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If it looks and acts like a cheerleader, it shouldn’t end up being a student news outlet.

At least that’s the view presented in the Center for Scholastic Journalism’s latest post, one in a series of decision-making choices about possible roles for student media. Writing a mission statement using this process is something students should consider as they approach each new year.

“So, in developing the mission and applying it through the year,” the post states, “consider putting ‘building morale’ a ways down the list of media role priorities — not because you’re going to be the voice of gloom and doom and whining, but because you want to tell as many sides as you can of your stories and not just stress the positives.”

A morale builder also should not be how your news publication’s social media comes across.

This particular role seems to be growing with the use of Twitter and Facebook to advertise the student medium and its content.

As we examine our potential roles, in “legacy” as well as “new” media, we need to discuss with our students whether the PR and news roles need to be clearly separated in any use of social media.

I worry that scholastic media is becoming more and more PR-oriented. One, I have concerns that combining the roles makes it difficult for our audiences to tell the difference between promotion and news; and, two, not clearly separating the two roles works against scholastic media when coverage of controversial or sensitive subjects are reported.

For another take on the topic, see a Poynter Making Sense of News piece published Aug. 20 (scroll down one or two posts).

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