By: Christina Samaan
A nationally recognized contributor to her field in both journalism and law, Sandra Chance is also a professor, lawyer, board director of the First Amendment Foundation, member of many organizations, journalist and considered an expert at many of her jobs. Chance is a popular speaker at the University of Florida on her countless experiences within her profession, and that was the case with a group of high school journalists attending the University of Florida’s Summer Journalism Institute. At SJI, Chance’s speech, titled “Law is not a 4-letter word,” made many SJI students curious as to what it could be about, especially students interested in the field of law. Chance proved that law does not have to always be a bad thing because of its tendency to have a bad connotation. People generally try to stay as far away from law or lawyers as possible, Chance said, making it clear that thinking ‘oh crap’ whenever the law comes into the picture does not always have to be the case.
Chance began her presentation with a test. As soon as she asked everyone to take out a pad and pen, most students were taken aback. “I’m going to test your knowledge on the First Amendment,” she said. She had everyone jot down all the freedoms that the First Amendment protects. Only about 10% of the SJI students knew all five freedoms: religion, free speech, free press, assembly, and petition. More Americans know the names of all 5 “Simpsons” than the First Amendment Rights. “It’s important for us to know them and to exercise them to help others know them,” she said.
She stated that “the most important protection for journalists in the world” is the First Amendment. The law does protect the press, but especially in student run publications, the administration can usually interfere. “First Amendment rights are not unlimited. The government can put restrictions,” said Chance. “People don’t have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater.” However nowadays, “Students are getting punished for what’s on their webpage.”
This eventually led to the question, “How far is too far in the news?” In her speech, Professor Chance cited examples of the invasion of privacy, such as public disclosure of private and embarrassing facts, intrusion, false light, and misappropriation. “Be sensitive to those kinds of things,” she advised the high school students.
For many, Chance’s insight on media law really hit home for some of the aspiring journalists and lawyers. “I think it’s important for any journalist or any person [to know about media law] because our country is based upon laws, and especially as a journalist you need to know when not to cross the line,” said Jackie Kim, SJI writing student. Chance holds an important position as executive director of the
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. Chance’s job consists of presenting national seminars on governmental and First Amendment issues, according to the Brechner Center.
In 1985, Chance graduated from UF’s College of Law, earning her M.A with honors. Shortly thereafter, she practiced media law with the firm Holland & Knight in Tampa. Her clients included The Miami Herald, The Tampa Tribune, and the Gainesville Sun.
She is active in the National Freedom of Information Coalition, the American Bar Association and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.
Chance is also a Professor at the College of Journalism and Communications. “Sandra Chance is a major reason why the college’s graduate program is recognized as one of the best in the nation,” according to the executive associate dean of the University of Florida.
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