UCF Student Exercises Freedom to Tweet

They say a picture can be worth a thousand words, but what about a tweet being worth $5,000?

One hundred fifteen characters was the magic number for one University of Central Florida student, whose tweet about how she uses her First Amendment rights earned her $5,000 as one of five winners of 1 For All’s national Free to Tweet scholarship competition.

Journalism student Samantha Lena Rosenthal’s winning tweet, “Pen & paper may not be free, but the words we choose to write are. #FreedomOfPress #JournalismFreedoms #FreeToTweet,” focused on freedom of the press and was inspired by her journalism coursework.

“I never knew how much journalism is the backbone to protecting and informing the masses until I took mass communication law,” said Rosenthal. “Through that class and writing for the Central Florida Future, it taught me how to always write with the audience in mind and with accuracy.”

Rosenthal, a junior, participated in 15-day competition in December, when students across from the nation posted more than 3,600 tweets about how they exercise their First Amendment rights. The competition was organized by the Newseum’s First Amendment Center, 1 For All and the American Society of News Editors, with funding provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

For students in the Nicholson School of Communication, the First Amendment plays a vital role in the classroom early on.

“When you walk into the lobby of the Nicholson School of Communication, the first thing you see is a huge copy of the First Amendment hanging on the wall. It looms over everything we do,” said journalism instructor Rick Brunson. “Respecting it and teaching the next generation of journalists how to express themselves based on the freedom it gives is a powerful thing. Journalism exists because of the First Amendment.”

Rosenthal writes for the Central Florida Future and UCF’s magazine, Centric, and interns at Orlando Magazine and Orlando Wedding.

“I hope to write stories that not only reflect the publication I write for, but also the standards set for journalists as a whole, by writing according to the journalism code of ethics,” said Rosenthal. “It is an ongoing advocacy that will come secondhand just by developing a keen sense of questioning and a desire to find the truth, which will develop over time with experience.”

Brunson, who teaches Rosenthal in “Editing I” and “Magazine Editing & Production” this semester, said she is well on her way to achieving these goals.

“Samantha has displayed a bright and engaging mind when it comes to pitching original ideas for feature stories that readers of our magazine, Centric, will find interesting, informative and enjoyable,” said Brunson. “She shows a lot of initiative and, to some degree, a certain fearlessness and aggressiveness that is essential in anybody who wants to be a journalist. The fact that she won the Free to Tweet competition based on the originality of the messages conveyed in her tweets didn’t surprise me at all. Samantha is an original.”