Law and Ethics

In case you missed something we’ve done …

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In case you might have missed some of our key projects and materials, here is a quick and easy way to locate them. Materials range from access to the Panic Button to passing free expression legislation in your state.

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Going online? Consider these points before you decide

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sprclogoby John Bowen
Scholastic journalism educators over the summer devoted a lot of time and discussion about whether print is dying and whether their programs should switch to digital first or digital only. Before advisers and students make a decision to move totally online, think about and discuss these points:

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Constitution Day lessons and activities, 2014

Constitution Day lessons and activities, 2014
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by Lori Keekley
The Scholastic Press Rights Commission works to provide information and resources on legal and ethical issues to journalism students, teachers and administrators. SPRC members also work to promote the First Amendment rights of students across the nation, and is a commission of the Journalism Education Association.

We designed our Constitution Day lesson plans to help students celebrate the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as
 mandated by Congress. Legislation requires schools to offer lessons on the Constitution and how it affects all Americans. Our lesson plans emphasize the First Amendment and particularly the freedoms of speech and the press.

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Application of libel law: Ventura lesson

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Application of Libel Law
by Lori Keekley

Description
Students will examine the tenets and defenses of libel while analyzing a recent court case.  The lesson spans two days, but could be combined to fit into one day if needed. Students also will examine how the First Amendment plays a role libel law.

Objectives
• Students will learn the basic tenets of libel law
• Students will learn the defenses to a libel claim.
• Students will apply both the tenets of libel and defenses to libel.

Common Core State Standards
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning. 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.a
Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1.e
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.  

Length
100 minutes (two 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Article 1:
Star Tribune article to be used for the first day of class
Article 2: Star Tribune article to be used for the second day of class
Article 3: Washington Post article, which is for background
SPLC libel info

Lesson step-by-step
Day 1

1. Introduction — 5 minutes
Situation: An author claimed he had a barfight with “Scruffy Face” in a recent book. He later identified the other participant. The “Scruffy” said this alleged fight harmed his reputation. Who do you think would win in a libel suit?
2. Review — 10 minute
Using the SPLC libel information, please have students describe the following terms:
–The four parts of libel according to the Student Press Law Center?
(Publication, Identification, Harm, Fault)
–What are the defenses to a libel claim?
(Consent, Truth, Privilege, Opinion versus Fact)

3. Read article 1 — 10 minutes
While reading the article, ask students to underline the areas they think might be applicable for the prosecution. Ask them to box what would be helpful for the defense. Students should be able to explain their reasoning. Also, ask students to revisit what they decided from the introductory assignment, which opened the class.

4. Debate preparation — 10 minutes
Split the class in half. Assign half to be the prosecution and the other half the defense. They should formulate arguments for their side.

Students should also look at how the First Amendment might apply in this scenario.

5. Debate — 20 minutes
Ask students to debate the case. They should cite the parts of libel law, defensed to libel law and information from the case.

Day 2
1. Introduction — 5 minutes
As students enter, please ask them to write down as many parts of libel law and defenses to libel they can. After a few minutes have passed, ask students to get their notes and add what was missed in a different pen color.

2. Debate recap — 10 minutes
Ask students from the prosecution to reiterate their main points. Make sure they include the terminology they reviewed. After five minutes, switch and ask the defense to do the same. Ask the class to vote on which side they think should win.

3. Read article 2 — 10 minutes
While reading the article, ask students to underline the areas they were surprised about. Students should be able to explain their reasoning. Also, ask students to revisit what they noted at the beginning of class.

4. Read article 3 — 10 minutes
Again, ask students to underline any new information.

5. Small group discussion — 5 minutes
Ask students to share what they noted while reading.

6. Large group discussion — 5 minutes
Have each group report at least three comments they discussed. Comments may not be repeated from group to group.

6. Exit slip assessment — 5 minutes
Ask students to write down as many part of libel law and defenses to libel they can. (No notes, just memory on this.)

Differentiation
If students already are proficient in understanding libel law, this lesson could be condensed to one day.

Beginning students might need more time for understanding libel law — especially if it wasn’t already discussed.

 

 

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Online comments:
Allow anyone to post,
or monitor and approve first
An ethics lesson

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Considering online comments: Allow anyone to comment to protect the forum or keep comments focused?
by John Bowen

Description
Should online comments be allowed without review? Does doing so protect the forum concept?
Students will examine the following questions:
• What are the purposes of having comments for online and social media, for news as well as opinion pieces?
• What, if any, are difference between print and online comments.
• What are the pros and cons of allowing online comments, reviewed or unreviewed?
• What should student media consider before allowing online comments?
• What should guidelines for handling online comments include in scholastic media?

