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Fools, wills and quotes: credibility disasters

by John Bowen, MJE
It’s that time of year.

Senior quotes. senior wills and April fools sometimes can be considered the three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

They  have minimal journalistic value and can quickly damage a staff’s –– and a school’s –– reputation and credibility.

What’s a good media staff to do?

The decision is even more difficult if it involves adamant seniors who demand such humor for their yearbook. Or, if for some reason there’s always been one. Tradition is a powerful wall to breach. With April Fools, some media missions call for entertainment. So, why not?

Before a decision to publish, students might consider:

  • Mission and purpose of the yearbook. Why do you publish a yearbook?
  • Who does publishing benefit? If the senior class wants wills or quotes, let them publish and take responsibility. Give them a solid lesson on libel, obscenity, unwarranted invasion of privacy and material disruption of the school process.
  • Misinformation. One part of student media missions always refers to accurate and truthful reporting and coverage. In this era of misinformation and disinformation, one should think twice about publishing information the staff knows is false. Publishing defamation with malice is a real danger here.
  • Ethics and social   responsibility. Almost all media codes of ethics clearly state “Do No Harm” or something close. Ethical thinking and decision making are at the core of journalistic responsibility. Publishing that apply ethical guidance can go a long way to show school communities why student media should be supported.
  • Monitoring or suppressing. Supposedly harmless or funny material potentially can turn student media into censors of their peers.
  • April Fools can mean fabrication,  non-credible information or misinformation. Is that what the community needs as the highlight of the year?

Still, despite dangers inherent in senior quotes, wills and April Fools, some programs continue them.

We can think of better journalistic and leadership alternatives to remember our classmates and community.

Check these resources for more detailed information:

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