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A new school year, a new staff – make sure your staff is well informed

by Cyndi Hyatt
By now we all have fallen into the rhythm of another academic year.  With the advent of new staffs, new ideas and maybe new procedures it’s also good to pause and reflect.

What have you done to make sure your staff, especially the rookies, is trained in more than how to write copy, conduct an interview or edit a package?

Student journalists are eager to cover what’s news but they need to be armed with the necessary tools, skills and knowledge BEFORE the story is filed.

Before you publlsh your next stories or produce your next show, go through this checklist to see if your staff is fully trained and prepared to be credible and ethical journalists.

The First Amendment.  Does your staff know what those 45 words mean for student journalists?  Have you explained Tinker and Hazelwood to your staffs? Do you know what standard your publication or show falls under?  

Take the time to review these important cases with your entire staff. And don’t stop at those two. Review other law that impacts student journalism like Morse v. Frederick, Dean v. Utica, Bethel v. Fraser and Yeo v. Leominster.

• Sign up to receive information from the Student Press Law Center . Their newsletter keeps student journalists up to date on the legal issues college and high school publications face .

• Appoint a fact checker.  It only takes one incorrect quote, date, attribution or even spelling for critics to point fingers and question your credibility as a media outlet.  

No one needs an accusation of “Fake News” aimed at them, so make sure you have the manpower to check facts, no matter how small. Always double check dates and spellings.  Always check with more than one source on a story.

When in doubt, don’t give up until you unearth the truth and if you cannot prove something as correct, don’t publish or broadcast the story until you can.

• Draw up a code of ethics.  There are several online that you can reference, but make sure that your staff knows how journalists should act.  Cover things like fairness, libel, slander, copyright, ethics, etc. The Society for Professional Journalists has its own online (https://www.spj.org/pdf/ethicscode.pdf) and theirs is a good model to base your own upon.

• Publish your mission statement.  Let your readers know what type of publication you are, what your process for choosing and running stories is.  Let people know how to submit letters to the editor or how to contact staff for story ideas, opinion submissions or corrections.

Ethical and responsible journalism is an integral part of a functioning democracy.  Don’t ever take what you do lightly, so be prepared every year.

Happy reporting!

 

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