Senate Bill 119 is an example of a bill we shouldn't need. Various schools around the state have attempted to claim their sports events as some sort of private property to which they can sell exclusive broadcast rights to favored media outlets. The First Amendment, backed with civic pride and horse sense, should tell us that our students' performances in our public spaces are matters of public interest which any journalist ought to be able to record and broadcast for the benefit of the public.
Some jurisprudence curtails media rights at high school sports events, and the South Dakota High School Activities Association follows that jurisprudence closely to protect the revenue-generating power of its State Tournaments.
Nonetheless, Senator Marc Johnston (R-12/Sioux Falls) and Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) feel local school districts need a firm reminder of their obligation to the First Amendment. Their Senate Bill 119 makes clear that no school district or school board may "interfere with the right of news media to attend and engage in journalism concerning any interscholastic high school activity or event." Whether that means school boards could no longer empower their state activities association to restrict journalists at State Tournaments is an open and interesting question. Sen. Johnston got his Commerce and Energy committee colleagues to vote for this bill 7–0; it now awaits Senate action.
I note with mischievous glee that SB 119 includes the following definitions of "journalism" and "news media":
- "Journalism," the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, streaming, broadcasting, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns matters of public interest for dissemination to the public, including on the internet;
- "News media," personnel of a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals, a news service, a radio station, a television station, or a television network, regardless of whether the news media is in print, electronic, or digital format;....
Let's see... I gather, write, and publish information of public interest. I issue a periodical in digital format at regular intervals. SB 119 acknowledges the right of my humble blog to stand next to Kevin Woster, Jerry Oster, and Mike Henriksen, snapping and tweeting away at high school events and other newsworthy public happenings. And when someone asks what I think I'm doing, I can point to SB 119 and say, "Journalism."