FIRE’s 2019 Regional Conference: Freedom of the Press explores student journalism and the First Amendment

October 23, 2019

This past weekend in Chicago, FIRE hosted a regional conference for over 40 students from colleges and universities across the country. This thought-provoking conference was packed with sessions about how the First Amendment relates to student journalism and student media.

The conference kicked off with a networking dinner on Friday. Students spent the evening discussing the state of free speech, campus cultures, and policies at their institutions.

Saturday’s programming started with a presentation led by Sarah McLaughlin, FIRE’s Director of Targeted Advocacy, who discussed the various warning signs of student press censorship. Sarah’s talk explored cases discussed in her report  “Under Pressure: The Warning Signs of Student Newspaper Censorship,” released last week. Next, students heard from Adam Steinbaugh, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, who explained how to request public records and discussed the First Amendment issues involved when public universities restrict content on their Facebook pages.

After lunch, IRDP Program Officer Adam Goldstein and Vice President of Policy Reform Azhar Majeed gave presentations on a few different topics. Adam explained the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and interview techniques, while Azhar discussed writing about school policies.

Mike Masnick, founder and editor of the popular blog Techdirt, as well as the founder of Silicon Valley thinktank the Copia Institute, delivered the keynote address Saturday afternoon. Mike’s presentation explored defamation, anti-SLAPP laws, and the importance of knowing your rights as a student journalist.

FIRE Assistant Director of Communications Daniel Burnett then led a presentation on how students can take the tools gained at the conference back to their campuses. The day closed with a panel in which FIRE staff offered advice for student journalists and answered questions from the audience.

Emma Camp, a student at the University of Virginia, said, “The FIRE Regional Conference has provided invaluable information for student journalists and leaders to cultivate an environment of rigorous exchange of ideas in their universities.” 

FIRE thanks the students and Mike for joining us for this fantastic event. Remember, anyone can join the FIRE Student Network and access resources like our Guides to Student Rights on Campus, speech code information, speakers, activism tips, and much more.