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Tips for reporting protests

Posted by on Mar 20, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

1,800 students, faculty and staff hold hands inthe halls in a unity chain to support Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, March 14. Photo by Theo Yoder, Harrisonburg High, used with permission.

by Candace Bowen, MJE
Covering a protest isn’t like covering a pep rally. The adrenalin rush might be similar, but the consequences are not. With marches in Washington, D.C. and
many other cities, it’s vital for reporters to prepare for what they might encounter.

The Student Press Law Center has helped by focusing on the legal issues involved. But beyond knowing about rights and risks, what else should reporters know? Here’s a list for student journalists covering protests, though by no means a complete one.

  1. Realize you are there to observe and report, gather facts and details, not to participate or support those involved. This is the most important rule when covering a walkout or protest, no matter how sympathetic you may feel towards the cause.
  2. Decide what journalists from your school’s media are going. It’s always better to have more than one. Make sure you’re in touch with your newsroom and with others who know where you are. It’s vital to have a way to communicate with others on your staff covering the event. You might need help with video or audio if you discover an important aspect to cover. You would definitely want to be in contact in case of an emergency. Have a place to meet that’s secure if events become dangerous or chaotic. 
  3. Decide what method of reporting you want to use. Are you gathering information to write a story later? If so, have pen and reporter’s notebook or a smart phone with voice memos you can use. If you plan to tweet the events, discuss ahead of time with your editor how to ensure you are posting accurate, verified information. If you are live streaming, be sure you have the right equipment. Facebook Live works, but here are some other free apps that might be even better. You might also want natural sounds to add to an audio soundbite, so a little higher quality sound app like Voice Record Pro might be worthwhile.
  4. Be prepared for the protest. Dress appropriately for the weather. This may seem obvious, but if you’re wet and cold, you won’t be able to handle your equipment or take notes. Bring snacks like granola bars and water. You don’t know how long a protest will last.
  5. Have and display your press credentials prominently, although doing so could create its own problems. (See #7 below) If you have never had any created for your publication, talk to a local newspaper and see what theirs are like. Make ones that look professional.
  6. Let the police know you are merely doing your job to report what is going on. In previous protests, journalists have been injured and arrested, even when they were following the law. In 2017, there were 23 arrests and 25 physical attacks on journalists, most of them at protests, according to data collected by the US Press Freedom Tracker.
  7. Be aware of the dangers. Sadly, some people today consider journalists the enemy. The crowd may include friends, but counter protesters and others – even the police — could make it difficult for you to perform your job. Rallies earlier this year have included some participants who are armed. If heckled, it’s better to retreat, especially to a spot with other journalists, than to let the confrontation escalate. Be aware of your surroundings. Know where you could go for safety if the crowd gets out of control.
  8. Interview security officers in charge if at all possible, though don’t get in their way. What is the crowd estimate? What is their plan of action? To hold protesters in a limited area? To break up the crowd at a certain time? To do nothing and just monitor the situation unless protesters present a physical threat?
  9. Interview protesters, too. If the event is not in your town and you’re covering a larger protest in a nearby city or if you and those from your school have gone to a major city, make plans to meet at a certain time and place or be sure you have a way to reach them. Their thoughts and words (and photos!) would be most important to your audience, so you need to make sure you get that. Be sure to get names and contact information of resources so you can verify information later.
  10. Think of questions your audience wants to know. What will they not find in the local or national press? Maybe it’s what teens in the crowd think and are doing. Stay around if there’s any police or governmental press conference after the protest is over. Follow up by finding the number of arrests, the crowd estimate and what charges might be filed.

This is important news to cover – so it’s vital to do so professionally, ethically and legally. It’s also important to do so safely.

 

 

 

 

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Think carefully before publishing April Fools’ Day content

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Megan Fromm, CJE
JEA Educational Initiatives Director

Let’s get straight to the punch line here: April Fools’ Day editions are a bad idea. Why? Well, the Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte provides solid evidence that many joke publications are never received quite as they are intended.

Instead, student editors and advisers often find themselves defending poorly worded jokes or misinterpreted parodies. When all you have to lose is your credibility as a media outlet, the stakes are too high to take this risk.

Still, many student media staffs love the idea of using satire and parody to break the mold, lighten things up or engage their audience on a different level. So, if your students insist on producing April Fools’ Day content, take some steps to demonstrate best ethical and legal practices along the way. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Is the content produced clearly labeled as satire/humor/parody? If a reasonable person could mistake the content for actual news, you’re asking for trouble.
  2. Stay away from comedy or jokes that use violence as a theme. In today’s school climate of zero tolerance, even an obvious joke that includes violence could be grounds to punish a student. As LoMonte writes, “there’s no such thing as a ‘hilarious’ rape joke.”
  3. Consider the message you’re sending readers by publishing April Fools’ Day content. Is your entire publication dedicated to the day, or just a (well-labeled) page? Have you shirked your journalistic responsibility while trying so hard to develop comedic content? Is this really what scholastic journalism is about?
  4. Does your staff thoroughly understand libel law and the implications of defamation?
  5. Finally, encourage student editors to answer simply and honestly whether an April Fools’ Day edition is the hill they want to fight (and potentially die) on. In other words, with all the other battles facing student journalists, do they want to spend their time and effort defending this particular decision?

