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Seems like you never know … until it’s too late

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Blog, Ethical Issues, New Voices, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Bowen, MJE Your principal is a good one who answers questions for your news staff and encourages your yearbook staff to tell what really happened this year. Even Twitter and Instagram have not been a problem for your journalism students.

Sure, you and your staff share stories with your principal when they cover sensitive topics. Yes, you’ve asked her views on quotes from other sources. So what? She’s a good administrator, and you’re just being thoughtful. What’s wrong with that?

Maybe plenty.

But let’s back up a bit. An early May discussion strand on the JEAHELP email distribution list centered around a former New Jersey adviser who is now suing her district for not allowing her to tell the real story about prior review and censorship at her school in 2017.

A junior who wore a t-shirt saying, in large letters: “TRUMP: Make American Great Again” in his yearbook photo ended up with a plain navy shirt in the published version. In the ensuing brouhaha, the district would not let adviser Susan Parsons tell the REAL story: New Jersey online said, “Parsons claims the district routinely forced her to edit yearbook photos to alter anything that could be controversial, from words on T-shirts to hand gestures to students not wearing shirts on a school trip.”

This time community members were so upset, Parsons received death threats and says she is now afraid to go out in the community – largely because she has not been allowed to defend herself and point out the true censors were administrators, or, in this case, she says, a secretary acting on the principal’s behalf.

The JEAHELP listserv posts that followed information about this incident covered a wide range of viewpoints. One said, “Prior review can be a positive thing in a friendly environment,” admitting, however, it is “a slippery slope.” 

Others argued the chilling effect of prior review almost makes it unnecessary to have true censorship – prior restraint – because students either are afraid to publish something they think might upset their administrators or worry that what they do will negatively impact their favorite teacher. 

Then one said exactly what I was thinking at the time: When has prior review ever been good from an educational standpoint? When has it taught good critical thinking skills? When did it help students become better media consumers or understand media’s role as the Fourth Estate, the very necessary check on governmental power? When did it lay down the foundation for future journalists, for those in student media who wish to have this as a career?

Then one said exactly what I was thinking at the time: When has prior review ever been good from an educational standpoint? When has it taught good critical thinking skills? When did it help students become better media consumers or understand media’s role as the Fourth Estate, the very necessary check on governmental power? When did it lay down the foundation for future journalists, for those in student media who wish to have this as a career?

But some kept arguing they had good relationships with their administrators and gave examples of times a really thorough discussion with the principal or others helped students understand a problem.

Fine. But that principal may not be at your school next fall. 

According to the National Education Policy Center,“Only about one-half of newly hired middle school principals remained at the same school for three years, while only 30 percent remained at the high school level for three years. After five years, less than one-half of newly hired middle school principals remained, and only 27 percent of high school principals.”

In other words, that understanding man or woman behind the principal’s desk may be replaced before you know it by someone whose legal training isn’t as First Amendment-based and whose biggest concern is the school’s image, not how much its students learn. 

Having a policy of prior review with that administrator won’t be a chance to discuss and learn more. It will be the very opposite of good education, but you’ll have little chance to change things then. After all, the prior review policy would have already been in effect.

Having a policy of prior review with that administrator won’t be a chance to discuss and learn more. It will be the very opposite of good education, but you’ll have little chance to change things then.

So don’t even give any administrator an idea to start down that slope.  It could lead to a law suit like Susan Parsons has filed. And, definitely, it wouldn’t be the best way for your students to learn.

A good resource to use:
What to tell your principal about prior review?

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Activities based on media coverage of high school of student working in adult industry

Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, New Voices, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
In my last blog we discussed the importance of fighting prior review, and noted its use is growing, even in states with state legislation protecting student expression.

To emphasize the issue, we highlight recent review attempts with the Bruin Voice of Stockton, California, and related reporting about the student story.

You have a link to the story and multiple links to commercially reported information. To study the original story and reporting on it, we provide possible starting questions for discussion of the concept of review itself and how other reporters covered the original story.

By doing this, we hope not only to create critical thinking about prior review and about how such topics are reported.

The Bruin Voice

https://bruinvoice.net

Media that reported the story

Writing about teenager who makes sex videos, school paper becomes the news

Bear Creek student newspaper’s controversial story will run as planned

Students express support for Bear Creek newspaper after controversial story publishes

Profile of student porn worker allowed to run in Stockton high school newspaper

Q&A: Teacher facing possible firing over student sex worker profile

Story on high school porn performer sparks censorship clash

District relents, allows Stockton school paper to run story about student in porn

Reporting and information gathering questions

• What are differences in the coverages?

