Pages Navigation Menu

Covering controversy QT17

Share

Journalism is not public relations.

Although some administrators would like for students to only publish “positive” stories, a journalist’s job is to watch and report on the school. This may involve students including stories that might make the school “look bad.” 

When students cover stories, such as a drastic dip in standardized test scores, the science lab catching on fire or the cost of a new stadium, it informs the public on topics of importance. If student journalists are not covering these topic, who will?

We must, as educators, help students navigate how to include potentially controversial coverage and how to handle the ethical and legal points that arise. We also need to help them find resources for their questions, such as the Student Press Law Center.

Also of importance, students who participate in high school journalism are more likely to be civically engages as adults. School mission statements often cite the importance of “creating future leaders,” “producing critical thinkers,” and even “empowering others to respond to the real issues of the nation and community.”

By students evaluating whether or not to cover a potentially controversial topic, like gun control and not standing for the pledge, they begin to see how they can educate, impact, evaluate and interact with the world around them.

 

Guideline:

Because journalism differs from public relations, student media should strive to cover real and relevant content importance to the school and community. When controversial issues arise, as they have lately, students should not self-censor.

Instead, they should evaluate the content journalistically and evaluate the importance the information is to the reader. During this evaluation, students should take into consideration journalism legal standards, availability of sources, verification information, timeliness, and the the ethical ramifications of including the controversial coverage.

Social media post/question: Including potentially controversial coverage like gun control and kneeling during the pledge can create challenges, but important topics are worth the risk.

Stance: Students should not shy away from potentially controversial coverage just because it might ruffle some feathers. They do, however, need to be journalistically responsible in their approach and coverage.

Reasoning/suggestions: Journalism is not public relations. Although some administrators would like for students to only publish “positive” stories, a journalist’s job is to watch and report on the school and on sensitive issues. While some of this content may be positive in nature, conflict will happen. We must, as educators, help students navigate how to include potentially controversial coverage and the ethical and legal points that arise. We also need to help them find resources, such as the Student Press Law Center, for their questions.

Resources:

SPLC.org

10 Ethical questions to ask The Pointer Institute

Covering controversy, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

News vs. Public Relations Lesson

Handling Controversy, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Practice Sensitivity in Your Reporting, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Sensitive Issues Guide, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Tips for Covering Controversial Subjects, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Reporting Controversy Requires Establishing a Sound Process, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Don’t Be a Fool, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute

Verification Before Publication Prevents Many Issues, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *