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Unnamed sources should be used sparingly …

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

… and only after students evaluate how the value of the information balances with the problems such sources create

Journalism is based on truth and accuracy. Using unnamed sources risks both of those standards. For that reason, students should seek sources willing to speak on the record. Unnamed sources should be used sparingly and only after students evaluate how the value of the information balances with the problems such sources create. 

Occasionally, a source’s physical or mental health may be jeopardized by information on the record. In this instance, journalists should take every precaution to minimize harm to the source.

Staff manual process

Editors should train staff members on how to conduct proper interviews on the record. Poor interview techniques could lead to confusion between potential sources and reporters. Staff members should always identify themselves when working on behalf of student media. Reporters should be advised to use anonymous sources rarely. Before agreeing to do so, they should ask the following questions:

  • Why does the source want to remain unnamed? Is it possible he/she would be in danger if his/her name is revealed? What other problems could occur?
  • How important is the story? How important is the information provided, and is there an alternative means for gathering it? Using an unnamed source hurts credibility and could risk legal action.
  • Students should consider what might happen if a court demands to know the source’s name. Most professional journalists would not reveal the name, and many have gone to jail instead of doing so. Would student reporters be willing to go that far? What legal protections exist in your state for protection of sources?
  • What might the source have to gain from getting this information published? Some sources who want to be off the record have ulterior motives that could harm someone else.
  • If students decide the information is vital and the source has a solid reason for remaining unnamed, who, besides the reporter, should know the identity? Many staffs decide the editor should know to assess the credibility of the source, but not the adviser in order to protect the adviser’s professional position at the school.

Resources

Legal protections for journalists’ sources and informationby the Student Press Law Center

Position paper on anonymity of sources, Society of Professional Journalists

Use of unnamed sources, National Public Radio

Lesson: Exploring the Issues with Anonymous Sources, Journalism Education Association

 

 

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Standards for accepting non-staff content

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Standards for non-staff generated content (including student media ads) 

Guideline:

Our publication will not accept advertising content that includes profanity, obscenity or nudity (with the exception of baby pictures for the personal ads). The editors reserve the right to edit all copy for style or to refuse an ad on the basis of its content.

Social media post/question:

What’s your guideline on questionable material in content students submit?

Stance:

Create guidelines that allow student editors to still maintain some control of the content allowed to others, and to generate and communicate these guidelines clearly to your readers.

Reasoning/suggestions:

When you accept business or personal ads for your yearbook or newspaper, you turn over some content generation privileges, but you maintain the same responsibilities. By creating a clear guideline, which you communicate with your readers, you help to ensure those that submit the content demonstrate some level of journalistic responsibility and understand you, as the editor, still have the final say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needs resources and blog

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Study others’ First Amendment climate to better your own

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Hits, Quick Tips | 0 comments

First Amendment survey

Social media post/question: What does your school’s empowerment of free expression entail? 

Topic: By localizing the survey “Gallup: Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults,” students can begin to see their students’ reactions to free expression points made in the survey.

Stance: Free expression isn’t always a friendly venture. Oftentimes, the values of free expression can be tested by speech that may make another uncomfortable.

Reasoning/suggestions: By examining their school’s current free expression climate, students can evaluate what type of community education is needed and act accordingly.

According to the Gallup poll results concerning seeking out and listening to alternative views, “Only 16 percent of students and 24 percent of adults say Americans do a good job of this; 50 percent and 39 percent, respectively, say Americans do a poor job.”

How can education of a school culture allow for a forum for student discussion?

Resources:

Top 10 High School FAQs

Summary ofTinker v. Des MoinesandHazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

The SPLC First Amendment rights diagram(for public schools)

SPLC law library

 

 

 

 

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Censorship leads to fake news

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Prior-review/censor guideline /policy

Journalists often are considered mirrors on society. As such, journalism should reflect the community in which it is produced. In order to also maintain their watchdog function, journalists must also be able to act as candles that illuminate and challenge a community’s values and preconceptions.

Monitoring the status quo and the powers that be is one way journalists can both reflect and challenge their communities. This journalistic practice helps maintain the free and accurate flow of information.

Additionally, student media should be independent from their school’s public relations arm. The purpose of student media is to report school and community issues and events. Consequently, the purpose of student media is not to protect the image of the school or district.

These roles are premised on the idea that student media can operate in an independent manner.

JEA strongly rejects both prior review and restraint as tools in the education process and agrees with other national journalism education groups that no valid educational justification exists for prior review of scholastic media.

Prior review and prior restraint of student media content by school officials are weapons in the arsenal of censorship. Not only do they limit student learning and application, but they also restrict student critical thinking and analysis.

This would be included in the policy portion.

 

Social media post/question:How does self-censorship impact what students cover?

Stance: Students should create a clear guideline for stemming the tide of self-censorship.

Reasoning/suggestions: Students are often self-censoring important content — especially if they have been censored previously.

