Law and Ethics

JEA listed among key ethics and media law resources

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JEA has been listed as a part of key media law and ethics resources by journalism degree.org titled 100 Key Ethics & Media Law Resources for Journalists.

“Modern journalists, and anyone else working in the media, have thorny ethical issues to contend with,” Kara James wrote in a letter notifying JEA president Mark Newton of the compilation. “The sites,organizations and articles listed here are good places for journalists (or journalism students) to learn more about the legal and ethical landscape of their field.”

The site for the compilation is http://journalismdegree.org/media-law-ethics/ .

Among other organizations listed include:
SPLC
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional journalists Ethics Handbook
 Nieman Journalism lab

JEA’s link is to the general website. Other JEA links would include the Press Rights Commission and the law and ethics curriculum for JEA members.

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Making our words matter

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by Tom Gayda
Rights vs. responsibilities. Or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the phrases to keep in mind when living in a social media world.

Putting the First Amendment in action is our right, but with that right is the need to be responsible. There are many things a person can say, but sometimes those things aren’t always smart.

Even adults have to be careful. I may not agree with a decision made professionally, but to call out my boss or colleague and question his or her integrity might not be wise. My job doesn’t owe me my First Amendment rights the way sitting on my back porch talking to a friend does. Sure, I can say what I want, but if I want employment I might want to be careful. My boss probably isn’t as interested in my right to free speech when it knocks him or his company.

A student encounters similar situations. Perhaps not even that bad. Say a math student gets a poor grade on a test. Math student takes to Twitter and says the math teacher doesn’t know how to teach. Not really the worst thing a kid could say but if the math teacher hears about the comment, extra credit opportunities might dry up pretty fast. If the same math student calls the teacher a more colorful name the punishment might just be a little harsher.

Not that long ago we actually lived in a world where a lot of things we were thinking were left unsaid, but now the majority of us our gridded up we can’t go too many minutes without sharing something with someone.

The best thing to do is think first. Does your comment add something to life? Is it necessary someone see what you are thinking? Sometimes it might be wiser to act responsibly and keep a comment or two private.

Everyone is working their way through how to speak their mind and be responsible. And while we are lucky to have the First Amendment to protect us, it is important to keep in mind that our words matter whether they are protected or not.

 

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National scholastic journalism groups’ position on Neshaminy policy proposal

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As the national organizations of journalism educators committed to the training of future journalists and the preparation of citizens for life in our democracy, we write to express our vigorous opposition to the proposed policy changes under consideration by the Neshaminy Board of School Directors that relate to school-sponsored student publications

We find the proposed policy changes, which give school officials virtually unlimited authority to censor student journalism even of the highest quality, educationally unsound, constitutionally insufficient and morally indefensible.  They are inconsistent with the student media policies recommended by national education experts.

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Remembering James Tidwell

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by Stan Zoller

If you were to make a list of the amazing advisers who grace the walls of journalism scholastic education notoriety, odds are you would start rattling of the awards he or she has won.

Pacemakers, Write-off winner, state JOY winners, Best of Show winners, etc.   And the list would keep on going.

Tidwell

Dr. James Tidwell

Recently, journalism education paid homage to a journalism educator whose program never won an award.

Not one.

But there’s a reason for that – he never taught scholastic journalism.

That, however, did not stop James Tidwell, chairman of the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois from taking the lead as an advocate for student press rights in Illinois.  Nor did it stop him from heading up the Eastern Illinois Scholastic Press Association and being Executive Director of the Illinois Journalism Education Association.

Oh, by the way, he was also instrumental in starting the Illinois High School Association’s state journalism tournament.

Although his “home” was the college campus, Tidwell knew  journalism education began in high school.

So when pancreatic cancer beat Tidwell April 12, it was a loss for journalism and journalists everywhere – high school newsrooms, college newsrooms and professional newsrooms.

Tidwell quite simply not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

“James worked with high school journalism from his earliest years as a professional, but the fact is that his love of high school journalism started with his experiences as a high school journalist in Oklahoma, “notes Sally Renaud, IJEA Executive Director and professor of Journalism at EIU.

“He always talked fondly of his own high school adviser and her tremendous influence on his career, which included work on his campus newspaper and for professional newspapers. He has used his respect for his adviser and the passion she helped instill in him at an early age as motivating forces in his career in regards to high school journalism,” Renaud said.

How much so?  Just ask longtime adviser Randy Swikle.

“In the mid-1990s, no one worked harder on state legislation defining scholastic press rights in Illinois than James. I know,” Swikle said, “because I was at his side as he lobbied from office-to-office in the Capitol building. Hundreds of hours were spent devising strategy and campaigning for HB 156. At day’s end, the House passed the legislation 109-4, and the Senate approved 57-0. Unfortunately, the governor unexpectedly vetoed the bill.

