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Have students learn from history
as student journalists today

Posted by on Oct 22, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Jackie Mink
As a high school student in 1968, I had friends and family members fighting in the Vietnam War. There were many protests across the country by young people against the war, but one in particular influenced student expression for the future and up to today.

That protest was when a group of students in Iowa decided to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. They were suspended, and legal challenges regarding the suspension  led to the famous Tinker vs. Des Moines Supreme Court decision in 1969.

In 1983, as a young journalism teacher, I took a job at Hazelwood East High School.  I was told by a school official that there was a “small problem in the journalism classes”.  I learned that legal action had been started over an issue with the previous school newspapers printing something the principal found unacceptable and that I had two of the students in class who were involved.

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Face, fight and educate
those who would limit media

Posted by on Aug 16, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
A Boston Globe article about its Aug. 16 campaign for media to speak out against President Donald Trump’s attacks on journalists called the president’s rhetoric ”alarming.”`

“Whatever happened to the free press?  Whatever happened to honest reporting,” the reporter quotes the president in an Aug. 2 political rally in Pennsylvania. “They don’t report it. They only make it up.”

The Globe seeks editorial comment from other media to stress potential damage to our democracy from the intimidation,  and the importance of an unfettered press.

In a way, the current round of attacks from the president and others have some roots in the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision. The court’s majority enabled public school officials to limit student expression – not just of student media but any expression in school – under certain conditions.

We now have a generation of teachers and administrators, let along their students, who have only seen media control in many  of our schools.

In a way, the current round of attacks from the president and others have some roots in the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision. The court’s majority enabled public school officials to limit student expression – not just of student media but any expression in school – under certain conditions.

Hazelwood and other decisions essentially created an expectation student media in public schools could and should be controlled.

If school officials frowned upon criticism, demanded a positive image and prior reviewed and restrained where information did not match their their view of what student media should be, that became the norm. Challenge it and students faced censorship, suspension, withdrawal of school recommendations.

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Legal issues in covering protests

Posted by on Mar 23, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Mark Goodman, Knight Chair of Scholastic Journalism
The 1960s earned a reputation as the decade of protest: the Vietnam War, equal rights for African-Americans, women and gays. But the 2010s are on the way to rivaling the 60s as a decade of protest, especially for young people.

Black Lives Matter, the Tea Party, #metoo, anti-gun violence and New Voices have not just been social media campaigns. They have resulted in on-the-ground protests, in and around schools, that student journalists have done their best to cover.

Reporting in the midst of protests can present a unique set of legal issues. One of the most important questions for journalists engaged in protest coverage: what rights do the protesters have to engage in their protest?  Are public school administrators or law enforcement officials legally able to stop or limit their activity?  (Remember, the First Amendment is only a limitation on the government. Thus private school officials do not infringe on First Amendment rights by their actions.  However students in two states, California and Rhode Island, may have protections under their state laws.)

The legal rules regulating protests may be different depending on whether the protest occurs on campus or off. In the community, students or adults engaged in protest have the same First Amendment protections: they can’t break the law by engaging in violence or impeding traffic or public passage on a sidewalk, for example.  But their right to voice their views is entitled to protection.

At school, expressive activity is subject to greater limitation but still is protected by the First Amendment. The general rule used to justify censorship of student speech at a public school is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

The legal rules regulating protests may be different depending on whether the protest occurs on campus or off. In the community, students or adults engaged in protest have the same First Amendment protections: they can’t break the law by engaging in violence or impeding traffic or public passage on a sidewalk, for example.  But their right to voice their views is entitled to protection.

In that 1969 case, the court said a public school must tolerate student expression at school unless school officials can show the speech will invade the rights of other students or create a material and substantial disruption of school activities.  Invasion of the rights of others is typically defined as libeling someone or invading their privacy.  Material and substantial disruption most commonly translates to some kind of physical disruption of classwork or extra-curricular activities.

So what kinds of protest activities could result in punishment under this Tinker standard?  Advocacy of violence or engaging in vandalism, participating in an unapproved walkout or otherwise failing to participate in classes are possible examples. Thus student protesters may choose to walk out of school but a school is probably legally justified in punishing students who engage in that form of protest.

What is clear is neither school officials or police can punish protesters simply because they are motivated by a desire to protest.  The punishment issued for walking out of class or blocking a street as a means of protest can be no greater than the punishment received by those who engaged in the same offense for non-protest-related reasons.

For example, the student who leaves school to attend an anti-gun violence rally can’t be punished more severely than the student who skips class to get fast food for lunch.

At many schools and in many communities, journalists have been given some special authorization to operate on the scene of news events like protests.  For example, some law enforcement agencies will issue press credentials to journalists affiliated with a legitimate news organization that may make it easier for journalists to do their job.

If such a credentialing process exists, student journalists should take advantage of it.  When it doesn’t exist, many newsrooms have created their own “press passes” that journalists can wear or show if needed when covering a protest.

The benefit of a press pass is it can help with one of the biggest challenges for journalists: distinguishing yourselves from the protesters. The more reporters or photographers look like protesters, the greater the likelihood they will be treated like them and could be subject to the same limitations.

Journalists have private lives as well and may want to be involved in supporting causes.  But they cannot ask to be treated like a journalist, with any special recognition that may provide, if they are engaging in protest at the same time.

Press credentials are one valuable tool for the journalist in avoiding legal problems when covering a protest.  But there are other tactics that are equally useful.  It’s valuable for a news gathering to fully understand where he or she has the right to collect information.

