Law and Ethics

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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Censorship lesson and case study: Fond du Lac

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Censorship Case Study
by Jeff Kocur

Description
A case study on the Fond du Lac High School Cardinal Column’s censorship by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. The study involves censorship of Fond du Lac High School’s by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. Students examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students and evaluate and hypothesize what they might do if faced with a similar situation.

Objectives
• Students will examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students
• Students will discuss the censorship of a high school publication.
• Students will evaluate and hypothesize what they would do if they were in a similar situation.

Common Core State Standards
Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
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.
• Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principlesand use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

Length
100 minutes (Two 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Handout 1

Handout 2
Rape Culture Coverage
For more information about the situation:
• Article on the issue
• Student Press Law Center with links to story
• Article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lesson step-by-step
Day One:

1. Background — 3 minutes
Teacher should either talk through or project the following:
Summation of issue:
Students at the Cardinal Columns, the student run newspaper at Fond Du Lac High School in Fond Du Lac, Wisc., were compelled to write a piece in the February issue about a rape culture at their school. The Editor-in-Chief, Tanvi Kumar told the Student Press Law Center the following.

“We are so saturated in a society that tolerates and even condones objectification of women and sexualizes them to be less than human beings,” Kumar said. “I think a lot of that … contributes to rape jokes and rape culture, and it’s not something that I could see going under the radar anymore.”

After the article was published, the principal, Jon Wiltzius, enacted a school board policy on the books, but not in practice, that would require the students to submit their paper to him prior to publication. He censored a photo on the cover of the next issue that was critical of the new policy.

2. Opening question — 2 minutes
Ask the students “What if this happened at your school?”
Teacher note: A healthy, mutual understanding of the First Amendment between your staff and your administrator would likely make this a non-issue, but not all schools are that lucky. You may want to share the First Amendment with the students as well.

3. Reading the article — 25 minutes
Teacher should pass out the article. Students should read the coverage in its entirety.

4. Pair work — 15 minutes
Teacher should pass out “Handout 1.” Students could work on the sheet in pairs.

5. Homework
If students have not finished the handout, ask them to do it for homework.

Day 2

1. Recap — 5 minutes
Ask students to “remind you” of what they read about the day before.

2. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.

3. Small group work — 15 minutes
Ask each pair to partner with another pair. Pass out “Handout 2.” Students should answer the questions from the sheet.

4. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Again, teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.

Differentiation
If students would like more information on the Fond du Lac censorship, they should access the articles listed in the resources section.

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Who owns student-produced content?

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sprclogoScenario: Student journalists have just completed their first converged media assignments and are just about ready for publication across the various platforms. Several indicate they think their work is good enough to share with other groups.Can they legally or ethically do that with repercussion?

By Mark Goodman

The question of who owns the copyright of work created for scholastic media is complex, but at some point, advisers need to answer that question. The sooner that is decided, the better for all.

One thing for certain, Mark Goodman, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and current Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, said it is almost impossible for a school to claim copyright in the works students create.

“Absent a written assignment of rights signed by both student and parent (if the student is a minor),” Goodman said, “students retain the copyright to works they create.”

That’s not because public schools can’t own copyright, he said, it’s because students are not employees and the works they create are not “works for hire.” The fact they may be getting credit for a class does not change that. 

If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward, I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”

In addition, there are real downsides to a school owning the copyright to student works, Goodman said.  For example, if a school owns it, it can control how it is used.  That inherently includes extensive censorship rights.

“If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward,” Goodman said, “I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”

He said it is possible for an student publication to own a copyright but that doesn’t make it belong to the school.

“Insert in your publication handbook or policy document a statement that states your student publication staff has authority over the copyrights owned by or licensed to the publication,” Goodman said.  “If someone ever uses your publication’s contents without permission in violation of the copyright, you’ll have clear authority for asking them to stop.”

If student work is already distributed and others use it without permission, Goodman said he would recommend advisers and students act as if the publication itself owns the copyright, whether there is written documentation or not.  A letter to the infringer requesting they take the material down immediately would be appropriate.

Goodman developed a model statement of who owns student works.

Goodman also said the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand wrote an excellent piece on copyright ownership on the SPLC blog .

For additional ownership resources:

• Now that it’s online… is it still mine
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1560&edition=52
• The editors’ checklist (se section of copyright and ownership of work)
http://www.splc.org/pdf/editor_checklist.pdf
• Your questions answered: Ownership of content
https://vimeo.com/11841801
• Model yearbook copyright warning
http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/legalresearch.asp?id=122
• SPLC model yearbook staff member license
http://www.splc.org/pdf/yearbook_license.pdf
• Prince George’s considers copyright policy that takes ownership of students’ work
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/prince-georges-considers-copyright-policy-that-takes-ownership-of-students-work/2013/02/02/dc592dea-6b08-11e2-ada3-d86a4806d5ee_story.html
• Maryland advisers react to school district’s proposal to control copyright of student work
http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=2522
• Protecting your yearbook: How to register the copyright to prevent piracy
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1694&edition=62
• Registering your yearbook’s copyright (directions)
http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/legalresearch.asp?id=121
• Reddit’s press guidelines: Get permission from Reddditors before using their content in a ist
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/263067/reddits-press-guidelines-get-permission-from-redditors-before-using-their-content-in-a-list/#.U-vbWISkdm0.twitter
• Handle your yearbook copyright issues before you find the book for sale online
http://jeasprc.org/handling-yearbook-copyright-issues-before-you-find-the-book-for-sale-online/
• Principals, advisers and students face misconceptions about who ‘owns’ student work
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1584&edition=54
• Back to school checklist: who owns what?
http://www.splc.org/wordpress/?cat=13

 

 

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Welcome back – here’s a look
at what to expect in the coming weeks

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As we all head back to school, look for some new content in the next week:
• An article focusing who who owns scholastic media content and choices to establish best approach for students
• An article discussing points of questions involving yearbook ethics
• A first look at a Policy Package to will help staffs decide what they want as the best editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual
• Continued access to our ongoing columns on journalism pedagogy, FOIA, broadcast legal and ethical issues, news literacy and more Making a Difference reporting
• Our annual Constitution Day lessons and activities

• In the meantime, check out these major points from the press rights commission:
Takedown demands guidelines
The Panic Button means of reporting censorship
Our Press Rights Minute
JEA’s position prior review
JEA’s existing model editorial policy and support
Online, photo and yearbook ethical statements
First Amendment Press Freedom Award application
A teacher’s kit for curing Hazelwood
Our Foundations series for scholastic journalism

Something you would like us to report? Let us know.

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