Late last year, the Scholastic Press Rights Commission asked JEA members and others what clear statements about legal and ethical issues they would like to see compiled in one easy-to-access place.
From their responses the Commission created these 11 Foundations for Scholastic Journalism, in downloadable PDF form below, the first installment of our series. Foundations run from the general, including curriculum standards for law and ethics, to the precise, such as how and when to get consent when publishing articles. It’s a start, and the Commission welcomes suggestions for others we can add in the future.
Some of these incorporate and expand on JEA policies and statements the Board has passed and are available elsewhere on the Web, but here you will find them all in one place. They also offer links to resources that support each concept and can serve as handouts or posters.
1. Journalism as 21st Century skills
- 2. A Free and Responsible Student Press
3. Administrators Should Support Scholastic Journalism
4. Why advisers should oppose censorship
5. The Importance of Getting Consent
6. The Use of Anonymous Sources
7. Verification is important
8. Handling controversy
9. Foundations to meet Common Core standards for law and ethics
10. A road map: Getting to know the SPLC
11. Who owns the copyright?
We welcome your feedback and recommendations.
Yes, students in California can file suit for restriction of t-shirts they wanted to wear on Cinco de Mayo.
See the NSPA Legal Briefs interpretation of the issue.
Teaching journalism is rewarding, but can become frightening and frustrating when advisers face prior review and/or censorship as part of their daily expectations.
A key decision to fight censorship, Adam Goldstein, SPLC attorney advocate said, is for journalism teachers who live with prior review or restraint to do more than recognize its educational weaknesses.
Their job, he said, is to oppose it as best they can.
“Prior review sends the message that actions don’t have consequences because there’s always someone else who can clean up your mistakes,” Goldstein said in an interview. “People who grow up in an environment without consequences don’t function well in the real world.”
JEA knows some teachers may face job loss if they try to protect student learning. We know sometimes there is no other choice but to do as ordered.
Still, we urge all teachers to consider these points:
• Advisers teach professional approaches to journalism – whether in gathering information, in providing leadership through coverage or opinion or in presenting the information accurately, completely and coherently.
Limiting this process strips any pretense of student learning, critical thinking or application of principles schools teach. It also strips away information citizens need to maintain civic engagement.
“The entire gamble of representative democracy is that people make good choices in their own best interest when provided with honest information,” Goldstein said.
• Students learn most when they practice responsible journalism. When advisers are required to accept censorship or censor students’ work themselves, they are placed in an untenable position undermining what they strive to teach.
“Aspirationally,” Goldstein said, “If the goal of education is to prepare students for their role in society, nothing is more essential to that role than the ability to create and disseminate their thoughts. The entire marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy function depends on it.”
• Students and communities suffer when censorship exists.
“Censorship of high school students creates new citizens in that democracy who think, first, that the information isn’t honest; and second, that they aren’t free to share their own information,” Goldstein said. “These days people look at the political process and wonder how it got so hostile, misinformed and regressive, and then shrug their shoulders when, every day in high schools, students are told not to tell the truth.”
• Learning to report material responsibly is a unique opportunity denied students who face censorship. The exciting part of advising and teaching journalism is watching students expand their ideas and become educated not only in the specifics of media but also about the importance of a free press in a democracy.
“Prior restraint is even more troubling because it undermines everything we try to instill in students about the American way of life,” Goldstein said. “The ability to just remove the right to free expression from anyone is something that is irreconcilable with our political system. So students get cynical about it and think administrators are liars.”
• Reviewing media materials, while not illegal, has no legitimate educational value. Advisers need to educate themselves, their administrators and their communities about students’ legal rights, ethical responsibilities and educational obligations.
“Journalism and social studies teachers end up suffering the most when they turn a blind eye to student rights because they are the ones tasked with inculcating a respect for the values that censorship violates,” Goldstein said. “It’s one thing if a science teacher chooses not to believe in the basic functions of democracy, but if your journalism teacher doesn’t think speech is important, it suggests that nobody thinks this is important.”
• Some administrators are unaware there is no legal or educational rationale for censorship. Teachers can help them understand the value of journalism to all stakeholders. Journalism education organizations can enhance the ongoing education of all parties.
The full measure of the Hazelwood decision, CSPA director Edmund J. Sullivan said in a JEA listserv discussion, won’t be felt until the generation of advisers working before 1988 leaves the scene.
That is now happening.
Knight chair for Scholastic Journalism Mark Goodman said in hundreds, maybe thousands of high schools around the country, there is no censorship.
“It is possible to create an environment in your student media program that supports the values of our democracy and does something other than teach students how ‘journalism’ is practiced in China,” Goodman said.
At other schools, that may take time, he said, but it’s worth striving for and doesn’t have to risk your job in the process.
“The one thing that I think is vital — our most important obligation —” Goodman said, is “we HAVE to teach students that censorship is wrong, morally, educationally, 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.”
Today is the day to join other scholastic media across the nation as they take the TAO Pledge – a promise to your audience, your administrators and yourselves – that you will be transparent about who you are as student media, that you will be accountable for your mistakes and open to other points of view.
The Pledge, a service of the Washington News Council, aims to provide a symbol of media communities can trust. With the explosion of new media sources online, a TAO of Journalism FAQ explains, many citizens are even more confused about who they can trust in the mainstream media, independent media and the so-called blogosphere. Surveys also show that institutions and individuals that are transparent about who they are, accountable for their performance and open to citizen input are the most trusted.