Why?  Because Tidwell believed in a free and responsible press for scholastic journalism.  It was his passion.

And he instilled that passion through not only his knowledge, but through an uncanny ability to take – or rather make – time to work with advisers and journalism teachers.

“James was often called upon to offer his expertise and advice in such areas as prior review, copyright and libel. I often heard him on the phone with high school advisers who sought his counsel, who asked his advice on a concern or problem in their school,” Renaud said.

“He always made those of us who had the privilege of serving on the IJEA board as though we were a part of his family,” IJEA President Sarah Doerner said.  “It will be difficult to imagine IJEA without him.”

Fittingly, the IJEA has renamed its annual Educator of the Year in Mr. Tidwell’s honor as the “Dr. James Tidwell IJEA Educator of the Year” Award.

It will be difficult to imagine the battle for press rights without him.  Tidwell was a rare breed.  Awards and honors were not a motivating force for him.  Preserving the First Amendment and making sure scholastic journalists had a foundation steeped in press rights from which they could build a journalistic future was all the motivation he needed.

Awards?  They may look good on the wall, or on your desk.

But having the opportunity to work with James Tidwell and absorb his warmth, knowledge and passion was an award I know I will cherish.

The challenge I, and my guess is most journalism educators, face is how we can embody and continue the spirit and passion for journalism education and student press rights that James had.

I guess I just need to heed the advice of the late David ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister who once said “this is the land of miracles; the miraculous we can do today; the impossible will take a little longer.”

Emulating James Tidwell will take a little longer.

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Students speak out about cancellation of SGA elections

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE Series

Students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC, spoke out when a faculty committee chose officers for the upcoming student government offices instead of holding an election. That misstep caught the attention of The Beacon staff who wrote about the injustice in several issues. By the end to the year, the coverage in The Beacon resulted in a reversal of the decision,  thus reinstating the election process to the school.

Adviser, Mary Stapp shared “In our September issue The Wilson Beacon wrote about the school’s administration changing the process of Student Government Association elections, including an editorial on p. 4. Instead of having students elect their leaders, administrators decided to appoint leaders themselves. Before the Beacon reported on it, no one knew how SGA officers had been [s]elected. In our April issue, Opinions Editor Christina Harn reflected on the “Lack of Leadership Opportunities” (p.5). Our June issue reported the resulting “SGA Elections Reinstated,” after the principal widely acknowledged the importance of the student voice and the meaning of democracy.”

See the packages the Beacon staff shared in the September and April issues.

Student voice in publications and student government makes a difference in schools. The Beacon staff made a difference by bringing the process of student elections back to the students instead of a faculty committee.

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Ethical principles and considerations

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If your students have to make takedown decisions, the legal advice is essential. Just as important are the various ethical possibilities, too.

While the legal principles are relatively clear, ethical principles might not be.. In ethical decision-making, there is topically no right or wrong but primarily right v. right decsision. Such decisions might depend on the mission and goals of your student media.

These points might help in ethical decision-making:
• The default position is not to take down anything newsworthy or accurate at the time of original publication unless there are clear, definably correct legal reasons: libel, unwarranted invasion of privacy, obscenity. Everything else stays. The reason: if someone on the staff thought it good enough to post once, it should stay.  Maybe Put Up guidelines would help students avoid later issues. If your material is legally unsupportable or demonstrably inaccurate, you would likely, for justifiable journalistic reasons, want to change it.
• Original posts and articles also have historical/reality value. Good enough to go up, good enough to stay up. In Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s Elements of Journalism, the first obligation is to publish, no matter the platform, the truth as best we know it. Second-guessing that later, for whatever reason, can set a nasty precedent of what the historical record is. Considering Takedown demands/requests might also start students on a slippery slope of second-guessing and ultimately self-censorship.
• If there is a one-time reason, like something later proven to be untrue, then the student staff could make an exception. These exceptions would, by definition, be rare.
• Lastly, just because students agree to take down an item, does not cleanse the Web of the information, image or information.
• Some compromises that can be taken, according to The Online Privacy Blog include:
–Sunsetting that retires certain kinds of information (like arrests) after a certain preset period
–Block the article from search engines
–Make names anonymous or remove  them
–Unpublish the entire article if the information is “old, irrelevant or dangerous to an individual’s privacy or safety”
–Add an update for clarification

See more for the complete package:
Evaluating legal demands
Decision models
10 steps to a “Put Up” policy
Resources
Handling online comments
Takedown demands?

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