Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Celebrating a Century of Scholastic Journalism Education

JEA Centennial

Singing the 45 words captures attention, spreads First Amendment awareness

For nearly 20 years, Jack Kennedy, MJE, has been singing the First Amendment to student journalists and their advisers. If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember. You may even have a recording on your smartphone. Kennedy’s catchy rendition of those 45 words is just one way he continues to share his passion for student press freedom after decades as a scholastic journalism educator.

“I’m guessing I have been singing it for nearly 20 years and dozens of times,” Kennedy said.

It wasn’t his first vocal performance as a popular convention speaker, though.

Originally inspired by his pal and fellow industry keynoter Tim Harrower, he wrote his own version of  “Journalism Blues” to the tune of Elvis’s “I’m Evil” during a plane ride traveling to speak at Franklin College for the Indiana High School Press Association state convention.

I woke up this morning … had a deadline on my mind.

My hard drive was smokin’… this issue’s in a bind …


Between the lines, students chimed in with “Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh … Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh.”

The performance was a hit, of course, and Kennedy went on to find other ways to end his keynote speeches.

“I found a version of the First Amendment online being sung by a Gospel-tinged group. I found the rhythm for the First Amendment, with some slight adjustments, tried it out with some Rock Canyon classes, and sang it in various places (once for Linda Puntney’s birthday),” he said. “I do it a cappella because it’s just so darn simple and transportable.”

Attendees at the Spring 2015 JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Denver got to experience a First Amendment performance as part of the opening ceremony.

While Kennedy has retired from 40+ years officially connected to scholastic media education, his gospel-style performances continue to inspire. Colorado State University’s liberal arts magazine recently published this article showcasing another memorable performance as an example of how journalists pursue and preserve democracy.

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