Must reads for after Scholastic Journalism Week


sprclogoAs Scholastic Journalism Week ends, we don’t want to lose sight of issues students and advisers continue to face.  Some are as old as Hazelwood; some much newer and raise additional concerns.

• Active voice: SPLC project strives to empower women in student media
SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte told attendees at the organization’s 40th anniversary that “the non-profit organization has noticed a trend: girls most often stand up and report on serious issues within their schools and communities. They’re also the first to be shut down.” Hence, a new SPLC project, Active Voices.

• High school students, teachers confront student media censorship
Another in a series of surveys of scholastic student journalists and their advisers at national scholastic journalism conventions shows –again – that censorship is a fact of life in many schools. Of 6,406 students and teacher who attended the NSPA/JEA Washington, D.C. convention in the fall, 52 percent of student respondents said someone other than student editors had the final authority to determine content of the student media.
Other censorship studies include:
• New research shows administrators know more about the First Amendment but don’t fully grasp it
•High school students, teachers ex;eeriness student media censorship


• One man crusades for students’ social media rights nationwide
Attorney Bradley Shear discusses how his work could help make Maryland the 13th state with a law protecting the social media privacy rights of students in colleges and high schools. SPLC podcast.


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Students support peers across the country in censorship case


Part four of a series – Making a Difference

In celebration of the anniversary of the February 25, 1969, United States Supreme Court Tinker vs. Des Moines, the JEA SPRC Making a Difference project salutes the The Foothill Dragon Press at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura (Calif.) for their support of fellow student journalists across country at the Playwickian, at Neshaminy High School (Pa.).

When student journalists at The Foothill Dragon Press learned that their peers were being censored, they posted this editorial on their website, entitled When one student is threatened, we are all threatened.

Their adviser, Melissa Wantz wrote “When the Neshaminy School Board in Langhorne, Pa., decided to rewrite district policy to prevent student editors at Neshaminy High School from prohibiting the word “Redskin” — a term the newspaper voted to ban from its pages — my students decided to use their editorial power to denounce the school board and to support the Playwickian newspaper staff. The day after the editorial was published online at www.foothilldragonpress.org, it was quoted or linked on social media, email and in an article published by the Student Press Law Center.

After researching and writing this editorial over a weekend, The Foothill Dragon Press journalists suddenly understood what it might feel like to lose their freedom and how they have to be prepared to fight for the First Amendment. The staff of the Playwickian expressed gratitude for The Foothill Dragon Press support by using their free speech rights to publicly comment beneath the online editorial.”

In September, the Playwickian staff had funds removed from their publishing account and one of their editors, Gillian McGoldrick, was suspended from her editorial position for a month. The adviser, Tara Huber was also suspended for three days without pay, because she did not censor her students for their practice of banning the term “Redskin” in their newspaper.

Once again the Foothills Dragon staff rose to the challenge and started an independent, national fundraiser to help pay for the publishing funds removed and the three days of pay the teacher lost as a result of the administrative discipline. That fundraiser surpassed the $2,400 in two days and reached a total of $6,810 to support their peers.

Like Mary Beth Tinker and John Tinker, these student journalists in Ventura, Calif., have made a national difference along with their peers in Langhorne, Pa. via scholastic journalism.

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Seven schools win
First Amendment Press Freedom Award


sprclogoA committee with representatives from the Journalism Education Association, National Scholastic Press Association and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 First Amendment Press Freedom Award.

The award recognizes public and private high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content.

As in previous years, schools competed for the title by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor. Those who advanced to the next level were asked to provide responses from the principal and all publications advisers and student editors, indicating their support of the First Amendment. In addition, semifinalists submitted samples of their printed policies.

2015 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners are as follows:

Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia
Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo.
Kirkwood (Mo.) High School
Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace, Wash.
Smoky Hill High School, Aurora, Colorado
St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Whitney High School, Rocklin, California

These schools will be honored April 16 at the opening ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.

Four of the schools are first-time recipients: Chantilly High School, Smoky Hill High School, St. Louis Park High School and Whitney High School.

