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What are ethics?

Posted by on Aug 18, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Law and Ethics | 0 comments

Laws indicate what journalists must do, while ethics indicate what they should do.

Rooted in ethics, responsible and free journalism adheres to applicable laws and operates using professional standards to enhance student media’s reach and impact. Journalism, truly the cornerstone of democracy, starts at the scholastic media level, where students learn the legal and ethical implications of free media that make the United States unique among nations.

 

Guideline for staff manual

Student media should avoid mixing ethics guidelines with staff manual processes. While processes or procedures can include the verbs “will” and “must,” guidelines should be framed with “should” and “could.”

 

Why does our staff need ethics guidelines?

Journalism ethics at center stage, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism:

Student journalists make ethical decisions daily, whether in advertising, design, information gathering or reporting. Ethical decision-making is essential and ongoing. Keep in mind that ethics are only guidelines. They do not represent standards for punishment or discipline.

Media view very few topics as “taboo.” High school student media should be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Imagine the potential for growth and responsibility when students have journalistic conversations with informed, sincere and open-minded adults before the “taboo” happens.

Differences between law and ethics, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism:

A working knowledge of ethics can be helpful in reporting sensitive or controversial issues. A staff working its way through a list of questions to make ethical decisions solves problems before they occur. In the process, students generate valuable comments, discussions and considerations.

 

Student best practice

Develop an editorial policy outlining the legal and ethical responsibilities for student journalists. These resources provide context and/or offer potential models for policy development:

Foundations of Journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals

SPRC model for ethical guidelines, process

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics

NSPA Model Code of Ethics

SPLC Model Guidelines for High School Student Media
SPJ Code of Ethics

Online ethical guidelines for student media

Yearbook ethics guidelines

Visual ethics

 

More SPRC materials:

Quick Tips: What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Students should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

Press Rights Minute: Ethics in Editing News Photos

Using Photoshop or other software to edit a news photo is unethical because it alters the truth.

 

Article: Obstacles and criticism can inspire, by Lindsay Coppens

Good, hard-hitting journalism can make people uncomfortable. It illuminates hardship, gives voice to the voiceless, questions the status quo, and encourages people to find solutions to problems. It can be challenging to secure important interviews for stories that pursue challenging topics. Those who agree to an interview may not want to answer all your questions. Editorials that question and challenge policy, procedures, and those in power may be accused of having a political agenda. However, if you adhere to strong journalistic procedure and ethics, these obstacles and criticisms can, in fact, help your journalism become even stronger.

 

Article: In plain view from public places

Photojournalists and free speech: What can and cannot be photographed continues to fall under question, bringing attention to photojournalists and igniting important First Amendment conversations. As part of other Free Speech Week lessons and activities, teachers may use this opportunity to incorporate key readings and discussion geared toward visual storytellers.

 

Article: A class activity to learn both law and ethics, by Candace Bowen

Not knowing the difference between law and ethics makes it difficult to teach these two concepts effectively. They are separate fields, though they do overlap in theory and practice, and plenty of journalistic situations require us to assess both legal and ethical components.

 

Article: Satire: easy to confuse when used out of context, by Tom Gayda

Is satire worth it? Maybe sometimes, but remember: most newspapers don’t include satire, so it is easy for a reader to get confused when what is a typical straightforward paper decides to enter the world of comedy. Perhaps a special publication for satire would be a better way to go.

 

Article: Lessons in transparency, by George, by Stan Zoller

Student journalists need to not only understand, but practice transparency. It’s not unusual for student journalists to want to take an ‘easy way out’ on a story and maybe use sources or materials that give them path of least resistance. Interviewing friends or colleagues in a club, sport or organization are not unheard of. Policy and procedure manuals should include a statement regarding transparency and any conflict of interest.

Resources: Fake or Fact? Seminar available via archived video

The 13th annual Poynter-Kent State University Media Ethics Workshop focused on fake news. Show your students panel discussions by accessing the archives. A lesson plan for scholastic students, created by Candace Bowen, also is available.

 

Want to know even more? See these links:

JEA statements on prior review (and definition of), photo manipulation, student free expression and more

Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

Newseum case studies

Ethics resources from The Poynter Institute

The Elements of Journalism, American Press Institute

 

JEA curriculum links:

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Always Mean You Should

Another Way to Examine Ethics: Red Light, Green Light

Making TUFF Decisions

When Journalists Must Navigate Ethical Situations

Exploring the Issues with Anonymous Sources

With Freedom of the Press Comes Great Responsibility

Protest Songs and the First Amendment

The Importance of Dissenting Voices

When Journalists Err Ethically

Ethical Guidelines and Procedure Statements: Creating the Foundation

 

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5 activities to consider before next fall

Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Blog, Digital Media, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

By John Bowen, MJE

Looking for end-of-year activities to rebuild or revisit how your student media operate, the range and effectiveness of content, no matter the platform?

Consider the following, either now at the end of the year or during summer staff retreats, to help students strengthen your program’s foundation.

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Senior quotes, wills:
Can harm students, damage credibility QT65

Posted by on May 6, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Senior wills, April Fool’s issues and senior quotes sometimes can be considered the three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

They  have minimal journalistic value and can quickly damage a staff’s –– and a school’s –– reputation and credibility.

Senior quotes present too much potential for damage and turn over too much control of your student publications to students who are not trained in legal and ethical considerations. Libel, innuendo, and bullying could be slipped into content, and it may slip past your editors or advisers, thus causing harm to students and damaging your publication.

Guideline:

Because senior quotes have minimal journalistic value and great potential for damage, they will not be used in school publications.

Social media post/question:

Senior quotes in your publications? 

Key points/action:

Students love senior quotes in the yearbook or newspaper, but what happens when a student slips something inappropriate in the quote? When does the editor decide what can and cannot go in? What if another student is bullied through a quote, and you don’t catch it? What if a double entendre slips in that no one recognizes? What if a student says something in September that they don’t want published in May? Can you guarantee every student will be equally represented?

Stance:

Senior quotes should be taken out of your yearbooks and replaced with better ways of telling student stories.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Senior quotes present too much potential for damage and turn over too much control of your student publications to students who are not trained in legal and ethical considerations. Libel, innuendo, and bullying could be slipped into content, and it may slip past your editors or advisers, thus causing harm to students and damaging your publication.

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What to tell your principal about Prior Review? QT 62

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Quick Hits: Student First Amendment Rights

The bad news is that administrators may legally ask to see stories before they are printed or aired, but prior review leaves them in an awkward situation, because of the good news below.

The good news is that they generally cannot ask students to change anything or spike the story. That would be prior restraint, allowed legally only under narrow conditions.*

Prior Review is a bad idea for both students and the school. But how do you convince the administrations?

You have two strong arguments against prior review. The first is a legal argument, the second is a pedagogical one.

First, when administrators review student publications prior to publishing, they and the school district become responsible for its content and policies. These three cases show the protection schools enjoy when they allow student control of student media:

  1. Because Lexington High School students made all the editorial, business and staffing decisions for both the LHS Yearbook and the school paper, a suit brought against the district failed. The adults were sued because the student leaders of the paper had refused to run two ads. The school’s superintendent, principal, the two publication advisers and the five school members of the school committee escaped unharmed from the suit that alleged they were violating the First and Fourteenth amendments when the school publications refused the ads. (Yeo v. Town of Lexington (1997) in the First Circuit Court of Appeals)
  2. Because the students, not the school district, decided which senior portraits to allow in the Londonderry High School yearbook, the district was protected from successful suit for First Amendment violation when the students rejected a senior portrait with a shotgun. The judge found that it was not the school district that rejected the photo. It was the student yearbook editors. “The state has not, it seems, suppressed Blake’s speech. His fellow students have done so.” (Douglass v. Londonderry School District (2005) in the U.S. District Court for New Hampshire.) 
  3. Because the students of Roosevelt High School in Seattle practiced strong journalism and controlled the content of their student media, a lower court ruled in favor of the Seattle Public Schools and against slumlords suing the district for libel following an article in The Roosevelt News, “Sisley Slums Cause Controversy: Developers and neighborhood clash over land use.”  The lower court ruled that if what the students write is true, it is not libel, and where the students make the content decisions, the school district is protected from successful suit. (Sisley v. Seattle School District (2011 in the Court of Appeals of Washington (state), Division 1)

