College Media Hall of Fame, Class of 2011: Frank LoMonte, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center

The College Media Hall of Fame is a digital enshrinement of individuals, news outlets, and organizations who have made a lasting impact on collegemediatopia or greatly contributed to it over the past year.  Much like last year’s inaugural batch (known as the CMM 10), this year’s inductees include standout student journalists, innovative student media entrepreneurs, and impassioned advocates of campus press 2.0.  With a hat tip to the annual Time 100, many of the posts announcing each honoree include a few words of adoration penned by a close friend or colleague. Next up…

Frank LoMonte, Esq.

Executive Director, Student Press Law Center

Frank LoMonte is a media law wunderkind.  He helps student journalists, their advisers, their professors, and their publications at a prodigious rate, daily. Make no mistake: LoMonte is the face of student press rights in this country.  It’s a smiling one.

LoMonte has been SPLC exec. director since January 2008.

His optimism is infectious.  His knowledge of the law is truly humbling.  During the conventions at which I’ve been lucky enough to catch him in action, he holds sway over a room with an unyielding zest and a tirelessness, literally (LITERALLY) speaking nonstop with a revival preacher’s flair, answering quick-fire questions smoothly without prep, and then jetting to his next session to start again.

He is also among the most quotable men I know.  Among his gems was an aside this past spring referencing the sudden shady dismissals of two college media advisers. In his words, “There are two occupations in America that are more dangerous the better you are at them: journalism adviser and suicide bomber.” 

For his impassioned defense of the student press, I am honored to name Frank LoMonte as an inductee to CMM’s College Media Hall of Fame.

“Hardest-Working Man in the Free Speech Business”

By Adam Goldstein

Frank LoMonte is the hardest-working man in the free speech business. He’s here when I arrive at the office in the morning and here when I leave at night. If it’s 7:30 p.m. on the West Coast, and you have a free speech question, you’ve got a 50/50 chance of reaching Frank in Arlington, Virginia, where it’s 10:30 p.m. on the East Coast. And it’s only 50/50 because half the time, he’s on the road, traveling to speak to students and other lawyers across the country, wherever the questions are or it might do some good forsomeone. If Xanadu is a real place, I’m sure Frank will be there sometime in the next three years.

I’ve been tempted to stay at the office overnight to see if there’s an army of Franks, one of them punching in on a time clock to take over when the other one goes home. That would explain a lot. It certainly feels like he’s an army, waging a carefully coordinated battle in favor of student media on multiple fronts: legal, ethical, and practical. It’s not unusual to talk with him or get an e-mail late at night or on the weekend. I can’t rule out the possibility that he moonlights as the Energizer bunny.

Frank is deeply committed and motivated to act to do what is right, and college journalists will probably never know how much he does on a daily basis to help them. There’s no fanfare when someone spends his overnight hours to draft comments on federal regulations; almost no one will know you did it, and absolutely no one would know if you didn’t. But representing the voice of college media to government agencies is the right thing to do, and that’s enough for Frank.

What’s astonishing is what Frank is doing when you don’t see him. When he’s not on the phone with you, answering your legal questions; when he’s not filing briefs on your behalf; when he’s not visiting with your staff in a town on a corner of the map that, presumably, was named after one of the six people that lives there; when he’s not writing op-ed pieces to defend student journalists when local newspapers get cold feet on First Amendment issues; when he’s not speaking to groups of lawyers to convince them of the importance of your civil rights.

Whether he visits your small township or your major metropolitan city for a media conference, he is an incredibly dynamic and popular speaker. As he’s speaking, the students are tweeting his talk, divided into t-shirt ready quotes. Once his presentation is over, he has a huge line of students waiting to ask him questions and barely has time to make it to his next presentation.

For the approximately 25 minutes per week you don’t see Frank working to help student journalists, I assure you, he is still working to help them. This makes him an inspiration to all of us, and/or proof that we have perfected human cloning and picked the perfect person to clone. I admire Frank for his amazing dedication and tireless work to protect student journalists’ first amendment rights.

Goldstein is the SPLC’s attorney advocate and a CMM 10 honoree.

Other Class of 2011 CMM Hall of Fame inductees:

Michael Koretzky

7 Responses to “College Media Hall of Fame, Class of 2011: Frank LoMonte, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center”
  1. Victoria says:

    Frank is awesome! I’ve heard him speak at many conferences and he even came to our weekly newspaper critique to give us constructive feedback when he was in town. He also didn’t hesitate to jump in and help us when the administration decided they wanted to “go green” and take away the print edition.

    Glad he got this recognition!

  2. edbarber says:

    It was my pleasure to work with Frank back in 1985 while he was a student at the University of Florida and editor of The Independent Florida Alligator and I was the newspaper’s general manager. It is nice to see that his hard work, great mind and enthusiasm for student press freedoms shown at the Alligator has grown to national service. Great work, Frank.

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