• Are any questions unanswered? What, and who could be additional sources?

• What, if any, bias shows through in reporting, word usage, sources, approach?

• What information is missing? What sources could have provided it?

• Was the best lead used? If not, what alternatives might have been better?

• What background was used? What could have been used?

• What were coverage strengths? Weaknesses?

Legal and ethical questions

• What ethical issues did the reporter(s) have to address?

• What legal issues should be addressed? Were they? If addressed was the reporting accurate, robust and complete?

• Should topics like the Bruin Voice piece be reported by scholastic media? Discuss the legal and ethical issues and how you might handle them?

Our last blog: Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

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New Year brings hope for New Voices

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Blog, New Voices, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Jackie Mink, JEA Emeritus Member
This past January, I saw television reports about  members of the UnitedStates Congress being sworn in for this new year. I also saw this happening with the Missouri legislature, which is the state where I live.

New sessions makes me think of the New Voices of Missouri legislation, a movement to guarantee student journalists in the state freedom to report without fear of consequence. 

Right now, there is no added protection against administrative censorship for high school or college journalists and their advisers, leaving them vulnerable to censorship for simply reporting the truth. 
     
According to the New Voices web site and Facebook:
• For three years in a row, the Missouri Senate failed to call New Voices reform legislation for a final floor vote despite nearly unopposed approval in the House and in the Senate Education Committee. 
• Rep. Kevin Corlew introduced a new version of the Cronkite New Voices Act, HB 441, Jan. 5, 2017. The 2017 version addressed concerns raised during 2016, including clarifying that schools and colleges are immune from legal liability for the speech of their students in journalistic publications.
• The bill in 2018 would have guaranteed freedom of the press in school-sponsored media for both public high schools and public colleges. Not all speech is protected under the bill. Exemptions include: speech that is libelous,  incites violence, contains a threat, engages in illegal activity, violates the rights of others, advertises an illegal product, encourages breaking school policies. 
• This was the third straight year the bill  (which would establish the Walter Cronkite New Voices Act) had passed the House with heavy support and passed a Senate committee, but it has never been brought before the full Senate.
   • Before the bill was brought up for the committee vote, there were concerns that groups representing school boards planned to propose “killer amendments” that would severely weaken the bill. 

The New Voices of Missouri Facebook page urged supporters to contact committee members and ask them to reject these changes.
     The Missouri Education Association, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri College Media Association all support the  2019 legislation.

Dr. Robert Bergland, a professor of journalism and digital media at Missouri Western University emailed me and said, “ In addition to individuals calling/writing, is teachers encouraging their students to write/call.  If media advisers set aside 10 minutes to have their students write a quick 
e-mail or letter/postcard to their Senator (if they wish), that would be great for the bill and a good lesson in participatory democracy. We might want to do the same for the Governor if/when the bill passes the Senate, to have students and teachers and allies encouraging the governor to sign it. Also, encourage people to like/follow the Facebook page.”

 I emailed and called the office of  Missouri State Senator Gina Walsh.  She is my state senator, the minority floor leader, and her district encompasses Hazelwood East High School where the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier case began over 30 years ago.  I requested information about whether she supported this bill or not.  I have not heard back as of April 12.  The legislative session ends May 17.

I hope the  Show Me State, which is the state of the famous journalist Walter Cronkite, the renowned  University of Missouri Journalism school,  active and involved student journalists, also the location where the Hazelwood case took place, will be able to pass the New Voices bill this year.

Check out the New Voices Missouri Facebook page to keep up on what happens in Missouri and other states where there is an effort to pass bills.  
 New Voices legislation has passed in 14 states, with Washington passing a version of the bill in 2018.

Student Press Law Center reporter Cory Dawson wrote Feb. 28, 2019, “Fourteen states already have New Voices laws on their books. So far in 2019, bills have been introduced in 11 states, although two have already failed to pass out of the committee stages. Arkansas (HB1231), Missouri (HB743), Nebraska (LB206), New York (A03079), Texas (SB514), Indiana (HB1213) and New Jersey (A238) already have bills moving through the legislature, whereas bills in Minnesota and Pennsylvania will be introduced in the coming days and weeks. Virginia and Hawaii’s bills have already been killed.”

 

 





 
 
 
 

 


 

 









 














 



 



 
 
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Proactivity can help face a challenge

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, New Voices | 0 comments

by Stan Zoller,MJE
Watch just about any team sporting event and at some point, there will be challenge to a call. Or challenge to the rules.

It’s no different with some scholastic journalism programs. Despite New Voices laws in 14 states, and bills introduced in three others, challenges to the rules, or in this case laws, are not unusual.

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