Posts Tagged "free expression"

North Dakota introduces legislation
to protect student expression

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sprclogoWith North Dakota’s introduction of a freedom of expression bill Jan. 19, student journalists in other states might want to know how to work on legislation in their states.

The John Wall New Voices Act is designed to protect student First Amendment rights both public high schools and public and private colleges.

Seven states have passed legislation protecting student expression at the scholastic levels, and Illinois protects college-level speech.

Students or advisers interested in obtaining materials to consider working on legislation can check these resources:

SPLC model legislation to protect student free expression rights
SPLC map and model guidelines for legislation
JEA/SPRC Blueprint for state legislation

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There’s a reason we need to
‘be bold and stand firm’

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by Stan Zoller
The 18-word Tweet said it all.

“This attack on freedom of speech and freedom of press must not be tolerated. Be bold. Stand firm.”

And so it is, another militant organization seeks to spew its venom on innocent people because of ideological differences. This one goes far beyond the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Where this one hits home for all of us is that we have the opportunity practice what we teach – freedom of the press.

It’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on the times an administrator has subjected us to prior review or prior restraint for seemingly unsubstantiated reasons, except for the fact that they disagree, or they fear higher level authorities.

Yes, it’s annoying and yes it challenges the very fabric of what most journalism educators teach. Many, so it seems, go with the flow out of fear for their jobs.

As you watch the coverage of the massacre in Paris you may come to the realization that in the scope of things, we have it easy.

We can establish a dialogue with stakeholders in our student media to argue and maybe even resolve our differences without fearing for our lives.

Ten staff members of Charlie Hebdo who dared to have an opinion and two police officers who dared to do their job didn’t have the same luck.

It might be a good time for journalism educators, especially those at the high school level, to take a break for social media, story planning and – yikes – even deadlines, to spend a class or two looking at journalists who died simply because they were journalists – simply because they sought the truth – simply because they wanted transparency.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 journalists were killed last year. Since 1992, the CPJ reports that 1,101 journalists have been killed. Some were killed covering war zones, others because they were journalists.

All because they were practicing freedom of the press.

And so it bears repeating: “This attack on freedom of speech and freedom of press must not be tolerated. Be bold. Stand firm.”

And consider yourself fortunate.

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Embattled editors tell
their powerful stories at SPLC dinner

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Sometimes it’s the bad things in life that help a person find a cause, a passion or a pathway. From a Pulitzer Prize-winner who sued his principal in the ‘70s to two teens, still closely involved in censorship issues at their own schools, those at the Student Press Law Center’s 40th anniversary dinner Oct. 16 heard stories every teen journalist and adviser should hear.

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Linking news literacy and scholastic journalism

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by Megan Fromm
This weekend, JEA President Mark Newton, board member Stan Zoller and I all participated in the “Because News Matters” summit on news literacy in Chicago. Hosted by the McCormick Foundation, the Poynter Institute, and other partners, the summit was an opportunity to bring together key stakeholders interested in news literacy education.

As teachers, and as JEA board members, we wore some distinctive hats during the two-day summit. To begin, we wanted to represent the hundreds of high school journalism teachers who know that first-hand experience in media production is a tremendous way to teach important values of news literacy (assessing credible sources, fact-checking, and understanding bias). We also wanted to encourage those advocating for curricular and policy changes in our k-12 schools to recognize the unique role of scholastic media in developing engaged, critical thinkers.

While these issues admittedly go beyond how we teach law and ethics to our students, I want to share some ideas and themes that emerged:

First, a number of “best practice” demonstrations in teaching news literacy used BOTH news media content and social media content. This is a lesson we can take to heart with anything we teach—sometimes reaching students where they, whether we’re teaching libel, copyright, or ethical sources, means first using content that is highly relatable and relevant to them. For example, one teacher used a rap artist’s Twitter feed to help students begin to differentiate between news, opinion, and advertising content.

Second, participants at the summit recognized that what teachers really need (regardless of content) is twofold: time and resources. To that end, one of the next “projects” in the news literacy world will likely be continued compilation and promotion of materials and resources that you can use “off the shelf” with your students.

And finally, there was much debate regarding how news literacy fits in with other related literacies, including information, digital, and media literacy. To be frank, there was also significant conversation on whether journalism production and news literacy can (and/or should) be taught in tandem. Of course, as a former high school publications adviser, JEA news literacy curriculum leader and a board member, my answer was a resounding “YES!”

Is journalism and media production the only logical way to teach news literacy? No, but based on my eight-plus years of experience in the field, I believe it is the best way, and often the most engaging for our students. Incorporating news literacy in a journalism classroom takes concepts like “accuracy, fairness, bias, credibility, etc.,” and places them squarely in a project-based, student-led process. So much of what news literacy advocates is based on the basics of solid reporting, so why teach it in a bubble? Why not encourage our students to report while they fact-check, and then to publish information based on what they find? Why not teach our students the value of information in a democracy by also letting them see the effects of the printed word?

Given that a significant outcome for news literacy instruction is to implore students to engage in the democratic and civic process, creating published content is a natural fit. In doing so, students who are free to make creative and editorial decisions without administrative censorship will also learn the heavy responsibility that comes with exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

To this end, news literacy and journalism education are the different sides of the same coin, and we can empower our students by letting them explore the role of journalism from all angles—both as producers and consumers.

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Funny how the cheerleaders get all the attention

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by Mark Goodman

Funny how cheerleaders get all the attention.

It would have been difficult to miss the coverage this past week of the cheer squad at Kountze High School in Southeast Texas and their fight over free expression. From a high school of a little more than 400 students in a town of about 2,100 people, their story made national news.

The story in a nutshell, for those who did miss it: cheerleaders at Kountze emblazoned banners they displayed at football games with religious messages.

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