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by Stan Zoller, MJE
One of my favorite arguments, if one can have such an entity, is with other journalism educators regarding how they start their course.

While in the midst of this discussion a number of years ago, one adviser told me she always starts with interviewing and then moves into journalistic history.

And what about journalistic laws and ethics?

“Oh,” she said, “I cover those later in the course.”

I was reminded of this discussion while teaching at a recent workshop.  My students were all editorial leaders and during our discussion of prior review, prior restraint and New Voices legislation, both the Tinker and Hazelwood cases (naturally) came up.

To my dismay none of the students were familiar with either of these cases.

Where, pray tell, were their journalism teachers and/or advisers?

While some students were working on club media, or had small programs, there obviously has to be a faculty member or administrator involved. They should, at the very least, be familiar with both Tinker and Hazelwood so they can provide guidance to the student journalists.

They apparently don’t.  Unfortunately, several students told me content for their media is prior reviewed and, as one student said, needs to be written so it presents the school in a positive light.

Why is it important to start with the fundamental press law and ethics? I like to equate it to driver’s education – you don’t get the keys to the car and go on the road until you know the rules of the road.

I can hear Fred Rogers saying “Can you say PR tool, boys and girls? I knew you could.”

Why is it important to start with the fundamental press law and ethics? I like to equate it to driver’s education – you don’t get the keys to the car and go on the road until you know the rules of the road.

While Tinker and Hazelwood are not the foundation of press law, when it comes to scholastic journalism, they are an essential part of the foundation. All journalists should know the basics of media ethics and law before they go on an interview, take a picture or start recording video.

This is not breaking news, but journalists, in this case beginning with scholastic journalists, need to realize laws tell journalists what they must do while ethics guide scribes to what they should do. This is why it’s paramount to make sure journalism students are well versed in these fundamentals before they start their work as journalists.

The basics of both the Tinker case Tinker Decision and Hazelwood case Hazelwood decision will help students understand the scope of what administrators can – and cannot do.  JEA members can find additional information about both cases in the JEA curriculum at JEA curriculum

If scholastic journalists are going to be prepared to deal with issues related to prior review, prior restraint and the scope of New Voices registration, they need to have the basics down pat.

Not sure?

Ask yourself – would you ride with someone who never took driver’s ed?

A complete look at key cases, including Tinker and Hazelwood, can be found at JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission’s web site, Scholastic Press Rights Commission

 

One Comment

  1. I could not agree more. Thank you for the greT read and reinforcement. Law and ethics is my Unit 2, and all students must pass the 49 question test before moving on to work in publications.

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