Recognizing our guardians of truth

If popular American culture tells us anything, heroes more often than not wear disguises and have super powers that protect us all from easily identifiable bad guys and mad scientists. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and even the hapless Guardians of the Galaxy, are all endowed with money, strength, god-like qualities, starships and other tools that generally guarantee that if the nemesis isn’t completely squashed, it’s at least compromised, giving hope for that next blockbuster sequel. Even Merriam-Webster’s definition begins with the idea that heroes are “mythological.”

But we’re journalists; let’s focus on reality. 

In fact, heroes are all around us, but they don’t wear capes. More often than not, they do go armed, but not with starships, invisible planes or laser guns. The battlement for the heroes to whom I refer here usually consists of cameras, field recorders, laptops, and…most important, tenacity and courage.

Clearly, I’m referring to the guardians of truth on our campuses—student journalists.

“These are some of the cases that have made headlines.  Many don’t.  I worry about those we don’t hear from, those who are trying to pursue truth, but are for myriad reasons bullied to silence.”

This has been a banner year for attempts to censor student journalists across the nation. Efforts to shut down high school presses can be found in censorship, prior review, and threats to the advisor at Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and prior restraint at Plainfield High School in Indiana. But challenges don’t stop at the secondary school levels, as is evident at the University of North Alabama’s censorship-through- firing at the Flor-Ala  student newspaper, or hundreds of stolen newspapers at Colgate University. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and reveal consistent efforts to silence pesky student journalists seeking the truth. In fact, these are some of the cases that have made headlines. Many don’t. I worry about those we don’t hear from, those who are trying to pursue truth, but are for myriad reasons bullied to silence.

Time Magazine announced its annual Person-of-the-Year pick this week, choosing journalists who serve as the “guardians” of truth in the face of historic efforts to quell it by despotic world leaders. Karl Vick’s cover story highlights journalist Jamal Kashoggi’s murder apparently by the order of the Saudi crown, two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar for “illegally” reporting on the murder of ten Muslim men, and the remaining staff of reporters and editors at Capital Gazette, who resolutely “put out the damned paper” following the slaughter of their co-workers. These are just a few of the powerful narratives Time offers of journalists who have stood up, even at grave risk to their own lives or freedom, to deliver the truth to their communities.

In keeping with those amazing guardians highlighted by Vick’s powerful essay, it is important to recognize those student journalists who are standing up and putting out the news, even when doing so is costly. They know that by doing so, they offer their campuses access to what’s relevant and vital to their day-to-day experience. Without an unfettered press, community members run the risk of purposefully limited versions of reality designed and molded by those who seek to benefit from less light shed on the subject. They are indeed heroes—the real kind.

“The fight is hard and seemingly all around us right now, so as a national honor society for student media leaders, we have a responsibility to share our stories, listen to each other, offer support.”

But it is equally important that we champion a free press for all students, even those who aren’t making headlines by metaphorically holding their ground against the rolling the tanks. The fight is hard and seemingly all around us right now, so as a national honor society for student media leaders, we have a responsibility to share our stories, listen to each other, offer support. That is, of course, how Marvel built its universe, by bringing the likes of Iron Man, Wolverine, and Spiderman together, recognizing there is strength in numbers and shared purpose.

We have initiatives aimed at building just such a coalition of strength among the nation’s student press corps. The Society for Collegiate Journalists’ mission says, in part, “SCJ focuses on pre-professional development at the collegiate level. SCJ aims to advance ethical, innovative collegiate journalism nationally and to create a strong network of advocates for First Amendment education.”  To that end, SCJ encourages chapters to plan and host an event on campus designed to raise awareness and educate about the First Amendment and journalism, and even offers a small grant to help support that effort.

It’s my hope that in 2019 all of our chapters share stories of the heroes in your newsrooms, students who are on the front lines championing truth and also working to educate others about the importance of journalism. If you send us your stories of #JournalismHeroes, we’ll share them on the website and tweet them out.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to truth. I can hardly wait to see what our chapters do in 2019.

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is Executive Director of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.

Journalists: Champions, not enemies, of the people

The National Council of the Society for Collegiate Journalists, led by President Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is glad to join the Boston Globe and the hundreds of other news organizations issuing a reminder today about the value of a free press in America.