When students self-censor topics journalistically ethical and legal to cover, they are in essence forwarding the concept of fake news. If students are afraid to cover topics of importance to them, they are not creating a true open forum for student discussion and are not functioning as a journalist.

Resources:

SPLC Active Voices

Lesson: Censorship=Fake news

Self Censorship links from SPLC
http://www.splc.org/article/2015/02/high-school-students-teachers-confront-student-media-censorship

JEA prior review definition
http://jeasprc.org/jea-board-defines-prior-review/

Sarah Nichol’s blog from 2009

Self-censorship is scariest of all

Posted by JBowen   Oct 30, 2009 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching| 0 comments

All week I’ve heard plans for creepy costume parties, haunted house visits and horror film marathons. But as Halloween weekend approaches, there’s something much scarier on my mind.

It’s scary how many media staffs and their advisers are under fire right now for doing exactly what they set out to do: report on issues of impact and interest to their students. The current situation at Timberland High School in Wentzville, Mo. is just one example of many. Stories of little consequence, such as the homecoming court or club happenings, rarely draw attention. But the ones that matter — the ones that have potential to help students — come under fire at an alarming rate, despite thorough research, credible sources and top-notch student reporting.

It’s scary when kids grapple with these big issues and how to cover them well. But it’s even scarier when they don’t. Good journalism — and the whole part about critical thinking, student leadership and free expression — stops when kids decide to censor themselves.

All too often I hear my kids during staff brainstorming sessions say things like, “People would freak out if we covered that,” or “[Insert administrator names] would give us a really hard time if we did that.” Despite frequent discussion of media law and a dissection of the ed code, I still hear, “We can’t do that, can we?”

In most cases, they can. And in many cases, they should. It’s easy to see why kids might be inclined to shy away from the good stories, the real stories. After all, many advisers share updates in class of programs facing censorship and use these as teachable moments. We read the controversial articles, discuss the situations and follow the stories over an extended period of time. Kids are interested and engage in meaningful discussion, but I realized lately that they might not be taking away the message we think we’re sending. Do our students come away inspired and empowered, or are they afraid of censorship, administrative retaliation or the risk of losing a beloved adviser?

Scary possibilities, to be sure.

We can combat self-censorship with a few simple strategies:

(1) Continue to expose students to outstanding journalism, both from students and from the pros. Read it, discuss it, analyze it. Nothing beats an important story done well.

(2) When students begin to talk themselves out of a sensitive story topic, encourage them to revisit your mission statement and/or editorial policies. Teach students to weigh the options: how many readers might be helped or touched by this story? What’s the potential for good here? How far might this story reach?

(3) Get outside your school bubble. You know your school community, yes, but have you looked at how other student media have covered similar stories? Are others in your city, state, region affected by the same topics? Is there an opportunity to learn from the experience of others? Collaborate?

(4) Point to a wide variety of resources so students have support. When students feel confident in their research and reporting skills, they’re confident tackling bigger stories. Establish a team-oriented staff culture so that students have peers willing to help with research and interviewing. Good student journalists know how much work is involved in getting a story right; they might talk themselves out of tackling the topic because they know a sensitive story often involves extra effort. Again, work together.

(5) Make sure students understand how to utilize expert assistance from the SPLCand feel comfortable doing so. Consider role-playing sample scenarios in class. Encourage student editors to create a plan in the event that a situation arises. It’s like a fire drill — we don’t expect to be in a fire but we practice the drill and know how to call 911 if we need to. Then we’re free to go about our daily lives and focus on what matters.

If staffers have a plan in place, covering a potentially controversial subject doesn’t seem so scary.

Sarah Nichols, MJE

 

 

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SPRC adds ‘one-stop shopping’
for law and ethics manual

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Four concepts drive the creation of journalistic approaches: mission statement, editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual procedure. Together, with forum material, the four comprise a package of complementary principles we call the Foundation of Journalism, often known as a staff manual.

These principles represent the key pillars of standards-based journalism and are the products of perhaps the most important journalistic decisions the student staff can make. Together, the concepts enhance the strengthen the process and product, the decision-making and critical thinking that can characterize student media.

Click the Law-Ethics Manual nav bar link for our one-stop’ shopping.

More are on the way.

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Have students learn from history
as student journalists today

Posted by on Oct 22, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Jackie Mink
As a high school student in 1968, I had friends and family members fighting in the Vietnam War. There were many protests across the country by young people against the war, but one in particular influenced student expression for the future and up to today.

That protest was when a group of students in Iowa decided to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. They were suspended, and legal challenges regarding the suspension  led to the famous Tinker vs. Des Moines Supreme Court decision in 1969.

In 1983, as a young journalism teacher, I took a job at Hazelwood East High School.  I was told by a school official that there was a “small problem in the journalism classes”.  I learned that legal action had been started over an issue with the previous school newspapers printing something the principal found unacceptable and that I had two of the students in class who were involved.

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