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Handout: Foundations of journalism: Policy, procedure, guideline

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments


Topic: _____________________________________________________________________

Part 1:

  1. Legal Considerations:


  1. Ethical Considerations:


  1. Terms to define (include definitions):


  1. Precedent(s) if applicable:


  1. Proposed wording:


Part 2:

  1. Look at the wording of the procedure or guideline. Highlight any red flag words or phrases. Circle any unclear information. Box any other problems.
  1. Is this a procedure or guideline? (circle)
  1. Why?


Part 3:

  1. Compare what you’ve written with a sample policy addressing the same topic. Write the policy name here:
  1. What is similar?


  1. What is different?


  1. What changes should be made? Rewrite as needed.


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Going online? Consider these points before you decide

Posted by on Sep 7, 2014 in Blog, Digital Media, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

sprclogoby John Bowen
Scholastic journalism educators over the summer devoted a lot of time and discussion about whether print is dying and whether their programs should switch to digital first or digital only. Before advisers and students make a decision to move totally online, think about and discuss these points:

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A newsroom guide for handling online comments

Posted by on Apr 6, 2014 in Blog, Digital Media, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

“The New York Times and The Washington Post have the two smartest teams of lawyers and editors in the world, and they’ve come to opposite conclusions. The Times is a review first/post later system and The Post is a post first/takedown later system. So there’s no industry standard or consensus.”  – Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center

• Basically, there are two approaches for moderation of online comments:
— Post first and then take comments down if they are inappropriate
— Moderate and only post those that meet criteria

A third option, of course, is to allow no comments at all, but that runs counter to media serving as a forum for public expression.

For the most part, the same principles apply to handling comments as with handling letters to the editor in print or guest commentary in broadcast or online, including verification of sources and information. Once the decision is made to publish user comments or responses, label them clearly, keeping in mind your journalistic credibility and commitment to accuracy.

• How to handle inappropriate comments  (*see model policy below)
Pulling down posted comments looks like censorship. And if you allow comments to be posted without moderating them first, you create the potential of incorrect and legally dangerous comments being captured/cached and available forever. Why publish something that jeopardizes your media’s ability to serve your community and then remove it after complaints or realizing it’s inappropriate?  It’s all about the policy you establish, the atmosphere you seek to create on your site and your ability and willingness to enforce your rules and standards.  Remember, if you edit comments and change the intent or meaning you are legally responsible for their content, according to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act.

• Criteria for comments
Just as you need a policy for letters to the editor, you need a policy for determining when you will allow comments.  Consider: Staffs can be responsible for the content of comments posted by others on their sites despite some special legal protections that exist in the online arena.

Ideally, those making comments will use real, verifiable names and email addresses.  If they don’t, commenters could remain anonymous if the student editor knows their real names. Approving content ahead of time is not prior review because it is done by the student staff, not school officials. Anonymous comments should be taken down after a short time

Use of real names is an ethical issue. Knowing who a person is can give comments clarity, meaning and context, and add credibility. Because part of the impact of using comments is about creating community where all can participate and feel safe, knowing identities generates trust in the commenter and the comment. Search engines pick up comments as if they were content, so you have an obligation not to spread falsehood; information must be verified

• Be upfront and transparent about your policy and explain it thoroughly
Student media can establish a forum by setting ground rules of prior approval/rejection without changing content unless cleared with the author. Do not edit or revise comment content. Revisions should be made by the author.

Once posted, comments or information should not be removed for transparency, accuracy and reality in terms of establishing a historical record.

• Establish a procedure for handling comments
Appoint an online editor and staff to vet comments (which means training for that staff on how to handle comments). Online comments should be signed with verifiable addresses and IDs that are verifiable. Require real names or IDs known by student editors or identify who will verify the names and identification before publication

Study other media, including The New York Times, The Poynter Institute and The Washington Post, for guidelines as part of the process of setting up a policy. Decide what is permissible in comments ahead of time and clearly publicize the criteria. An example would be no personal attacks. Also publish a statement that a student “editor” will contact the poster for information, clarification, to have writer correct grammar, etc.

* A model policy section for handling comments might look like this, with content adapted from The Washington Post , The Poynter Institute and introductory wording modeled on The New York Times:

Model Comment Policy

We moderate comments to enable readers to share, without abusing others, informed and intelligent views that enhance the marketplace of ideas, focused to the topic of discussion not the presenter.

By posting comments:
1.We recommend use of real names for commenting. We will allow anonymous just like we allow anonymous sources provided we have verified the commenter’s identity.
2.You agree not to submit inappropriate content. Inappropriate content includes any content (as defined by the Student Press Law Center) that:
• Infringes upon or violates the copyrights, trademarks or other intellectual property rights of any person
• Is potentially libelous or defamatory
• Is obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit
• Violates a person’s right to privacy
• Violates any local, state, national, or international law
• Contains or advocates illegal or violent acts
• Degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other classification
• Is predatory, hateful, or intended to intimidate or harass
• Contains advertising or solicitation of any kind
• Misrepresents your identity or affiliation
• Impersonates others

3.You agree you are fully responsible for the content that you submit. You will promptly remove any content that you have posted should you discover that it violates these rules or that it is otherwise inappropriate.