How did we go from widely recognizing journalist Walter Cronkite as “the most trusted man in America” in 1967, to vilifying the entire field of journalism as “the enemy of the people” in 2017?

To fully answer that question would require a deep, book-length dive into cultural, political, economic, and technological change in the United States over those 50 years.

But the short answer to the question is that we didn’t.  President Donald Trump did.

So perhaps the better question, at least for this editorial, is not how did we get here, but why?

Journalists have long served as essential to the checks and balances necessary for American democracy.  Where would we be without those who tirelessly ask questions of process and policy, and who all-too frequently put themselves in harm’s way in order for Americans to see and hear historic moments that inevitably impact our daily lives?  Put another way, without journalists, could we trust elected officials to provide us with the unvarnished truth behind their motivations and votes?

James Madison knew the answer to that last question was an unequivocal, ‘no,’ which is why, when he penned the First Amendment, the press became the only profession named in the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers all recognized that without a free press, democracy would fail.

But with that stroke of a pen, journalists simultaneously donned a mantel of responsibility that would not always make it popular with the people, and most assuredly not with politicians.  As watchdog, the American press has a duty to ferret out truth, even when truth is ugly.  And when truth is ugly—as it so often has been in our history—elected officials naturally fear for their own job security, and in some cases, legacy.  As evidence of this fraught relationship, we need only look at Thomas Jefferson’s shift from champion of a free press to detractor after his presidential campaign produced less than flattering reports. “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” he famously opined.

So, yes.  The love-hate relationship between press and politics is real.  When press does not play the role of public relations promoter—indeed, as it never should—those who want only the rose-colored view of reality will be uncomfortable.  And with discomfort comes occasional anger.  We get it.  And we can take it.

But even President Richard Nixon, whose corrupt administration was ousted by investigative journalism, recognized journalists for their contributions to American democracy.  Of the 29 journalists to receive the nation’s highest honor for civil service, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten of them were awarded by Nixon.  The award recognizes, “meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”  And one would be hard-pressed to find a stronger statement of the level of public service journalists give to the United States than the Journalists Memorial wall at the Newseum that commemorates over 2,000 journalists who lost their lives reporting the news. Hm.  ‘Enemy of the people,’ you say?

President Trump’s name-calling and Twitter-rants may well have successfully coined the term “fake news,” but the fact is, students don’t seem to be buying his vilification of the media campaign.  According to an article by Adam Harris in The Atlantic earlier this month, students across the nation are indicating a renewed interest in journalism.  Top j-schools such as Columbia, USC Annenberg, and Northwestern, among others, are seeing a hopeful uptick in applications.

Additionally, though administrators have actively sought to censor some, we’re also seeing high school student journalists taking important steps to report on critical (read: uncomfortable) social and political issues. And student journalists aren’t taking the censorship attempts lying down. After students pushed back and public scrutiny escalated, a Texas high school principal reversed his prior review rule for Prosper High School’s newspaper, Eagle Nation Online earlier this month.  In another example, according to a recent Student Press Law Center article, Grace Marion, a 2018 graduate of Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania, even went so far as to boycott her own graduation ceremony in protest over administrative censorship of school’s newspaper, The Playwickian, while she was editor-in-chief.

There are countless examples of this sort of leadership among those who will be the future of this nation’s press, despite the barrage of insults emanating from the White House. Such perseverance is setting an example for all of us.

Student journalists should double down in their efforts to make a difference in their communities with hard-hitting, ethical, watchdog journalism.  The Society of Collegiate Journalists tips its hat to the pros and soon-to-be-pros for tenacity and important contributions to a stronger democracy. As Walter Cronkite once said, “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.”  Journalists are, in fact, champions—not enemies—of the people.

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is President of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.

SCJ joins RTDNA in call for members to join campaign defending press freedom

SCJ stands in solidarity with the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) in its call for all news outlets to take an editorial stance against the systematic vilification of the American press.

According to the RTDNA website, the organization’s director, Dan Shelley, said, “We urge our members to join the effort on Thursday, August 16 by dedicating airtime, publishing an online editorial or sharing information via social media platforms that speaks to your viewers and listeners about the role we play in preserving the public’s right and need to know, in a government for and by the people.”

