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What should go into an editorial policy?
What should not? QT3

Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process in policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package that protects journalistically responsible student expression and anchors staff manuals.

 

Question: What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

We recommend this wording as a basic policy statement: [NAME OF STUDENT MEDIA] are designated public forums for student expression in which students make all final content decisions without prior review from school officials.”

Other models could include more material and wording to explain the value of student decision-making, historical or educational reasoning.

Quick Tips are small tidbits of information designed to address specific legal or ethical concerns advisers and media staffs may have or have raised. These include a possible guideline, stance, rationale and resources for more information. This  is the third in the series

A guideline is a stance on an ethical topic. A guideline is more open to change by student staff to staff.

Beyond that, SPRC suggested models could include editorial guidelines (although we recommend several as ethical process and procedures) like:

  • Role of student media
  • Ownership of student content
  • Handling death
  • Advertising decisions
  • Handling letters/comments
  • Policy consistently applied across all platforms

A procedure is a way to do something. These might include how students answer the phone in the room or how they check out a camera. Procedures are how students carry out the policy and implement ethical guidelines. All are part of the staff manual but are clearly separated from policy so their roles are clearly distinct.

Stance:

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process from policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

Resources: The foundations of journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals
JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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Signing on as FAPFA candidate makes powerful symbolic statement

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 2 comments

Confession: For the past 10 days, I’ve spent a good chunk of time glued to media coverage of President-elect Trump, reading about his meetings with prospective leaders and reports of cabinet appointments, cries against Hamilton and SNL on Twitter and updates about the on-again, off-again New York Times meeting.

My nervousness mounts as we transition to a new president known for his attacks on news organizations, for bullying those who ask tough questions, for threats to “open up” libel laws, for ugly rants against those who hold steady to report on the record the actions of our leaders.

And while I’ve made sure to read, donate, sign petitions and facilitate respectful dialogue, I’ve also spent the past 10 days thinking about my journalism students. What can I do? What can we do? What can they do?

As is often the case, the greatest potential for impact is within the classroom. It’s clear to me that my own students’ efforts practicing, protecting and promoting their First Amendment rights matter more than ever.

Next week, Dec. 1, 2016, is the deadline for JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award. I’m glad my students will apply, and here are three reasons I urge other scholastic media programs to do the same:

[1] The FAPFA process provides an important opportunity for students to revisit the core principles of their journalism program as they tell the stories of their school community through truthful and accurate reporting using a wide range of diverse, credible sources. The editors know their publication policies inside and out, but do the other staff members? Would every student on staff be able to answer the FAPFA questions accurately? Perhaps this an opportunity for editors to conduct a mini-lesson to educate or review with rookies some “What happens if …” scenarios.

[2] The possibility of recognition as a First Amendment school is another way to increase awareness in the school and throughout the community. Even if school administrators are supportive of students’ free expression rights both in theory and in practice, it’s likely there are community members who are less aware of what it means for students to make all content decisions free of administrative censorship. It’s another chance to spread the word about what the First Amendment means and why it matters.

Remember, 39 percent of Americans could not name even one of the five freedoms.

Can FAPFA recognition serve to make all stakeholders better understand the educational significance of providing students with an outlet for free expression and the long-term benefits of empowering students with the responsibility of the decision-making process?

Celebrating a school’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award recognition can play a role in the case for scholastic media curriculum development and the long game in protecting both First Amendment education and scholastic journalism specifically.

[3] Signing on as a FAPFA candidate makes a powerful symbolic statement at a crucial time.

My own students have protection from California Ed Code 48907, but they’ll still be using the opportunity JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award provides. In other words, they’ll apply for the award because they can. It’s a chance to speak up and speak out for why that freedom of expression matters so much, and a chance to draw attention to states where students don’t have that right.

Discussing the questions on the first-round FAPFA form reminds students that not every student media program is lucky enough to operate in a student-led environment with journalists empowered by the critical thinking experience of their decision-making process. It puts things in perspective. It emboldens them to use the tools at their disposal, creatively and positively, to fight the good fight. It draws attention to the injustice in schools and states with administrative censorship and helps increase efforts toward press rights legislation.

Editors can proudly share their efforts in attempt to leverage that social currency and widen the scope of attention for First Amendment freedoms just when the New Voices movement — and new White House administration — need it most.

 

by Sarah Nichols, MJE

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Students making content decisions – 1
Administrative review – 0

Posted by on Sep 16, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoby Candace Perkins Bowen
Even media staffs that have been the well-respected voice of a large, diverse student body sometimes run into problems with administrators. And sometimes a few tweaks of the editorial policy or staff manual could get them through the rough spots and apparently back on track to publish what they know their readers need and want to know.

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What’s in your editorial policies,
board- and publication-level,
does make a difference

Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoSometimes adversity can be a blessing in disguise. At least that is the point SaraRose Martin, co-editor of Fauquier High School’s The Falconer published May 8.

In a column, Martin said administrative censorship helped her learn she had rights and how political the world is.

“I learned how much I believe in free speech and the significance of fighting for it,” she wrote.

The article that drew administrative censorship was coverage of “dabbing,” a term for smoking a concentrated form of marijuana. An opinion piece about censorship of the story can be found here. The dabbing article can be found here. An SPLC article on the censorship can be found here.

Martin also published two additional articles May 8, on the school’s prior review policies and her view of its limitations and the other examining prior review as an extension of curriculum.

Martin’s passion over the importance of unreviewed and unrestrained scholastic journalism is evident throughout the articles.

Also evident is the importance of strong editorial policies as well as student media being forums for student expression.

Reflect on the articles and the passion behind them. Then do everything you can to ensure strong editorial policies prevent the interruption of student learning evident here.

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New policy, ethics and staff manual elements posted

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoJust to give everyone a heads-up, the SPRC just published its Foundations of Journalism package to offer a new look at how editorial policies interact with ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures.

The package is available at   http://jeasprc.org/buildingfoundations/   and includes   separate models for possible board- and media-level policies, including rationale for each. The ethics and staff manual examples work together so you can see models for ethical guidelines and staff manual statements or procedures to carry them out.
The package also has a sitemap with direct links to individual articles and files at   http://jeasprc.org/foundationbuildingsitemap/  .
Please take a look at the whole package, including rationale of why we’re taking a new look at policy and ethics interaction. Each model ethics statement and staff manual process includes resource links. A general resources list is available for the whole project.
John Bowen
Director, JEA SPRC
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