Student media that take the Pledge register to have their school media included on the list of TAO Pledgers, receive downloadable art of the TAO of Journalism seal to use in their mastheads and temporary tattoos of the TAO Seal for each staff member.
The pledge takes three minutes, max, to fill out; student publications should use this form. And it takes just another two minutes to snap a picture of your staff signing it, then upload it to the SJW Flickr page, just like these California student journalists did.
When you sign the Pledge, you can also complete a Facebook comment form at the bottom of this page that will also appear on your Facebook page.
The Journalism Education Association has endorsed the TAO of Journalism Pledge as one way student media can instill trust in their programs.
by Marina Hendricks and Lori King
Students in “Social Role of the Mass Media,” a Kent State University online graduate course this semester, recently considered arguments for and against prior review. We decided to approach the assignment as an imaginary conversation between a student editor and a principal. The result is a template that journalism students and advisers can use as a starting point to craft their own statements in support of an open forum, tailoring the points to fit the individual situation. The “conversation” also can be used in role-playing exercises to help students prepare for real-life discussions with administrators.
Editor: I made this appointment because we, as a newspaper staff, have a great idea to expand our readership. We already have a good newspaper. As you know, we’ve won quite a few Journalism Education Association awards, but we want to take our coverage to the next level – you know, into the 21st century. We want to put our newspaper online.
Principal: I know how hard the journalism students have worked, and I appreciate how well the newspaper has represented the school. I am concerned about the instantaneous nature of the Internet. There recently have been some complaints from faculty members and parents about stories in the print newspaper. For example, I received a lot of calls about Jane Doe’s story on cheating. Some parents felt their children had been misquoted and portrayed as cheaters. Several teachers were upset because they thought their classrooms were singled out as easy places to cheat.
Editor: First of all, that cheating story was accurate. We double-checked our notes and verified the facts. We also made sure those who were interviewed knew they would be quoted in the paper and that there could be consequences. Cheating is a problem at every school, not just ours, so that story should not be ignored. I think the story portrayed a good balance on why people cheat, how they cheat, and the consequences of cheating.
As far as the Internet goes, we agree on its instant nature. You have to remember that we are student journalists and will make mistakes as part of our learning process. But our newspaper policy is to correct mistakes in the next issue, which we do. The powerful thing about our newspaper being on the Internet is we can correct our mistakes immediately, rather than waiting two weeks, and whatever mistakes we make will not be printed in stone forever. So, I can’t guarantee we won’t make future mistakes, but I can assure you we will be quick to respond to them, as a professional newspaper would.
Principal: Why shouldn’t student-produced content be reviewed to ensure that it contains no factual or grammatical errors? And what about journalistic issues? I have concerns about content that is libelous, obscene and invades someone’s privacy. What about socially inappropriate content? Remember, we have students here as young as 14 years old. The rules and ethics of journalism also must be taken into consideration. Finally, if content disrupts the educational process, then I’m going to have another situation on my hands.
Editor: Our newspaper is reviewed for accuracy and legal issues before it’s printed – by me, the editor, as well as by the other section editors. We have a great adviser and journalism teacher who teaches us what we need to know, but empowers us to make the content decisions. Our adviser participates in journalism workshops every summer and also has worked for a daily newspaper. Her professional journalism experience helps inform what we do. We are quite aware of the importance of factual and grammatical errors. We have weekly training sessions on everything from learning how to write, interview subjects and design pages to what we need to know about libel, obscenity and other legal issues. We discuss ethical issues on a regular basis as part of the production process.
We also have a newspaper staff manual that outlines our common style rules, our students’ rights and our legal and ethics policies. This helps us with our quality control, checks and balances, transparency, stuff like that. I can make sure you have a copy of it.
Principal: Journalism is a class and therefore part of the curriculum. Your adviser’s lesson plans are subject to approval and oversight. Why shouldn’t all content produced in conjunction with the class follow suit? After all, I am responsible for seeing that journalism students have met the assessments/outcomes set forth in your adviser’s lessons.
Editor: Our newspaper tells you how we are meeting the assessments and outcomes. It is living proof that we are learning what she teaches us, and learning it well. Our newspaper class is actually one of the most valuable learning tools in this school.
Principal: True. But stories on cheating and other such topics don’t reflect well on our school. It is my responsibility to ensure that school print and digital publications reflect and represent the school community in a positive light.
Editor: But we have always operated as a public forum, which means students make the content decisions, whether it’s in a print newspaper or online. Our newspaper is not a public relations tool. It’s a forum where we, as journalists, report honestly and openly about what happens in the school community. The stories may not always be positive, but that reflects the reality of the world you are preparing us to enter.
We appreciate and value our First Amendment rights. We also really appreciate the support that you and the administration have given us over the years to practice our First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press. I assure you, we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.
Oh, and one more thing. Did you realize that when students make the content decisions, it takes the liability away from the school? That’s a benefit of our newspaper being a public forum. I’ll be happy to supply more information for you on the matter.
Do have any other concerns or questions?
Principal: Thank you for coming in to talk with me today. You have given me a lot to consider, and I think we can come up with a plan that addresses and respects our mutual concerns. Please keep me informed on the plans for your online publication.
Editor: We will. Thanks for listening.
Marina Hendricks, a member of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission, is manager of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation and a former editor of a daily newspaper’s program for teen journalists. Lori King is a photographer for The Toledo Blade and an adjunct professor of photojournalism at Owens Community College in Toledo.