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.”
by John Bowen
Applications are now available for this year’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award (FAPFA).
In its 15th 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.
The application can be completed by using a SurveyGizmo form
. Deadline for submission is Dec. 15, 2014.
Schools will be recognized at the 2015 Spring National JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention in Denver.
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.
As in previous years, high schools will compete for the title by first answering questionnaires directed to an adviser and at least one editor; 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 submit samples of the publications and their printed editorial policies.
We’d love to see a record number of applications, and winners, especially given the great turnout at the Washington, DC, convention just now ending.
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?
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.
Beginning today, the JEA SPRC Making a Difference Project will feature a student publication each month featuring work of scholastic journalists that has made a difference in their schools and in their communities. This is the first in a ten-part series. All upcoming posts for the Making a Difference project were published during the 2013-2014 school year.
The Bagpiper staff at Freeman High School in Rockford, Wash. developed a story package that required interviewing of many local veterans and prepped them for publication on Veteran’s Day. In this package the staff as well as students in their school paid tribute to various branches of the military and individual members of the local veterans groups.
According to adviser Pia Longinotti, “My staff created a special edition honoring Freeman’s military members. Distributed at our Veteran’s Day assembly, the issue told the stories of our military personnel. As an adviser, I was floored by my staff members’ desire to give back to those who served. The reactions of our veterans when they received their copies were incredible. They were so touched by the articles and time taken to tell their stories. Some even Facebooked the issue. The nine students involved showed how much it means to the Freeman School District to have dedicated people protect our freedom, creating a heartfelt thank you.”
If you are planning a Veteran’s Day issue, you can glean ideas for your Veteran’s Day issue from this staff. Click on the link below to read complete issue of The Bagpiper as a PDF.
Freeman HS – November2013Final
Oct. 7 is #newsengagementday, a national event created by AEJMC.
The idea is to encourage everyone to engage with news issues and ideas with students, family and, well, everyone.
National News Engagement Day was created to:
- Raise awareness about the importance of being informed.
- Encourage everyone to engage with news from reading and watching to tweeting and discussing.
- Help people of all ages discover the benefits of news.
- Educate the public about the principles and process of journalism.
- Ensure news engagement does not die out.
JEA has endorsed the idea and urges all to participate.
I know journalism programs do this daily anyway, but let’s take this one step further.
Let’s spend the day spreading the word about the banality of censorship, particularly that kind of destructive practice we have seen at Neshaminy High School, Highlands Regional High School, Fond du Lac High School and numerous others.
Numerous other resources exist for each school, all findable by searching.
Censorship practices at those schools, past and present is newsworthy in itself, but it also blocks students and related communities from experiencing news.
Making censorship and its effects the focus on news, and using the #newsengagementday hashtag to let others know, would be a worthy use of the day.