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





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Tweet18: Develop, follow code of ethics

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Develop a strong code of ethics, and follow it daily in planning all coverage. #25HZLWD

No matter which media platform you use, ethics will play a daily role in your decision making.

Rushworth Kidder in “How Good People Make Tough Choices” says ethics is a “right versus right” process.hazelwoodcolor

“Right versus wrong” situations are best decided by knowing and applying press law. The act of deciding involves a concept we will call ethical fitness. Ethical fitness removes the need for control because students practice critical thinking. At the same time, we do not permit anyone to punish students for making – or failing to make – decisions that are not right versus wrong instances.

When it is time to take action, students who are ethically fit, who have already done the thinking, are prepared to resolve issues they face.

From story selection to explaining why a decision was made not to name a source, ethical thinking is at the core of a successful scholastic journalism program.

• NSPA Student Code of Ethics
• JEA Adviser Code of Ethics
•  Press Rights Commission Online ethical guidelines for social media
• Press Rights Commission yearbook ethical guidelines
• Visual reporting ethical guidelines
• Questions student staffs should discuss before entering the social media movement
• Online ethics resources
• Journalism ethics situations
• Social media toolbox available
• So say we all
• What values?
• What are the ethics of online journalism?





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Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

Posted by on May 9, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

At the spring Portland JEA/NSPA convention, JEA’s board passed a definition of prior review and prior restraint. The SPLC also recently endorsed the statement.

At the time, the Press Right Commission was directed to design a recommended process and guidelines on how advisers might handle prior review if faced with it. Below you will fine those guidelines and process along with links to supporting philosophy and resources. We welcome your input.

While we know advisers will make decisions regarding prior review and other educational issues based on what they believe they can best support philosophically, JEA reiterates its strong rejection of prior review, and hence prior restraint, as a tool in the educational process. With that belief, we feel an obligation to help advisers faced with this situation.

Statements to accompany JEA’s definitions of prior review and restraint:

As journalism teachers, we know our students learn more when they make publication choices and that prior review or restraint do not teach students to produce higher quality journalism.

As journalism teachers, we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to give them the responsibility to make those decisions freely.

As journalism teachers, we know democracy depends on students understanding all voices have a right to be heard and knowing they have a voice in their school and community.

Thus, to help students achieve work that is up to professional standards, journalism educators should consider the following process:

• Encourage transparency about who determines the content of a student publication by alerting readers and viewers when student media are subject to prior review and restraint;

• Advocate the educational benefits of student press freedom if student media are subject to prior review or restraint;

• Provide students with access to sources of professional advice outside the school for issues they need to address;

• Provide students with tools that include adequate knowledge and resources to successfully carry out their work. By using these tools, we build trust in the learning process and the theories on which it is based;

• Encourage students to seek multiple points of view and to explore a variety of credible sources in their reporting and decision-making;

• Coach instead of make requirements or demands thus modeling the value of the learning process and demonstrating the trust we place in our educational system;

• Empower students to know the difference between sound and unsound journalism and how to counsel their peers about potential dangers;

• Model a professional newsroom atmosphere where students share in and take responsibility for their work. In so doing, we increase dialogue and help ensure civic and journalistic responsibility;

• Use peer editing to encourage student interaction, analysis and problem solving;

• Instruct students about civic engagement and journalism’s role in maintaining and protecting our democratic heritage;

• Showcase student media where the dissemination of information is unfiltered by prior review and restraint so the school’s various communities receive accurate, truthful and complete information.

Recommended process if facing prior review, restraint

If, after employing the above techniques, student journalists still object to changes an adviser discusses, the following describes a process to handle potential disagreement:

1. Adviser and students disagree about content for publication.

2. Adviser and students discuss all angles of the disagreement; they try to find common ground.

3. The adviser and students decide if the disagreement is based on an ethical issue or a legal one.

4. If violations of libel, obscenity, unwarranted invasion of privacy, copyright infringement or material disruption of the school process are likely at stake, the adviser urges students to get advice of the Student Press Law Center or reliable legal resource. Not just any school lawyer or administrator will do. The resource, which could include non-live information, must be reputable for scholastic media. The phrase “unprotected speech” might not be enough because Hazelwood so muddied the concept.

5. If the disagreement is not over a legal consideration, the adviser urges students to consider the “red light” or similar questions raised by The Poynter Institute to see how various stakeholders might react if the material is published. Students see and consider the possible outcomes of publication and discuss with the adviser ramifications of their actions.

6. Adviser and students continue to discuss and explore alternative approaches until they reach a point of no possible agreement.

7. This process fulfills the adviser’s commitment to advise, not to make or require decisions, and to be cognizant of his/her responsibilities to school and students.

The Journalism Education Association reiterates its position that prior review and prior restraint violate its Adviser Code of Ethics and educational philosophy.

Additional links and resources:

• 10 Tips for Covering Controversial Subjects from the press rights commission website

Questions advisers should ask those who want to implement prior review from commission blog

JEA’s Adviser Code of Ethics from the commission blog. Scroll to the bottom

JEA’s statement on prior review from the JEA website

Results of a Master’s study on prior review and publication awards from the commission’s website

Resources from the press rights commission on developing professional standards from press rights website

NSPA Model Code of Ethics for student journalists from NSPA’s website

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