Posts made in January, 2010

First reactions not always the right one

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Upon reading the story John posted above, my first reaction was one of sadness, probably with a dash of anger thrown in.
I’m not sure why. I think maybe it was because some students who were practicing journalism at a very high level were going to no longer have that chance. Or maybe my initial reaction was that the wrong side had prevailed.
But quickly, that reaction transformed to a reaction of pride.
Knowing that these students were courageous enough to forsake something they obviously hold very dear to their heart for the sake of principles. Former editor Pam Selman’s quote says it all:
“I’d rather practice no journalism than journalism that doesn’t follow with my ethics and what I believe in.”
So while my heart and mind are somewhat saddened that five editors will no longer get to practice – at least under the auspices of their high school – something they love, both heart and mind are buoyed by the fact that are still students around our country who are willing to stand up for those 45 words most of us on this blog hold dear. The fact that these students were able to leave student journalism at Stevenson on their terms, able to believe they have done right by themselves and their readers is no small victory.
As SPRC looks to launch its new Student Partners initiative, this is one of the many types of student we are hoping apply to work with us, because to promote our goals, we need students who hail from all backgrounds and regions of the country. We need students who are passionate about student journalism and the 1st Amendment. That means we want writers and photographers and designers. Copy editors and ad managers. Section editors and staff reporters. Those with experience battling censorship and those without.
Most of all, like the students at Stevenson, we need students who are willing to stand up for what they believe is correct and who are willing to sacrifice and fight for those 45 words we journalists hold most dear.

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Stevenson editors quit

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Five Stevenson High newspaper editors quit Jan. 19, according to a story at Chicago Breaking News.

“I’d rather practice no journalism than journalism that doesn’t follow with my ethics and what I believe in,” ex-editor Pam Selman is quoted.

A district spokesman said administrators were disappointed with the decision and defended the school’s efforts to compromise with student journalists.

More on the situation can be found in a Daily Herald story.

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How do your students report the Haiti earthquake?

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News about the Haiti earthquake dominated the media today, and some scholastic journalists are trying to find ways to report the devastation and loss of life.

Questions they should consider include:

• How can we localize and show readers relevance? That should be among the first concerns. What is the best way to bring the impact of the story to the readers’ community? Has anyone been to Haiti? Have family there? Are local groups involved in relief efforts? Has anyone local survived anything similar? What is the most effective way to report the situation? Commentary on the tragedy? A call to action? Reporting the issues so the reality of the situation becomes the focus? Who will become the best sources? The most credible sources? The most timely sources? Who could be primary sources so reporters are not just rehashing cnn.com or Time magazine? Are there money-raising scams surrounding relief efforts? How can readers recognize and avoid them?

• What legal issues could create problems? How can we avoid using copyrighted images with stories? What would be good resources for images? If the student publication is Web-based, to whom can students link? What are reliable resources? Publications with a subscription to MCT Campus might have a distinct advantage. What about using flash graphics or other multimedia coverage? What is the best way to do the reporting legally?

• Are there ethical considerations about what to show and print? This certainly will become an issue as more commercial media show images of bodies and devastation. What should scholastic media show and why? Assuming you can use such images with permission, will you have discussed the effects of gruesome photos? Why use them? Should your audiences be warned?

We raise these issues not to flash the red light of decision-making restraint but rather to enable the green light of ethical decisions. If your students decide such localized and relevant reporting is justified, we encourage them to do so thoroughly and with compassion.

Whatever steps they take to decide what to publish or broadcast, their decisions need to be rooted in long traditions of journalistic excellence, of publishing a story that affects their community and enables audience involvement.

That’s doing it the right way.

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A great day

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Yesterday was a great day for scholastic journalism.

It was a great day because California Senate Bill 438 passed its Senate Judiciary Committee hearing 5-0 and now goes to Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

As you probably know, California Educational Code already protects student expression. SB 438 simply clarifies current law (48907) adding “charter schools” to the protection in the California Student Free Express Law. This bill will make it explicitly clear that all schools, including charter schools, must grant freedom of press without prior review. So yesterday’s hearing was a small victory for scholastic journalism, and that made it a great day.

It wasn’t such a great day last fall when administrators prevented publication of Evolution, the student newspaper at Orange County High School of the Arts, a charter school in Southern California. That’s what sparked this whole thing–and luckily, Senator Leland Yee again came to the rescue in support of scholastic journalism.

It’s a great day when advisers (current and former) attend a hearing for proposed legislation and find themselves supported by professional journalists as well as members of the ACLU and CTA. It’s a great day when legislators stand up for student expression.

It will be an even better day when other states follow suit.

Sarah Nichols, MJE

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Five freedoms contest available

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Check out the Five Freedoms PSA Contest. Entries must be received by February 19, 2010. To be eligible for the early bird prize of $100, students must submit their entries by February 2, 2010.

For more information, visit our Five Freedoms Contest page.

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