sure the four pages that offend you are among them, I’m posting the 21-page PDF to my blog and asking others to do the same with their blogs. 

The reasoning here is simple.

If many others post the PDF, the judge will likely conclude it makes no sense to grant Olens’ motion. Because as often happens in these cases, Olens’ heavy-handed tactics have made those public records even more public.

So what did Schick want with 700 pages of records? I wrote about Schick last year, when he was investigating a $16 million budget shortfall at Georgia Perimeter College – where he went to school, and where his newspaper adviser was laid off due to budget cuts.

Obviously, administrators weren’t keen on Schick’s digging, and they stymied him at every turn. As I wrote last April…

First, the school charged him $2,963 to forward him emails. When he got a volunteer lawyer who threatened to sue, the price tag was knocked down to $291. But then administrators printed out each email and then re-scanned them – which meant Schick couldn’t search them for keywords.  

Undaunted, Schick secured a pro bono attorney in Atlanta-based Daniel Levitas and sued the Georgia Board of Regents for “failing to produce public records.” After a 2 1/2-day trial in April, Schick and Levitas are awaiting the judge’s verdict.

How long will that take?

“I have no way of knowing,” Levitas says. “There may be a decision very soon or there may not be a decision for many months. Following the trial, we’ve received no instruction from the judge.”

That might seem like the wheels of justice grinding exceedingly slow, but Levitas says it was a speedy trial that the judge “rocket-docketed.”

He also doesn’t know when the judge will rule on Olens’ motion. But Schick, who now attends the University of Georgia and is president of the school’s SPJ/ONA chapter, is more patient than most journalists. In fact, he says this experience has emboldened him to become an attorney himself.

He already speaks like one. I asked him what he could say, given that we have no idea when the “pending” will end on the case and the motion. He replied via email with this lawyerly statement…

This is a rather extraordinary motion and raises profound First Amendment concerns of prior restraint and government censorship. Time and time again, the right of journalists to publish controversial and even classified government documents has been supported by the courts. The ability to publish controversial information — even information that allegedly jeopardizes the supposed “privacy rights” of individuals — is a cornerstone of press freedom in our democracy.

He concluded like this: “I look forward to responding further in the proper forum — in court by and through my attorney.”

When Schick passes the bar, I got to keep him on speed dial. Because I might want to hire him to represent me someday.

Make Olens mad

Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