Posts Tagged "ethics"

Possible takedown models


Possible takedown choices

Model A: Leave everything as is, if:
• The request is designed to retain image or avoid embarrassment
• No discernible evidence of factual or legal issue
• Value of not changing information for historical, reality reasons
• Publishing the truth, as best we can determine it
• Credibility of the student media is paramount
• Your mission is to be an accurate record of events and issues

Model B: Publish corrections, retractions or updates, if:
• The information is proven factually false or otherwise legally deficient as of the time it was published
• There is a need for transparency concerning source inaccuracy
• There is a need to provide context and perspective of published information
• The staff needs to clarify or update information
• The staff feels the situation is considered a gray area best solved by compromise
• The staff can write a follow-up story

 Model C: Take down information, if
• One-time reasons, like fabrications, protection of sources exist
• Staffs need to correct something they determine, as best they can, harm to the persons identified outweighs all other factors

See more for the complete package:
Evaluating legal demands
Evaluating ethical choices
10 steps to a “Put Up” policy
Handling online comments
Takedown demands?


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Ethical principles and considerations


If your students have to make takedown decisions, the legal advice is essential. Just as important are the various ethical possibilities, too.

While the legal principles are relatively clear, ethical principles might not be.. In ethical decision-making, there is topically no right or wrong but primarily right v. right decsision. Such decisions might depend on the mission and goals of your student media.

These points might help in ethical decision-making:
• The default position is not to take down anything newsworthy or accurate at the time of original publication unless there are clear, definably correct legal reasons: libel, unwarranted invasion of privacy, obscenity. Everything else stays. The reason: if someone on the staff thought it good enough to post once, it should stay.  Maybe Put Up guidelines would help students avoid later issues. If your material is legally unsupportable or demonstrably inaccurate, you would likely, for justifiable journalistic reasons, want to change it.
• Original posts and articles also have historical/reality value. Good enough to go up, good enough to stay up. In Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s Elements of Journalism, the first obligation is to publish, no matter the platform, the truth as best we know it. Second-guessing that later, for whatever reason, can set a nasty precedent of what the historical record is. Considering Takedown demands/requests might also start students on a slippery slope of second-guessing and ultimately self-censorship.
• If there is a one-time reason, like something later proven to be untrue, then the student staff could make an exception. These exceptions would, by definition, be rare.
• Lastly, just because students agree to take down an item, does not cleanse the Web of the information, image or information.
• Some compromises that can be taken, according to The Online Privacy Blog include:
–Sunsetting that retires certain kinds of information (like arrests) after a certain preset period
–Block the article from search engines
–Make names anonymous or remove  them
–Unpublish the entire article if the information is “old, irrelevant or dangerous to an individual’s privacy or safety”
–Add an update for clarification

See more for the complete package:
Evaluating legal demands
Decision models
10 steps to a “Put Up” policy
Handling online comments
Takedown demands?

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Students Tackle Coverage of Rape Culture


Fourth in a series of articles about student journalism that makes a difference

Jane Blystone, MJE
Covering a taboo topic like “rape culture” can be very daunting to any journalist. However the scholastic journalists at Palo Alto High School did not let the culture of silence deter them from telling covering this story that their peers needed to read. Students saw 3000+ copies of “Verde” distributed and 25,000 hits to their sister publication’s website,, move into the public arena.

Their adviser, Paul Kandell, shared the intensity of the work done by the students to cover this story in a thorough and sensitive manner. “With 3,000 print copies, 25,000+ online hits (as of May 1) and countless retellings through print, radio, TV and online interviews by Verde editors, the “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” package has broadly impacted awareness and discussion of a taboo subject: “rape culture” and its presence in high school life, particularly when combined with alcohol abuse. The package feels like a public inoculation: It’s hard to imagine any teen reading the story and being as cavalier about drinking or sex – or slut-shaming girls who have been raped. The more who read it the better.”

Students took the initiative to work with the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism, the Student Press Law Center,  the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a Poynter Institute course work on “Reporting on Sexual Violence.” Was the work intense work? Yes. Was the issue hard to write? Yes. Was the work worth it? Yes. Has it made a difference? Absolutely, and for all time.

Kandell is right and we share these documents with you to show you that well-trained and uncensored scholastic journalists can tackle hard-hitting stories with great depth, broad coverage and a sensitivity that is humbling.

1. Lisie Sabbag’s article “‘You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped’”

2. Will Queen’s piece “Breaking the Silence,”

3. Staff Editorial editorial.

4. Interviews of male students From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys,”

5. Savannah Cordova’s column Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you

6. Staff infographic The state of rape today

7. Complete issue of Verde PDF of Verde Magazine on issuu

8. Letter sent to faculty



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Decision-making continues long after a story posts


by Sarah Nichols, MJE
Does a story posted online lose value over time? Is it as important to our readers — and to our media organization — as it was when the story broke?

This important question was the editors’ first true test of the year in the student media program I advise. What first seemed like possible censorship led to a great discussion as they talked about whether to fulfill a request to remove a story posted almost exactly one year prior.

As with any scenario, I thought carefully about the factors when I got the call — in the middle of a different class period, an hour before heading out of town, shoveling down a Chobani as my only meal of the day. The editors responded to my text and said they would stop by in 15 minutes. How will the questions I pose shape their discussion, I wondered?

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Sifting through the sources: how to really know which source has the ‘truth’


by John Bowen
In their book, “Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel speak of a news process they call “skeptical knowing.” Applying this process, they say, will help journalists and audiences better evaluate information they receive – and pass on. The process involves not only evaluating news but also applying ethical values.

This lesson will explore the basics of that process in trying to determine whether facts and sources used lead to reliable, credible and complete storytelling.

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