You weren’t using those First Amendment rights, were you?

St. Louis SPJ was happy to co-sponsor the First Amendment Free* Food Festival at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Monday, in which students sign away their First Amendment rights for free pizza.

It’s usually not a hard sell.

Participants sign away their rights and receive a passport into the Kingdom of the Socialist States of the People’s Republic of Mass Communica, which is a cordoned patio where pizza and soda are served.

The grand high ruler of Mass Communica is portrayed by our own Tammy Merrett, vice president of St. Louis SPJ and advisor to the SIUE Alestle.

However, while they are eating, they are instructed what they can talk about, read and so on. It serves as a demonstration of life without the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and usually opens some eyes.

Don’t like where have to sit? What you’re allowed to read? Or wear? Or who you are instructed to associate with? TOUGH.


This year, Mass Communica had religious missionaries from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (otherwise known as Pastafarians) attempting to recruit from outside its borders, as well as subversive journalists attempting to sneak newspapers into Mass Communica.

Yes, that’s a pasta strainer on her head.

The FAFF is one of several special events taking place this week at SIUE for Mass Comm Week. All events are open to the public. Among them:

  • “Reporting in the Digital Age,” Dana Rieck of Missouri Lawyers Media, 9:30 a.m. Tuesday
  • “Practical Ethics,” St. Louis SPJ President Elizabeth Donald, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday
  • “If I Worried About Social Media, I’d Never Make a Movie,” filmmaker Trisha Ziff, noon Wednesday
  • “Who Wants to Know? Investigative Reporting in Small Markets,” Beth Hundsdorfer of St. Louis Public Radio, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
  • “Writing and Reporting Broadcast News,” Holly Edgell of St. Louis Public Radio, 3:30 Thursday
  • And many more! Click here for more information.

Approximately 94 students, faculty, staff and visitors signed away their rights at this year’s FAFF, and another 31 approached Mass Communica but decided not to give up the First Amendment for pizza.

Despite the best efforts of the Goon Squad, a few subversives snuck in.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Facebook training succeeds despite wintry forecast

A great crowd braved the scary forecast to hear from Ben Meyerson of theĀ Chicago Tribune on the various ways we can use Facebook for reporting and disseminating our work.

Many thanks to our partner organizations for spreading the word, to St. Louis Public Radio for hosting our seminar, to the participants who came out in spite of threatened snowpocalypse, to the Society of Professional Journalists for approving us for the Facebook Journalism Project, and of course to Ben, for sharing his knowledge with us.

If you attended, please go to and fill out the post-training survey. It is immensely helpful to SPJ and to us to better plan our programming. Thank you for your time!

Response to this program was so strong that we are seriously considering repeating it later in the year, if there is sufficient interest. If you did not get a chance to attend and would like to see it repeated, please contact us at and we will be sure that you get an invitation.

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January Newsletter

Happy new year!

  • Facebook training this Saturday
  • Contest season
  • ONA hosts SEO training session
  • Former SPJ board member raises money for father’s immigration
  • On the move, jobs board, congratulations and more!

Check out the newsletter here! And while you’re at it, sign up to receive our announcements. Don’t worry: we are way too busy to spam you…

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