April Fools’ Day editions are notoriously bad news. In fact, SPLC attorney Mike Hiestand commented in 2006 that there is “a reason why April 2 is often the busiest day of the year for us at the Student Press Law Center.”

So, proceed with caution. Because if you don’t, chances are the joke’s on you.

 

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Students report on shattered dreams

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Part of a monthly series

sprclogoAt this time of year, students look forward to many end of year and end of high school events like prom and graduation parties. The AHS Talon at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas, did expansive coverage of a school-wide conversation about the impact of drunken driving.

Adviser Monica Rhor said, “Our online package examining the impact of reckless driving expanded a school-wide conversation that began with a “Shattered Dreams” event. The stories included daily reports from the day of “Shattered Dreams,” which showed the immediate impact of the program, and a more in-depth series that showed real life consequences. The “Danger Behind the Wheel” series, which included interviews with the families and friends of people killed and injured by drunk drivers, helped students see beyond the numbers and the staged event and recognize the real human cost of drunk driving.”

The real to life experiences of the “Shattered Dreams” event hit home three days after the event when an Atascocita High School graduate was killed by a driver who police allege was drunk.

Their stories can be found at this link:
http://ahstalon.com/category/shattered-dreams/

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Documenting biodiversity in Chicagoland

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Third in a 10 part series of student journalists Making a Difference

In Carolyn Fritts journalistic writing course, at Glenbard West High School, in Glen Ellyn, Ill., she requires students to a research local topic and produce a comprehensive film documentary as their final exam.

Students set out to discover what happens to Chicago when the ecosystem collapses and what can happen when individuals take measures to protect and promote biodiversity.  “The Loss of Biodiversity in the Chicagoland Area” captures the ravages of urban sprawl.

Biodiversity in urban settings decreases with urban sprawl. Urban amphibians are the first victims. Students looked at how scientists are trying to return flora and fauna back to its most natural state.

This 15-minute documentary shows the devastation to the wild life in the 370,000-acre area in the Chicagoland area and how ecologists work to reverse the devastation. Featuring interviews with naturalists and ecologists, these student journalists tell the story of ways professionals even use fire to restore habitats to clear out the invasive species to help the habitat heal itself.

According to Fritts, the students had to “interview two experts concerning their topic, conduct extensive background research, film footage to supplement the documentary’s narrative, and provide voice overs to incorporate research.”

Making a difference is not just about reporting the intensely controversial topics that surround schools, but searching out stories that impact the environment around the schools. The students at Glenbard High School have done this.

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Issues worth building lessons around

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Blog, Digital Media, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized, Visual Reporting | 0 comments

sprclogoAs we head into a break for the holidays, three issues and concepts stand out as worth some future  consideration.

• The First Amendment: In the land of the free, why are schools afraid of freedom by Charles Haynes.
Written by this First Amendment advocate following the JEA/NSPA Washington, DC, convention, the column challenges us all to question administrator misuse of First Amendment. The article cites instances of prior review to limit discussion of ideas and groups and the elimination of some groups from school student media coverage while permitting others. The last time I checked, ordering blanket silence on some groups served no educational value or pedagogy. Haynes likened this process as a fear of freedom and questioned such philosophy as a misplaced attempt to either make schools safe. He also urged all journalism programs in schools subject to prior review – or restraint – to build a campaign to end it. You certainly would have a legion of supporters.

• The epic Rolling Stone gang-rape fallout – and how major publications get it wrong. This is only one of many resources on this coverage that violated one of journalism’s basic principles: verify your information and ensure your sources are credible. Citing the premonition “something just doesn’t feel right” about a story, author Terrence McCoy leads with the story of Richard Bradley feeling the gang rape reported in Rolling Stone did not happen. Bradley, it seems, had some experience with this kind of thing before. He once edited Stephen Glass, McCoy wrote.

In a rush to get a seemingly wonderful story into print, journalists will not verify a story or have the right sources. Because such incidents happen more than we would like to admit, we must stress scholastic reporters like others have to go beyond pre-existing bias or view and learn to apply skills of skeptical knowing or crap-detecting or just plan digging to every story, every day and across every platform. It’s an ongoing lesson never to be dropped from our curricula or from our practices.

• A toolkit by the solutions journalism network and Pulitzer Center. This material caught my eye because it focuses on something we do not do enough of: Perspective reporting and identifying sources who strive for solutions. Historians have long said those who don’t learn about an issue or concept as destined to repeat it. Is it because journalists don’t do enough follow-up reporting, add enough perspective and address solutions? This particular piece might be just the right tool at the right time to help us not only report but to keep solutions or alternatives in the public’s eye. It’s certainly worth our time to investigate the concept and give its points a shakedown cruise. Even if our students do not deal with international issues, the principles and concepts presented are worth localization. Introducing at the scholastic level just might help students, whether they become commercial journalists or not, begin to know we need to think in terms of solutions as much as issues identification.

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Set a good example:
Credit others’ work

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Uncategorized | 1 comment

by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

Part 2 of a 2-part blog on teacher plagiarism and copyright issues

As the first part of this series noted, we teachers can sometimes be the most innocent thieves. That lesson plan we found online, the handout with another teacher’s name whited out, the great final project – when are we borrowing and when are we stealing?

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