by Stan Zoller
During his game show, “You Bet Your Life,” the late Groucho Marx would challenge his contestants to “say the secret word and win $100.”
Imagine what it would be like if Groucho had his show today and featured as his panelists, a high school administrator and high school journalist.
What would the secret word be?
There’s a good chance the journalists, fresh from the fall JEA conference and beaming with ideas and insights in to the First Amendment and press rights, might say “Openness,” “Trust” or “Fairness.”
The administrator, on the other hand, may say something like, “Positive” or “Review.” Odds are they’d say more, but remember, we’re talking one word here and administrators seldom explain anything in one word.
Perhaps, however, the one word that could emerge as the secret word came out of a conference held several years ago. In “Protocol for Free and Responsible Student News Media,” funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Civics Group, the overriding general premise was if administrators and those students, teachers and advisers involved in student media would practice protocol, there would hopefully be a better understanding of what each was trying to accomplish.
Conceptually, it’s a great idea. Protocol relies on communication, trust and cooperation.
Unfortunately, the gatekeepers of schools and even school districts put personal agendas ahead of a free and open student media. I’ve heard principals say they don’t care what’s in the student media as long as it is “positive.” In other words, don’t rock the boat and you’ll be fine.
So what is positive news? Is our student media to cover only the Homecoming Queen, pizza sales for after prom? The news that impacts our – not just students’- -world is not always positive. Student journalists everywhere wrote about the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It’s not positive news, but many student media raised questions about the safety of their school. A valid story.
Some people say that news is information that authorities would rather the media not report. In other words, it is not “positive.”
If schools fail to meet state standards, are student journalists to avoid writing about the results because they are not positive news? I know of one adviser who had the principal talk to his journalism class during which the principal said how she likes to “leak” news stories to the student newspaper.
Leaks from the principal’s office? That sounds more like controlling information the public needs to know. It should also set off the yellow light in a student journalist’s mind, or any journalist for that matter, that there is a lack of transparency emanating from the administration.
There are no “high school journalists” — but journalists who are in high school. They have the same rights as any other journalists. Any administrator who deems it appropriate to “leak” the news is not leading an educational institution in the best interests of its students, let alone student journalists.
Stakeholders associated with student media extend beyond the schoolyard fence. Parents, the public at large and alumni are all part of the potential audience for student media. Like students, faculty and staff, they deserve a free and responsible student media steeped in trust and responsibility.
And those just might be the secret words.
by John Bowen
Can you tell ads from news?
Based on an article in Marketplace Tech published Dec. 3, it might not be that easy on digital media.
The advertising in question, referred to as “native ads” by author Stacey Vanek Smith, are ads that do not look like ads.
Because of this, Smith reports the Federal trade Commission will look into their use.
The reason: fear people cannot tell the difference and might be misled, misinformed or just plain, as one source said, “hoodwinked.”
by Jane Blystone
Part 2 of an 8 part series
When the school district in Pflugerville, Texas, decided to provide employees with domestic partners the same fringe benefits that married couples received, student journalists at Pflugerville High School documented the public controversy as it was the first district in the state of Texas to offer such coverage.
Raising conversations about whether the district should offer such coverage also sparked discussion about same sex marriage in a state where it is banned by state constitution. Students were able to build the package as they documented public meetings where citizens challenged citizen in open forums.
The strong writing and editing in this package ensures that viewers get the larger story in just three and one-half minutes. Student journalists localized the story by interviewing students within the school who were on both sides of the issue. Coverage of public school board meetings, teacher, student and private citizen interviews provided a balanced news package.
View the video package here: http://vimeo.com/62813171
Student journalists do make a difference.
by John Bowen
Deadline for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award (FAPFA) is fast approaching. The application can be completed by using a SurveyGizmo form. Deadline for submission is Dec. 1, 2013.
In its 14th year, the recognition is designed to identify and recognize high schools that actively support and protect First Amendment rights of their students and teachers. The honor focuses on press freedoms.
Schools will be recognized at the 2014 Spring National JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention in San Diego.
To be recognized by JEA, NSPA and Quill and Scroll, schools must successfully complete two rounds of questions about the degree of First Amendment Freedoms student journalists have and how the school recognizes and supports the First Amendment. Entries will be evaluated by members of these organizations.
Round 1 consists of a student editor and adviser or administrator answering questions. Those who advance to the next level will be asked to provide responses from the principal and advisers and student editors/news directors of all student media.
In Round 2, semifinalists will also submit samples of the publications and their printed editorial policies.
We’d love to see a record number of applications, and winners.
by Kathy Schrier
The opportunity to fill in as interim newspaper adviser at one of Seattle’s largest high schools was an offer I couldn’t refuse in November 2012. I was to step in for an experienced adviser who was leaving to take a position as an editor with a large media outlet. The job would allow me to spend time with a great staff of motivated student journalists at a well-established paper in this city high school; a school where the paper enjoyed no history of administrative prior review or censorship.
What I didn’t know, as I stepped into my new position, was that the boom was about to be lowered.
Mary Beth Tinker at Kent State University during the Tinker Tour. Today, she returned to her middle school in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mary Beth and John Tinker returned to Des Moines, Iowa, today as part of the national Tinker Tour to celebrate student rights and to show students they can make a difference.
The Tinkers were the plaintiffs in the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision that students do not leave their rights at the schoolhouse gate. They returned to Des Moines and their respective schools from which they were suspended welcomed by school officials and spoke to students and community members.
For Storify coverage, go here.
Superintendent of Des Moines Schools, Thomas Ahart, shown with Mary Beth and John Tinker, said students in the system are safe to wear armbands today as he prepares to wear one.