“We are proud of each of these schools for supporting their student media as they practice critical life skills like decision making, critical thinking and civic engagement while informing their audiences,” John Bowen, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee director said.

This is the 15th year for the award.

First round applications are due annually by Dec. 15. Downloadable applications for 2016 will be available on the JEA website in the fall.

Information is also available at the JEA site:

•Long version:
•Short version:
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Honor – and elevate – all programs
during Scholastic Journalism Week


by John Bowen
With Scholastic Journalism Week starting Feb. 22, it would serve us well to note SPLC executive Frank LoMonte’s words in this week’s Education Week.

LoMonte covers a number of points he suggests disrespect and trivialize high school journalism: mistreating female scholastic journalists, establishing the lowest, barely legal level of freedom for scholastic media and undermining the news-literacy obligation of a high school education.

As we rightfully celebrate our strengths in scholastic journalism next week, we should also heed LoMonte’s points so we help others reach the levels of scholastic journalism programs we honor.

Check out a story here about such a situation where the principal  is quoted as saying, “The school paper here at school is mine to control.”

Examine LoMonte’s thoughts, compare with the comments of the principal, and commit ourselves to elevate all journalism programs as they strive to reach the uncensored educational quality of the ones we honor most.

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Don’t shoot (just) the messenger
in Williams’ fall from grace


By Megan Fromm, CJE

When Brian Williams apologized on air for misremembering his involvement in a direct-fire incident during the Iraq war, critics and media pundits alike were quick to toss him off his pedestal. We may never know whether Williams intentionally misled his audience or truly suffered from a lapse in memory (and judgment), but we would be remiss to blame only Williams for the gross journalistic error.

What happened behind the scenes? Where were the producers? The writers? The fact checkers? Where was the team of journalistic watchdogs looking out not only for the viewers but also for the reputation of one of their own? Williams’ fall from grace was as much their misstep as his own, and we must reconcile that or face repeating our mistakes in the future.

And while we’re making a list of those responsible for this mess, let’s be sure to leave a few blank spaces for us, the average news consumer. The media have been so quick to crucify Williams, but so far as I can tell,  they are missing another crucial point: we, the audience, led him to this moment. We pushed him to the edge of his journalistic sensibilities, and we dared him to look over the abyss. As the Washington Post reports, Williams “wanted to both report and entertain, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Today’s news audience demands this duplicity, and in fact, it is the only kind of “journalism” we reward with our attention, our money, and our clicks. We really just want our headline news from Jon Stewart, but we settle for Williams because in some ways it makes us feel better about our news consumption. So, we don’t mind when a journalist gets too personal, or when he or she becomes too much a part of the story. We keep moving the line in the sand about how close is too close. And in those moments, the audience becomes complicit in the choices news media make to vie for our attention.

Striving to meet the expectations of an increasingly fractured and disinterested news audience—while simultaneously aiming for unrealistic profit margins—has encouraged the largest news organizations to dangle precipitously close to the edge of their journalistic morality.  It almost comes as no surprise, then, that some lose their footing.

So while it’s easy to criticize Williams for his mistakes (and yes, we should), let’s not forget the part we, as news consumers, have played in this debacle. Sometimes, news is boring. Sometimes, after countless RPGs have been fired on American troops, one more becomes “just another news day.” But that reality exists because too many citizens have abdicated their responsibility to know what’s happening in the world around them regardless of whether it’s inherently sexy, interesting, or tabloid-worthy.

In the case of Brian Williams, it turns out no one really shot the messenger, so perhaps we shouldn’t, either. At least not without looking in the mirror first.

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New Hampshire bill may do more
than control surveys


sprclogoby Stan Zoller
The First Amendment guarantees five freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press, the right to assemble and the right to petition.

And while journalists – whether student journalists or professional journalists – wrap themselves in the security blanket afforded Americans by the First Amendment, it does not guarantee good journalism.

What does help, and this is not breaking news, is for news organizations, student or otherwise, to check the pulse of their news consumers; in other words, localize national news stories trend stories.

It’s not rocket science and it just makes sense.

Unless you’re in New Hampshire.

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