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Former Journalists Push Press Freedom in House of Delegates

The Virginia General Assembly now has two former journalists as members, and they are hoping to move forward with bills to increase press freedom.

High school newspapers shouldn’t be bullied or told what to do by principals and administrators. That’s the idea behind a bill introduced by Delegate Chris Hurst, a Democrat from Blacksburg who is a former television news anchor.

“In 2012, a media advisor at Madison County lost her job after she approved a student newspaper edition that published a story criticizing the conditions of school facilities, and their lack of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act,” Hurst said during a news conference Monday.

Delegate Danica Roem is a Democrat from Prince William County and a former newspaper reporter. She’s introducing a bill to protect anonymous sources, which she says protects the mission of journalism.

“The craft of collecting, vetting and disseminating facts to the public. And these are vetted facts. Facts matter," Roem said. "Neither the press nor their whistleblower sources should have to face jail time for doing their jobs.”

Hurst says he’s aiming his bill specifically at public schools so that it might have a better chance of passing. And Roem had a similar effort that died last year, although she says she’s been building relationships across the aisle and she’s hopeful that’ll pay off this year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.