by John Bowen
The deadline is approaching for application for this year’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award (FAPFA). If your staffs have received a Pacemaker or Gold Crown, FAPFA is the next logical step in recognizing journalistic excellence and practice of First Amendment guarantees.
by John Bowen
Lessons of Kristallnacht go beyond the history books
by Stan Zoller
Imagine if you will, that one day your administration comes in and without cause, dismantles your journalism classroom, publication office, and burns every copy of your newspaper and yearbook.
Then, without provocation or notice, the administration corralls your student media staff and yourself and threatens you with termination and your students with expulsion.
All because of who you were and the fact that you and your students advocated and used a voice.
Sure it does.
But in fact it has happened.
Monday, Nov. 10, was the 75th anniversary of ‘Kristallnacht,’ often referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.” The events of Nov. 9 – 10 were an effort by the Third Reich to round up and arrest more than 30,000 Jews and destroy as much of the property as possible. In addition to destroying homes and personal property, synagogues were targeted as well as their contents.
While Kristallnacht is often connected to broken glass, a focus of the attacks was on the books by Jewish authors. Fires raged throughout Germany as books were burned.
For those journalism educators who teach J-1, a primary lesson focuses, of course, on the First Amendment. Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. How simple is that? And how many times has a young journalist rolled their eyes as they strain to remember them.
It’s easy to forget when there are other things to do – like Tweet, eat, and, of course, meet a deadline.
It’s easy to forget when we are fortunate to have freedom of expression, even if it’s challenged by an overzealous administration.
But the reality is that we can’t forget, which is why Holocaust awareness efforts often include the phrases ‘Never Forget’ or ‘Never Again.’
Cynics will say it’s a “Jewish thing” and an isolated case, but if you take a deep breath and look what at transpired after Kristallnacht, it was more than a “Jewish thing.”
Perhaps as a devout and practicing Jew I am more sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust and the events leading up to it. Like Kristallnacht.
But I am a career journalist and a journalism educator, so I have had the luxury to practice what the Germans tried to take away 75 years ago.
The images and stories of Kristallnacht are chilling, as are most stories associated with the Holocaust. It’s the lessons, however, that we need to take away.
The intent of Kristallnacht, historians say, was to silence the Jews, eradicate their freedom of expression, destroy their freedom of speech, keep them from assembly, let alone their right to petition. As for the freedom of the press – nonexistent.
Nazi Germany did not have First Amendment rights. Imagine if you will, what life would be like in the United States if we did not have First Amendment rights.
Imagine if you will, coming to school and facing the chaos of a Kristallnacht. You probably can’t. The lessons associated with the First Amendment need to go beyond rote memorization. Students, whether in a journalism class or civics class need to understand what life would be like if we did not have First Amendment rights. They also need to imagine what it would be like if prior review and prior restraint were government mandated daily routines to silence student voices and reprimand those who taught students to have that voice.
Sure, it’s “only” 45 words, but the power behind them is unprecedented as is our right to practice them.
Perhaps educators and student journalists – or maybe all journalists need to reflect on that when Kristallnacht is remembered.
Because when you think about it, it’s not just a “Jewish thing.”read more
by John Bowen
Applications are now available for this year’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award (FAPFA).
By Megan Fromm, CJE
With Halloween just days away, ghost hunters and spooky pranksters are out in full force. But for journalists, there’s still something scarier than a grim reaper or a bad Miley Cyrus costume: errors in fact.
And while fact-checking is a common and methodical way to ensure accuracy in reporting, experts are now pointing to a more personal attribute that often stands in the way of truth. Simply put, researchers have found that each of us has the propensity to be a “confident idiot,” meaning we often overestimate our expertise on any given subject.
Instead of admitting to our own ignorance, we can be duped into thinking we know things we don’t, or that we have knowledge that actually exceeds our current understanding of a topic or concept.
For many journalists, acknowledging this Achille’s heal is an important step in becoming adept, truth-seeking reporters—when we stop assuming we know so much, we start looking for better and more specific information. After all, what good is a five-step fact-checking process if we’re unlikely to believe we could get something wrong in the first place?
