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Student reporting faces ‘fake news’ charges
as it tries to bring light to hiring process

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Sunshine Week celebrates
use of public records

Reporting done by a repeat recipient of scholastic journalism’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award faces charges of “fake news”as it tries to gather information about the private hiring process of a new principal.

According to a New York Times article, “Students working on the school newspaper, The Classic, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request this week asking for the names of the 38 people who had applied to be their principal.”

The Times also reported the hiring process is all done in private with position interviewers required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The “fake news” charge is from a school system official and aimed at how students “aggressively covered the tensions at the school” and the principal, The Times reported.

Student said in The Times article, and in another article, they were just doing their job.

This week, March 12-18, is Sunshine Week, highlighting the importance of using the Freedom of Information Act as an essential part of reporting.

Students, reported in dnainfo, a New York paper,  wrote a letter to school officials, “”To label our reporting as ‘fake’ is to disparage all the hard work we do,” Hasan and The Classic’s Managing Editor, Mehrose Ahmad, 17, wrote in their Mar. 5 letter to the mayor and schools chancellor. “If we were fabricating our material, we would be able to leave school far earlier than we do.”

According to The Times, students also said of their reporting, “Fake news is not poorly ourced journalism: It is wholly fictitious. Ms. DeSanctis (the school official who made the fake news charge) is therefore not accusing us of being wrong; she is accusing us of purposefully making up lies and reporting them as news. If we were fabricating our material, we would be able to leave school far earlier than we do.”

The fake news accusation is ironic with Townsend Harris’ prior FAPFA recognition and the fact journalism students are using an important FOIA approach to gather and report important news to the public.

So your student media can make use of FOIA and Sunshine Week, find more information at:
Sunshine Week, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Sunshine Week Program, Open Government. Org
Sunshine Week 2017 at the National Archives

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