Objectives
• Students will read guidelines for online commenting
• Students will evaluate real-world issues concerning online comments.
• Students will create guidelines concerning online comments and posting.

Common Core State Standard
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

Length: one day
50 minutes

Materials / resources
• Allowing comments or keeping people silent: which is more ethical?
http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/11/new-media-new-ethical-considerations-for-the-buisness-side-too/
• Scholastic Press Rights Committee’s guidelines
• Computers

Lesson step-by-step
1. Introduction — 2 minutes
Survey students to find out how many have read an online comment within the past week.

Ask students how many of them have commented.

2. Transition — 3 minutes
Explain to the students that today, they will be examining whether student publications should allow online comments and if they do, what type of comments they should allow.

3. Readings — 10 minutes
Have students read the “Commenting vs silence” section of this article and guidelines from JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee. Click on the online ethics guidelines link, and go to Section 5, handling online comments.

4. Group work — 10 minutes
In groups have students list on paper the pros and cons of allowing online comments. Part of their discussion should look at:
–Allowing any comments
–Allowing reviewed comments
–Allowing unfettered comments

Students, as a whole, or in groups should prepare a process for handling comments, and be able to explain their decision in a press release, to:
–Their audiences/general public
–School administrators
–School board

5. Group reports — 10 minutes
Ask groups to debrief on what they decided.

6. Assessment — 15 minutes
Ask students to prepare guidelines for their ethics and staff manual, and for publication concerning online comments.

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How much information is enough for a story? An ethics lesson

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How much information is enough for a story?
by John Bowen
Description
Students will explore the following questions: What makes a good headline? What makes a good infographic? What makes a good multimedia package? Is the practice of “All you need to know about X” bad for journalism? In working on those questions, students will also work on formulating corrections for weak practices. They will also work toward forming defenses of stronger processes and policies. One way or another, students will decide the kind of policy they would develop to create an effective and credible news practice. This could involve guidelines or policy for the staff manual.

Objectives
• Students will read and be able to critique an article about coverage cliches
• Students will examine the role coverage cliches play in the media
• Students will draft a policy or guidelines about using this type coverage in their media

Common Core State Standards
• CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem
 CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain
• CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas
• CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others

Length
150 minutes

Materials / resources
• The absolute worst cliche online today
http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/22/the-absolute-worst-cliche-online-today/

Lesson step-by-step
Day 1
1. Background — 15 minutes
Have students read the article,The absolute worst cliché online today. Ask students to either highlight or underline important aspects of the article.

2. Pair work — 10 minutes
Students should prepare a 25-word statement of belief about the points the author makes. If they are not familiar with the practices noted, have them use Internet access to see examples.

3. Work with article concepts — 25 minutes
Once students have read the article and completed their statement, have students find three examples online of the process the author talks about, two in news coverage and one in something else. Students should be ready to discuss the newsvalue, cohesiveness and credibility of the information in these pieces.

Day 2:
1. Link to the last class – 5 minutes

2. Small group discussion – 20 minutes
Divide the class into groups of five to discuss the Washington Post article and the examples they found. Write down their discussion using this handout.

Questions they might address include:
• Do headlines like the ones in your articles catch reader attention, provide enough information or set the stage for misinformation? Or, something else?
• How do you react to the examples you found? Did they present complete and cohesive information so readers have enough of the story to take action or feel they are informed?
• Who or what were the sources of the information? Was the information presented objectively, or did that matter? Could you verify the information presented, and through reliable sources?
• Discuss what you found in relation to the author of “All you need”s points. Do you agree, disagree? Does the author support her points?
• Do you feel the examples – and the author’s point – indicates a bad journalistic practice? Why or why not? If a good practice, how would you defend it? Be specific.

3. Policy drafting and poster creation – 25 minutes
Once the groups have discussed these questions, have each group work as a team to prepare a policy or guideline for your staff manual on the practice of “All you need to know” headlines and approaches. Once the team is finished, have them create a poster of visual means of expressing their position to share with the rest of the class.

Day 3
1. Presentation and assessment – 50 minutes
Students should share their poster and team statements. Students should try to reach an agreement for a working position usable for the staff manual.

Differentiation
Use this section to provide teachers changes to the lesson plan to accommodate students at different skill levels or in different learning environments. If this involves different materials or resources, list those in the Materials/Resources section.

 

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