The nation’s student press plays an essential role in educating communities, and especially young readers and viewers, about the role journalists play in American democracy.  SCJ encourages all student press outlets to consider offering social media messages and editorial statements that deepen their respective communities’ understanding of the First Amendment and importance of a free press.

For more on this campaign, please see the RTDNA call.

Tag us in any social media posts or editorial statements your media organizations or chapters make using the hashtags #SCJsupports1A and #PressBack.

The results are in!

We are pleased to release the results for the 2018 Society for Collegiate Journalists’ National Contest.  This year, our judges made 150 awards plus many honorable mentions. Congratulations to all our chapters and SCJ members! Keep up the award-winning work!

PDF: 2018 SCJ National Contest Results

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of your awards ceremonies so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to

New Savannah State chapter holds first induction ceremony

We have a new member of the SCJ family!

We are pleased to welcome Savannah State University, which created a new SCJ chapter this semester. On April 11, the new chapter held its first induction ceremony, initiating 12 founding members.

Eleven of the 12 founding members of the new Savannah State University SCJ chapter with advisers Jessica Sparks and William Martin.

President of the new chapter, Isaiah Singleton, said, “Our initial goals are to expand general knowledge of communications standards and excellence through mentoring and networking opportunities, academic programs and to create experiences for high-achieving students. We also hope to incorporate alumni into our process for achieving these goals.”

Thank you to adviser Jessica Sparks for sharing this good news and photo!

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of induction ceremonies, SCJ-sponsored events, and the like so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to

Virginia Wesleyan chapter inducts new members

Congratulations to our newest SCJ members at Virginia Wesleyan University. The VWU chapter inducted seven new members on December 8.

Newest member of the Virginia Wesleyan University chapter. From L to R: Mickella Rast, Julie Ainsley, Luke Chaisson, Amanda Archer, Ashley Kline, and Farah Haidari.

The keynote speak was John Henry Doucette. Mr. Doucette worked as a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot and the Times Herald-Record in New York. His freelance journalism has appeared in Parade Magazine, New York Newsday and The New York Post. In 2015, he founded The Princess Anne Independent News, a community newspaper that covers southern Virginia Beach and Knotts Island, North Carolina. The newspaper has been recognized for its reporting and photography by the Virginia Press Association and for its coverage of the local agriculture industry. Mr. Doucette spoke about the value of local news and how his liberal arts degree his impacted his views of journalism.
President Scott Miller, along with Provost Tim O”Rourke and the communication faculty were in attendance for the ceremony. Thanks to chapter adviser Lisa Lyon Payne for this photo submission.

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of induction ceremonies, SCJ-sponsored events, and the like so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to

Buena Vista Chapter inducts new members, honors seniors

The Buena Vista University (Storm Lake, IA) chapter celebrated its induction of 11 new members April 12.

First Row (L to R): Dee Friesen, Vice President/Service Coordinator; Morgan McGrew, President; Kyle Wiebers, Treasurer; Dr. Andrea Frantz, Faculty Adviser (not pictured, Madeleine McCormick, Secretary/Social Media] Second Row (L to R) New Members: Job Saunders, Tawney Schreier, Emily Kenny, Katelyn Bohaty, Olivia Wieseler, Allyssa Ertz, Megan Snyder, Alyssa Donnelly, Tyler Brunner, Andrew Bandstra Third Row (L to R): Tiffany Brauckman, Kylee Deering, Sarah Nicholson, Cooper Maahs (not pictured: Tanner Hoops, Brittany Poeppe, Mackenzie Rappe) Fourth Row (L to R): Graduating Seniors with cords: Chase Harrison, Susie Haack, Kassi Kommes, Chris Haberman, Jasmine Bautista, Emily Johnson, Meredith VanZuiden, Lindsey Graham, Spencer Bottorff, Skyler Gorsett

The newest members of the chapter are:

  • Andrew Paul Bandstra
  • Katelyn Velma Bohaty
  • Tyler Michael Brunner
  • Alyssa Renae Donnelly
  • Allyssa Beth Ertz
  • Emily Elizabeth Kenny
  • Myckeal Rake
  • Job Eastman Saunders
  • Tawney Michelle Schreier
  • Megan Eileen Snyder
  • Olivia Rose Wieseler

In addition, 10 chapter members were awarded their graduation honor cords at the same ceremony that was attended by family members, friends and faculty.  Graduating seniors include:

  • Jasmine Bautista
  • Spencer Bottorff
  • Lindsey Graham
  • Skyler Gorsett
  • Susie Haack
  • Chris Habermann
  • Chase Harrison
  • Emily Johnson
  • Kassi Kommes
  • Meredith VanZuiden

Congratulations to all!

2016-17 BVU SCJ Outgoing Board (L to R): Morgan McGrew (President); Lindsey Graham (Treasurer); Jasmine Bautista (Service Coordinator); Dee Friesen (Service Coordinator); Spencer Bottorff, (Vice President); Emily Johnson (Vice President); Kassi Kommes (Secretary); Dr. Andrea Frantz, (Adviser)

Send us your induction ceremony & graduation photos to see them featured on the SCJ National NewsFeed! Email us at!

RMU initiates, celebrates new and returning members

The Robert Morris University SCJ chapter welcomed five new members on Oct. 10.

Those students are:

  • Malyk Johnson, freshman, Communications
  • Katey Ladika, sophomore, Media Arts
  • Maura Linehan, sophomore, Psychology
  • Brittany Mayer, sophomore, Communications
  • Kara Vanderweil, freshman, Media Arts

“The induction ceremony is always one of my favorite nights of the academic year,” said chapter faculty adviser Dr. Anthony Moretti. “The chance to welcome our new members and to remind everyone of the important work journalists do every single day make the night fun and yet serious.”

The chapter’s commitment to encouraging students from across the campus to join SCJ continues to be successful. The RMU cohort of more than 25 students includes majors from engineering, psychology, sports management, media arts and journalism.

This year’s ceremony also included a surprise for three chapter members. Senior media arts student Eddie Sheehy and senior communications major Hannah Smith received their SCJ certificates of merit, and junior communications major Delaney Hassell received her SCJ medal of merit.

The chapter now turns its attention to Nov. 8, when it will deliver a 4-hour live broadcast to the campus community as America elects a new president and important House and Senate races will determine the make-up of the new Congress. A significant web presence also will be included in that plan.

logo_cornerDon’t forget! Please send along photos of induction ceremonies, SCJ-sponsored events, and the like so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to

Call for Major Awards Nominations

For many, the trees turning from green to brilliant reds and yellows may signal the end of summer. But for me, it’s a sign of things just beginning. It’s the start of a new academic year, which means that student media organizations all over the country are revving up to take risks, create new content, and engage in important community conversations.

It is also time for SCJ to recognize outstanding leadership and vision. Annually, SCJ awards those individuals and chapters who have served their respective communities with fortitude, vision and ethics. Our seven SCJ awards include:

Each of the awards require nominations or self-nominations, which is where you come in. Consider nominating your own best and brightest, or others you know to be outstanding in the student media field. Our website now provides easy online nomination forms. You can access forms for each award using the links above.

Most important: several of our awards have a September 15, 2015 deadline, so time is of the essence. But we’re journalists, so deadlines are in our blood, right?

Please go to the website today and take a moment to nominate.

1499499_714671640617_1379616982_nAndrea Frantz, Ph.D. is associate professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. She was installed as SCJ President at the 2014 Biennial. She’s an advocate of student journalists and the First Amendment. She’ll be blogging periodically about SCJ and other news.

2015 National Contest Results

Hey, SCJers! We hope you’re having a great summer.

We’ve got 2015 National Contest results ready to share (finally!). We’re sorry for the delay. We had a change in leadership this year, and so there has been a bit of a learning curve with getting everything processed and ready to share.

Please check out this PDF, which is a complete list of winners with judges comments. Congrats to all of our winners! We’re really proud of you all.

We’re wishing everyone a great 2015/2016 academic year filled with great news stories!

logo_cornerDon’t forget! Please send along photos of induction ceremonies, SCJ-sponsored events, and the like so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to