Named the “Dunning-Kruger effect,” this common inability for humans to recognize our own ineptitude has serious implications for journalists and for news media consumers.
As a journalist, understanding this phenomenon means that I will be slightly more skeptical of how “authoritative” my sources seems. It means that I’ll delve more critically into their own claims of fact and be sure to investigate my source’s background to determine his/her real level of expertise.
For student journalists, this is especially vital. How many times have students overstated knowledge of a certain event or situation? Our students want to trust their peers, and their peers are likely to exaggerate connections. Knowing this, and taking steps to mitigate it, keeps journalistic integrity intact.
Ask your student journalists to brainstorm a list of “experts” on different topics at your school. Then, compile a master list, “vetting” those experts by getting as much background information as possible.
As news and media consumers, we must first acknowledge our own propensity to be “confident idiots.” (Here’s a touch of irony: I even vastly overestimated my ability to write this post in the time I had allotted myself. Turns out the researchers were right!).
This means I should be willing to evaluate my own knowledge base before assuming others are (or are not) experts. I might ask myself what experience or education is most relevant to the news and information I receive, and I would try to be honest about my personal deficits, filling in the gaps as necessary.
While it’s scary to think we might be so out of touch with our own intelligence, a little due diligence (and sometimes a light-hearted reality check) can go a long way.read more
Practicing ethics can help make sense of coverage
by Stan Zoller
Prior restraint. Censorship.
They are things all media advisers dread.
Imagine what it would be like if your principal started telling you what your kids could and could not cover in their media.
Many advisers don’t even think about it because their principal is “really nice” and understands journalism.
Now suppose, just suppose, a gubernatorial candidate went to your principal and objected to something scheduled to be covered.
That’s probably what Dave McKinney, Springfield Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times probably thought.
In one of the most bizarre tales of the Illinois gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Bruce Rauner allegedly went to the publishers of the Chicago Sun-Times to block a story McKinney, along with WMAQ reporter Carol Marin and producer Don Moseley were working on because Rauner and his staff took exception to it.
Briefly, while the Sun-Times brass stood behind McKinney, when all was said and done, he had to take some time off, was told his byline would not be on upcoming stories and was offered other positions at the paper which, he said in his resignation letter, he considered demotions. In the midst of all this, the Sun-Times endorsed Rauner for governor.
Oct. 23, McKinney resigned and said, among other things in his resignation letter, that “I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.” His resignation ether can be read here.
So what does a professional reporter with 20 years of experience have to do with scholastic journalism?read more
19 journalism groups urge
administrator organizations to disavow
Neshaminy board punishment of paper, adviser and editor
Oct. 13, 1987 marked the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier arguments that ultimately granted administrators the right to control content of high school media in limited situations.
Oct. 13, 2014 marks a time when 19 journalism organizations joined together to urge national groups of administrators and school boards to openly disavow actions of the Neshaminy (Pa.) Board of Education that even went beyond the constraints of Hazelwood in controlling content and punishing student journalists.
“In what we hope will be a watershed event in curing America of the worst excesses of the Hazelwood era,” SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte wrote to the Advisory Committee of the SPLC, “19 of the nation’s leading journalism organizations — including SPJ, JEA, CMA and the American Society of News Editors — co-signed an SPLC-authored letter distributed today to the nation’s leading school-administrator organizations, urging them to distance themselves from and to publicly disavow the retaliatory behavior of school administrators in Neshaminy, Pa., who are punishing student journalists for refusing to use the offensive name of the schools’ mascot.”
The joint statement can be read here.
Part of the statement pointed directly to the Hazelwood decision’s involvement: “This is a level of authority even beyond the outermost limit the Supreme Court recognized in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, to say nothing of the fact that Pennsylvania law repudiates the Hazelwood standard.”
JEA’a Press Rights Committee and the SPLC had paired on a statement earlier this month condemning Neshaminy board actions punishing the student paper, the adviser and editor.
JEA also commented on the joint statement.read more