Posts made in October, 2010

Teacher does not have First Amendment rights over curriculum


In today’s issue of NSBA LEGAL CLIP, you can read the National School Board’s take on the issue of teachers not having First Amendment rights in choices of materials and curriculum design.  We are living in a dangerous time. Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District, No. 09-3775 (6th Cir. Oct. 21, 2010)

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Save your high school newspaper


A re-Tweet from Cheryl Pell of Michigan State University caught my attention today.

Pell highlighted an MSU student’s blog called New Media Shift and written by a former high school journalist, Erica Shekell of Howell, Michican. Shekell urged others to write letters in support of their student newspapers. Why? Because student newspapers in particular – and some say newspapers everywhere – are in trouble.

We have seen continuing instances of that in the last few years. Censorship. Media shut down because of decreasing funding. Refocusing on other curricular areas to meet the needs of a test-hungry educational system. Varieties of reasons.

So Shekell created a challenge: “write to your old newspaper teacher (or find the old one) and write to the administrators and school board in support of your high school newspaper. Let them know why newspapers are still important and why reading from a textbook can never replace first-hand journalism experience.”

As she asks, “what did your high school paper do for you?”

Let’s join her in not only asking that question and but in answering it. Write your school boards and your local media. Stress the value of journalism in schools, in communities, in the country.

The student newspaper you save might be your own.

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Only the beginning of an important discussion


Columbia Scholastic Press Association Executive Director Ed Sullivan graciously agreed to share his comments from a listserv discussion about the recent Sixth Circuit court decision that teachers have no Teacher speech rights on school curriculum.

You can find those comments on the CSJblog.

His comments parallel another listserv discussion by Fellows of  a ASNE Reynolds 2010 Institute: How to best fight for First Amendment rights for our students when administrators don’t want to hear or support those arguments, and could even retaliate against teachers who make them. Like the teacher speech rights discussion, some advisers feel the fight is seemingly one teachers cannot win.

As the number of advisers dwindle who taught without the threat of Hazelwood, how can journalism organizations best help tomorrow’s teachers in the continuing and important fight to teach students the First Amendment is real – even though they might not be able to practice it.

As Mark Goodman, Kent State’s Knight chair for Scholastic Journalism, told the ASNE group, “We HAVE to teach students that censorship is wrong, morally, educationally and journalistically, even when it cannot be avoided or overcome.  And we have to do it in such a way that we don’t make kids so cynical they think the entire idea of the First Amendment is a joke.”

We’d like to hear your ideas and perspectives, too.

There will be more said here in weeks to come.

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In journalism today, where does one role end and another begin?


In the wake of NPR’s firing of Juan Williams, questions emerge over the mixing of roles in new media and create confusion for journalists as well as communities.

In short, as some say in coverage since Williams’ firing, what kinds of speech will be OK in the future and what does the incident say about media ethics.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “The Williams firing shows that NPR, in many ways, is an example of a news organization trying to navigate new media without muddying the role of journalism in society, says Jen Reeves, an associate journalism professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

“‘It’s confusing to the general public what journalism is anymore,'” says Ms. Reeves. “‘Our job as journalists is to question the culture and present it to the general public to think about. But instead we’re constantly [playing up people’s fears].'”

It’s that confusion that the links below might lead to numerous lessons and discussions about new media ethics and the roles of scholastic journalists.

Even though our students may not play different roles for different media, they might play different roles for the same media.

Will being a commentator or promoter in one case using new media create confusion with a reporting role in print media?

These articles might add to what is a much-needed discussion:

Juan Williams firing: What speech is OK as journalism evolves?

NPR fires Williams as criticism mounts

NPR fires Juan Williams; Fox News expands his role

NPR ends Williams’ contract after Muslim remarks

Juan Williams calls firing by NPR ‘chilling assault on free speech’

Juan Williams at odds with NPR over dismissal

Juan Williams fired: pitfalls of the ‘instant opinion’ age

NPR vs. Fox News: Juan Williams firing reveals deeper media fight

NPR’s Schiller says Juan Williams fired because of ethical guidelines

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Issues for possible discussion


Journalistically, it is been an interesting week for discussion issues.

Two commercial issues and one scholastic event come to mind.

In Missouri, according to a SPLC News Flash, a school confiscated a student’s photos of an event in which a student was injured, would not allow the photographer to publish in print or online any shots of the fight and have not returned them to the student. According to the report, the school argued privacy issues were involved. In addition to raising excellent ethical and legal issues, the situation might be an excellent discussion starter about developing a staff policy about handling police or administration requests for images, audio or other forms of gathered information.

• In Ohio, a story in the Plain Dealer raises interesting copyright issues. Earlier this year, the paper reported – and photographed – a county official being led away in manacles. The charge was corruption in office. The photo, page one material, since has been used on political ads opposing members of the official’s party who are running for office, trying to tie them to him. Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg said, in the story, “Pulling our photo out of this context and having it stand alone is improper use — even if it is credited. The larger issue here is that our work be portrayed fairly and in the context in which it was presented to the public. In addition, we need to avoid being used by a political campaign as their partisan mouthpiece, which is what we are seeing here.”

• Nationally, the U. S. Supreme Court heard arguments Oct. 6 about Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, a group that protests at funerals and has a history of anti-homosexual activity. The groups claims its First Amendment rights to speak out and opponents urge the Court to rule that funerals should be off-limits to protest. A myriad of First Amendment discussion threads exist.

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