Nicholas Ferentinos Memorial Press Freedom Award

The Nicholas Ferentinos Memorial Press Freedom Award will be awarded to the winning entry in the “Press Freedom” category — added in 2017 — of the Journalism Education Association of Northern California’s annual spring contest.

The category includes stories  — from any journalistic story type (feature, editorial, news, etc) and any student media platform (print, broadcast, web) — that focus attention on First Amendment issues, embodying or highlighting the actions of a student or students who show determination, despite difficulty or resistance, in lawfully exercising their First Amendment press rights.

The award criteria are modeled deliberately after the “Courage in Student Journalism Award” offered each year by the Student Press Law Center and the National Scholastic Press Association.  Ferentinos was a lifelong supporter of both organizations.

As with our other annual contest categories, entries for the Nick Ferentinos Memorial Student Press Freedom Award will be judged by an outside panel of judges recruited just for the contest.

Students with winning entries will receive a certificate as well as a $500 award.

The Nicholas Ferentinos Memorial Press Freedom Award honors the memory of Ferentinos — a lifetime JEANC member, adviser and colleague — and his life-long commitment to student journalism.

In addition his long-time advising of Homestead High School’s award-winning student newspaper, The Epitaph, from 1976 to 1994, and mentoring of advisers in the two decades that followed, Nick will be remembered as among the most significant advisers in California history for his role as a champion of student press rights on the day that it mattered most: Jan. 13, 1988.

That is the day of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al., 484 U.S. 260 (1988). The Homestead principal interpreted the decision as giving him the power to censor an Epitaph feature story about an HIV-positive student, but student staff — at the urging of the Student Press Law Center — called upon California Education Code 48907, which grants the California student press freedoms beyond those articulated in the Hazelwood decision.

The Epitaph’s victory in publishing the story established California as the first and most prominent anti-Hazelwood state and a haven for student press freedom. For the staff’s courage in combating the censorship attempt and publishing the story, the SPLC honored the Epitaph with its prestigious Press Freedom Award.

Nick retired in 1994, the same year the Dow Jones News Fund recognized him as the National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. But his retirement from public school teaching was in no way the end of his involvement in scholastic journalism. Instead it was the beginning of two decades of mentoring journalism advisers in NorCal and beyond, and spreading his message of support for the student press at at workshops and conventions, indirectly impacting thousands more students.

For more information about Nick, please explore the following:


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Nicholas Ferentinos Memorial Press Freedom Award