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Making a Difference:
Freshman capstone project
localizes national issue of gay rights


by Jane Blystone
Ally O’ Reilly wanted her capstone journalism project for the year to make a difference. She knew that the national issue of gay rights needed localization in her school publication, Pine Whispers. Her adviser, Stephen Hanf, at R. J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was impressed that a freshman would take on such a challenge.

I love this story because one of my freshmen in Intro to Journalism came up with it and developed it on her own for an end-of-year project. She could have tackled a fluffy feel-good story, but instead tied in this story to the recent Supreme Court cases. It was so well written, timely and full of impact for this under-covered demographic that I had no choice but to publish it in our print paper — something normally reserved for upperclassmen taking newspaper class. It got people talking about an issue that impacts a lot of high school students.”

O’Reilly covered the struggle for students in her school to get an LGBTQ group going. She also interviewed a bisexual student and another student who has shared his life with his brother and two fathers as well as a senior writer might do.

Here is her story. National gay rights issues hit home for students



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JEA listed among key ethics and media law resources


JEA has been listed as a part of key media law and ethics resources by journalism degree.org titled 100 Key Ethics & Media Law Resources for Journalists.

“Modern journalists, and anyone else working in the media, have thorny ethical issues to contend with,” Kara James wrote in a letter notifying JEA president Mark Newton of the compilation. “The sites,organizations and articles listed here are good places for journalists (or journalism students) to learn more about the legal and ethical landscape of their field.”

The site for the compilation is http://journalismdegree.org/media-law-ethics/ .

Among other organizations listed include:
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional journalists Ethics Handbook
 Nieman Journalism lab

JEA’s link is to the general website. Other JEA links would include the Press Rights Commission and the law and ethics curriculum for JEA members.

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Making our words matter


by Tom Gayda
Rights vs. responsibilities. Or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the phrases to keep in mind when living in a social media world.

Putting the First Amendment in action is our right, but with that right is the need to be responsible. There are many things a person can say, but sometimes those things aren’t always smart.

Even adults have to be careful. I may not agree with a decision made professionally, but to call out my boss or colleague and question his or her integrity might not be wise. My job doesn’t owe me my First Amendment rights the way sitting on my back porch talking to a friend does. Sure, I can say what I want, but if I want employment I might want to be careful. My boss probably isn’t as interested in my right to free speech when it knocks him or his company.

A student encounters similar situations. Perhaps not even that bad. Say a math student gets a poor grade on a test. Math student takes to Twitter and says the math teacher doesn’t know how to teach. Not really the worst thing a kid could say but if the math teacher hears about the comment, extra credit opportunities might dry up pretty fast. If the same math student calls the teacher a more colorful name the punishment might just be a little harsher.

Not that long ago we actually lived in a world where a lot of things we were thinking were left unsaid, but now the majority of us our gridded up we can’t go too many minutes without sharing something with someone.

The best thing to do is think first. Does your comment add something to life? Is it necessary someone see what you are thinking? Sometimes it might be wiser to act responsibly and keep a comment or two private.

Everyone is working their way through how to speak their mind and be responsible. And while we are lucky to have the First Amendment to protect us, it is important to keep in mind that our words matter whether they are protected or not.


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Teacher Appreciation Week
recommendation for principals


Dear Sir or Madam:

Here’s a little suggestion for Teacher Appreciation Week gift-giving. It will make your journalism teacher happier. Besides it will make you and, most important, your students a lot happier.

My suggestion: An open forum, no-prior-review policy where students, under the guidance of a trained journalism teacher, make the content decisions.

All that freedom sounds scary, you say? Having a Main Office set of eyeballs look over student media before it goes out may sound like a good idea, but doing so has often been a whole lot scarier for some. Consider these lessons from the archives of the Student Press Law Center showing how some principals learned the hard way:

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