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Advocacy and journalism:
coexistence or natural conflict?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
Initially came the mass shooting of 17 students and school staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

Students and scholastic media reported the issues surrounding the shootings and the followed student protests, trying to make sense of it all.

Then came discussion among journalism educators about student advocacy and journalism. Should the two travel together? Can they coexist in the same newsroom?

Now is the time to assess those questions, and more.

In a chapter titled “What we need from the ‘Next Journalism'” in their book, Blur, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel  look how questions like these might identify purpose, roles and focus of media in the future.

“Strip away platform. Strip away technique. Strip away culture,” they write. “What function does a newsroom serve in its community? What is its essential purpose, apart from generating revenue?”

Student journalists raised the essence of that question when they reported social issues and events surrounding the shootings at their school. Thousands of other teens, some student journalists, joined in, bringing praise as well as anger, ultimately participation innational marches and protests.

Journalism educators  prepared their students not only to report the events and the issues, fulfilling their social role  responsibility. They also embraced the leadership aspects of journalism by guiding students as they made coverage and action decisions.

Mix the leadership and growth of student voice with the concept of journalism as advocacy and we create debate on the essential purpose and role of scholastic journalism.

After all, muckrakers like Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell rerouted the scope of journalism.

Perhaps this present confluence of two major points – change in journalism and a regrowth of advocacy – can fuel the expansion of New Voices and propel scholastic journalism into examining issues and potential solutions.

“Telling stories is not the answer. Neither is delivering the news, or even monitoring government. All those have been a part of it historically,” Kovach and Rosenstiel state in Blur. “But we think the essential function is something broader and more conceptual, and the future of journalism depends in part on embracing the broader notion.”

The authors specifically mention verification, synthesis and making sense of information presented as parts of that larger notion of essential journalism.

It is time to expand the discussion to include the broader notion of scholastic journalism’s future roles and whether advocacy is among them..

In the next month or so we will develop and discuss what these potential changes might mean to scholastic journalism, provide background and perspective and share activities and lessons, grow discussion and spread possibilities.

 

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Latest controversy reminds us of work to be done

Posted by on Nov 23, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Never a dull moment in the world of high school censorship, it seems. The latest controversy comes from Bernalillo (N.M.) High School regarding a cartoon pulled from the student newspaper, The Basement.
As with many of these situations, I’m disturbed by more than one aspect of the story. To minimize my choir-preaching here, I’ll skip the disappointment about another principal shortchanging students’ learning by taking away their power to make important decisions regarding content. I’ll move past the part about students’ voices being stifled and the irony that the cartoon, now available online, will reach far more eyeballs than if the principal had allowed its publication as originally planned.

Here’s what disturbed me most about the situation: The principal “hosted a debate Monday about the rights of student journalists.”

I’m all for public discourse, civil dialogue and any kind of event that might bring heightened awareness to First Amendment rights. But it sounds here like this was a staged event, a la American Idol, in which attendees could determine the fate of student media.

I don’t believe the First Amendment is up for debate, but principals continue to argue otherwise.

Opening the conversation to a town hall-style debate reminds me that we need to do more to educate the average reader, voter, parent, legislator, community member and student about student press rights. We need to continue to raise our collective voices.

Here are a few suggestions to guide students and advisers in their brainstorming for 2012:

1. Host a First Amendment Symposium. The Indiana High School Press Association folks do a great job with their symposium and can serve as a model for other states or groups. Student media groups need to be the ones shaping the discussion rather than being the ones affected by knee-jerk reactions.

2. Go crazy with positive press rights propaganda. I loved the “Bill of Rights on a Stick” from the JEA/NSPA Minneapolis convention adviser bags and generally favor anything fun and interactive that might spread our message. Whether your students promote a free First Amendment mobile app like one the here (although it’s too bad it has so many ads), create a special First Amendment issue of their publication, design new T-shirts focused on the important decision-making skills from their rights and responsibilities, host a question-and-answer event at the public library or some other event, now is the time.

We have three months until Scholastic Journalism Week and plenty of resources at our disposal. Let’s share ideas here for how to make the next set of public events ones we host, ones that educate our stakeholders and ones that keep free student expression a priority.

Read More

Latest controversy reminds us of work to be done

Posted by on Nov 23, 2011 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Never a dull moment in the world of high school censorship, it seems. The latest controversy comes from Bernalillo (N.M.) High School regarding a cartoon pulled from the student newspaper, The Basement.
As with many of these situations, I’m disturbed by more than one aspect of the story. To minimize my choir-preaching here, I’ll skip the disappointment about another principal shortchanging students’ learning by taking away their power to make important decisions regarding content. I’ll move past the part about students’ voices being stifled and the irony that the cartoon, now available online, will reach far more eyeballs than if the principal had allowed its publication as originally planned.

Here’s what disturbed me most about the situation: The principal “hosted a debate Monday about the rights of student journalists.”

I’m all for public discourse, civil dialogue and any kind of event that might bring heightened awareness to First Amendment rights. But it sounds here like this was a staged event, a la American Idol, in which attendees could determine the fate of student media.

I don’t believe the First Amendment is up for debate, but principals continue to argue otherwise.

Opening the conversation to a town hall-style debate reminds me that we need to do more to educate the average reader, voter, parent, legislator, community member and student about student press rights. We need to continue to raise our collective voices.

Here are a few suggestions to guide students and advisers in their brainstorming for 2012:

1. Host a First Amendment Symposium. The Indiana High School Press Association folks do a great job with their symposium and can serve as a model for other states or groups. Student media groups need to be the ones shaping the discussion rather than being the ones affected by knee-jerk reactions.

2. Go crazy with positive press rights propaganda. I loved the “Bill of Rights on a Stick” from the JEA/NSPA Minneapolis convention adviser bags and generally favor anything fun and interactive that might spread our message. Whether your students promote a free First Amendment mobile app like one the here (although it’s too bad it has so many ads), create a special First Amendment issue of their publication, design new T-shirts focused on the important decision-making skills from their rights and responsibilities, host a question-and-answer event at the public library or some other event, now is the time.

We have three months until Scholastic Journalism Week and plenty of resources at our disposal. Let’s share ideas here for how to make the next set of public events ones we host, ones that educate our stakeholders and ones that keep free student expression a priority.

Read More