Second, when administrators exercise prior review, students lose the opportunity to develop skill crucial to democracy, including the ability to recognize sound journalism and fake news. When students choose the content of their publications to please—or at least “get past”—administrators, they are denied the opportunity to apply what they learn in class about news values, ethics and press law.

In contrast, students who control the content of their publication regularly consider their audience’s right to know and individuals’ right to privacy. They judge the strength and reliability of sources. They strive to make their reporting fair and accurate. They come to cherish their audience’s trust and they admit mistakes, issue corrections and retractions, and live with the consequences. They are prepared to be responsible citizens as intelligent consumers of media.

There is no evidence that prior review by administration improves learning in any way.

 

 

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*In states under the Tinker standard, an administrator could restrain stories that pose a clear and present danger of inciting students to commit crimes on school premises or violate lawful school regulations, or substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school. The administrator could also restrain stories that contain obscenity or slander/libel.

 

In the states that remain under Hazelwood, the administrator would need a “legitimate pedagogical concern.”

 

Resources:

QuickHits So what does Hazelwood actually allow administrators to do?

QuickHits The Perks of Being a Wallflower: How a School District Escaped a Lawsuit by Fostering an Independent Student Press.  Yeo v. Town of Lexington (1997) in the First Circuit Court of Appeals

Quickhits More Perks of Being a Wallflower: How two other School District Escaped Lawsuits by Fostering an Independent Student Press. Douglass v. Londonderry School District (2005) and Sisley v. Seattle School District (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Invading privacy still a concern
in today’s public world

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Bowen, MJE
One area of unprotected speech is getting harder to teach all the time – partly because a fair number of students and even some adults appear not to care about protecting it.

“Unwarranted invasions of privacy” – one of the nine categories of speech the government can prohibit or even punish someone for using  – is becoming increasingly problematic.

I assigned a paper discussing the their biggest legal worry to college juniors in my Teaching High School Journalism class. One student’s response surprised me. Usually they’re concerned about libel or copyright violations, but Gabrielle started her paper this way:

“The one that I am most concerned about is invasion of privacy. By the time that I am a teacher, my students will have lived their whole lives with the presence of the Internet constantly pressing in on them. They will never know a life without social media, online search engines, and other means of obtaining personal information. I think that this will give students the wrong assumption that all the information they have access to is fair game when it comes to reporting.”

And she’s right. According to the Student Press Law Center’s “Law of the Student Press,” the legal concept of invasion of privacy claims first came up during the era of Yellow Journalism, when media were trying to out-do each other with sensational stories that could sell their papers. That concept was largely under control for about a century when the Internet with blogs and social media plunged audiences back in the world of teaser headlines about private information.

But what are these privacy issues student journalists should know about?

According to Findlaw, an invasion of privacy is “an intrusion upon your reasonable expectation to be left alone.” This can be broken into four main types:

  1. Appropriation of Name or Likeness
  2. False Light
  3. Public Disclosure of Private and Embarrassing Facts
  4. Intrusion on solitude

The first two are fairly clear-cut. In the school setting, advertising managers need to think about appropriation: Get a photo release if you’re using someone’s picture in an ad.

Photographers should think about false light: Don’t use a photo of people if it looks like they are doing something they aren’t – particularly if what viewers will think makes them look bad.

A school in Illinois avoided a legal case but still learned a good lesson when the photo of a teacher walking down the hall with a cafeteria tray was used to complain that faculty were taking food out of the lunchroom when no one was supposed to be able to do that. Later the staff learned it wasn’t food on the woman’s tray but papers and a gradebook.

The other two legal claims are a bit more complicated. According to the Student Press Law Center, private facts have to be (1) sufficiently private, (2) sufficiently intimate and (3) highly offensive. Clearly it would be hard to argue that publishing something someone had tweeted or posted on other social media was very private at all.

However, the SPLC warns that anything dealing with “a person’s sexual behavior, medical/psychological history or financial affairs” should raise red flags, and student journalists should consider these risky because they could easily be sufficiently intimate for a successful invasion of privacy suit.

Highly offensive is more than just embarrassing, and it, too, should be considered carefully if a reporter thinks such information has to be included in her story.

The fourth type – intrusion – is more about gathering the information than necessarily publishing it. That means interaction in the main hall of the school or the football stadium is fair game for photographers (though some photos might not be ethical to publish… but that’s another discussion). In those places, not one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, be careful of trespassing to gather information. Recent demonstrations could be an example of such a problem. Yes, reporters and photographers have a right to gather news, BUT that doesn’t always mean they can go everywhere, and it definitely doesn’t mean they can break laws just to get a story.

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “In recent years, some reporters have been swept up in mass arrests during protests. Other reporters and photographers have been injured or fined while covering protests. Journalists often are surprised to learn that they don’t have a First Amendment right to wander wherever they please at a demonstration. What a reporter considers aggressive reporting is often an officer’s idea of disorderly conduct.”

When one of these situations arises as the staff discusses the next stories and photos they will be producing, it’s time to check how legal and how newsworthy their ideas are before they go any further.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This concern is amplified by the presence of social media. If I ever run a student media platform like the news paper, I hope that my students are able to cover interesting and thought provoking stories. My concern would be that students would use unprofessional avenues to retrieve information on the people they write about, especially their classmates. It is very easy to cyber stalk people to gain access to information. I feel that I am fairly competent at finding information online. I can only imagine how skilled my future students will be at the same research.

 

 

 

 

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Advocacy and journalism:
coexistence or natural conflict?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
Initially came the mass shooting of 17 students and school staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

Students and scholastic media reported the issues surrounding the shootings and the followed student protests, trying to make sense of it all.

Then came discussion among journalism educators about student advocacy and journalism. Should the two travel together? Can they coexist in the same newsroom?

Now is the time to assess those questions, and more.

In a chapter titled “What we need from the ‘Next Journalism'” in their book, Blur, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel  look how questions like these might identify purpose, roles and focus of media in the future.

“Strip away platform. Strip away technique. Strip away culture,” they write. “What function does a newsroom serve in its community? What is its essential purpose, apart from generating revenue?”

Student journalists raised the essence of that question when they reported social issues and events surrounding the shootings at their school. Thousands of other teens, some student journalists, joined in, bringing praise as well as anger, ultimately participation innational marches and protests.

Journalism educators  prepared their students not only to report the events and the issues, fulfilling their social role  responsibility. They also embraced the leadership aspects of journalism by guiding students as they made coverage and action decisions.

Mix the leadership and growth of student voice with the concept of journalism as advocacy and we create debate on the essential purpose and role of scholastic journalism.

After all, muckrakers like Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell rerouted the scope of journalism.

Perhaps this present confluence of two major points – change in journalism and a regrowth of advocacy – can fuel the expansion of New Voices and propel scholastic journalism into examining issues and potential solutions.

“Telling stories is not the answer. Neither is delivering the news, or even monitoring government. All those have been a part of it historically,” Kovach and Rosenstiel state in Blur. “But we think the essential function is something broader and more conceptual, and the future of journalism depends in part on embracing the broader notion.”

The authors specifically mention verification, synthesis and making sense of information presented as parts of that larger notion of essential journalism.

It is time to expand the discussion to include the broader notion of scholastic journalism’s future roles and whether advocacy is among them..

In the next month or so we will develop and discuss what these potential changes might mean to scholastic journalism, provide background and perspective and share activities and lessons, grow discussion and spread possibilities.

 

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