Journalists have private lives as well and may want to be involved in supporting causes.  But they cannot ask to be treated like a journalist, with any special recognition that may provide, if they are engaging in protest at the same time.

As one would expect, public spaces are fair game.  Protesters in action on a sidewalk or city park (or even a school athletic field) have no reasonable expectation of privacy and cannot object to their activity being reported on or filmed when it occurs there.

But protesters who meet in a private home to discuss their plans for their next big event would have a reasonable expectation of privacy and sneaking into their meeting could be an actionable invasion of privacy.

Ultimately, a student news organization most wants the ability to meaningfully cover a protest.  Having conversations in advance with school officials and/or police about the unique and important role of journalists in documenting the events can sometimes help avoid problems before they arise.

The reality is some of those in authority would prefer there was no media coverage of protests. They may believe it encourages others to join in the protest or they may disagree with the message of the protest altogether.

The ability of public school officials to limit student press coverage of protests is guided by the same standards that apply to other acts of censorship: the Supreme Court decisions in Tinker and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988).

Hazelwood only applies to school-sponsored venues for student expression like student media when those media outlets have not been operating as designated public forums.  (Public forum means student editors have been allowed to make their own content decisions. That status can be determined by either school policy or the practice of how the publication has traditionally operated.)

For a non-forum publication, Hazelwood says school officials could censor if they can show their censorship is based on a reasonable educational justification.  That standard, still much debated, gives a significant amount of ability to censor to school officials, but it’s not unlimited.

Before they could censor a factually accurate story about a protest, administrators would have to show their motivation wasn’t based on disagreement with the views of the protesters but instead was based on some legitimate educational concern.

For student news organizations operating as designated public forums where students make the content decisions, the school’s ability to censor is much more constrained.

For student news organizations operating as designated public forums where students make the content decisions, the school’s ability to censor is much more constrained.

As with the protesters themselves, the school would have to show the media coverage caused a material and substantial disruption of school activities or a legal invasion of the rights of others (the Tinker standard). That’s a difficult test for school officials to meet.

And, of course, if a student journalist is working in one of the 14 states[1] that have enacted a student free press law (Washington state joined the list just this week!), the school would have to comply with the provisions of that state law before it could censor as well.

As with all media law questions, students and their advisers should go to the experts when they have questions about their legal rights and responsibilities in covering protests: the Student Press Law Center.

Check out the SPLC’s valuable guide to covering protests: http://www.splc.org/page/covering-walkouts-and-protests.

[1] Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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Empowerment, making a difference,
is REAL news

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Censored news is fake news

by Candace Bowen, MJE
Nearly half of U.S. voters think media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released this fall.

Commercial media have been trying to drive that number down, but they’re going to need help from journalists too young to even vote yet. High schools, middle schools and even elementary schools have a new crop of reporters who want to tell real stories – and they might just be the answer to changing such poll results.

Take Hilde Lysiak, at 10 years old the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her Orange Street News covers everything about her hometown in Pennsylvania from new businesses opening (and old ones closing) to crime stories with quotes from the police and exact wording from criminal complaints.

Both former Student Press Law Center director Frank LoMonte and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights website have pointed out that censored news is fake news. If sources give student reporters “facts” meant to deceive, if they withhold information about problems thus preventing an attempt at solving them, if they promote platitudes about a school environment that doesn’t exist, this is surely promoting fake news. And it’s not allowing reporters to cover real news that’s important to them and their communities.

In SPJ’s September/October Quill magazine, she’s the Q & A member profile. Asked to offer one piece of advice, Lysiak said, “I would say that reporters should always do whatever it takes to stay focused on getting the truth. Don’t pay attention to the haters. They just zap your energy.”

She also applauded her parents for letting her ride her bike “all over town” when she started reporting as a 7-year-old. “If they hadn’t given me that freedom, I wouldn’t be able to report the news like I do. Sometimes I think the best thing parents can do is get out of the way.”

Thousands of miles away in such places as Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF has been empowering “child reporters,” 12 to 16. Their Stories of Innovation website says, “Evidence gathered over three years in the 11 provinces shows that once aware of their rights, children join forces and take up social issues in their schools and communities. . . . Furthermore, the continued observation of children as eloquent players of change makes adults more respectful in regards to children’s needs.”

These are just two examples of young people whose reporting can make a difference. It’s REAL news, not the least bit fake. They have been allowed and encouraged to find out what is going on in their parts of the world and convey that to their audiences. So even if a 10-year-old can’t make changes, she can inform those who have to power to do so. Think what our high school reporters can – and when allowed to HAVE done that has impact.

Both former Student Press Law Center director Frank LoMonte and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights website have pointed out that censored news is fake news. If sources give student reporters “facts” meant to deceive, if they withhold information about problems thus preventing an attempt at solving them, if they promote platitudes about a school environment that doesn’t exist, this is surely promoting fake news. And it’s not allowing reporters to cover real news that’s important to them and their communities.

Now just one month shy of 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier case (Jan. 13, 1988), it’s time for some administrators and other haters to “get out of the way.” We have a generation wanting to get the truth and report it to others.

 

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No license, no car

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment

by Stan Zoller, MJE
One of my favorite arguments, if one can have such an entity, is with other journalism educators regarding how they start their course.

While in the midst of this discussion a number of years ago, one adviser told me she always starts with interviewing and then moves into journalistic history.

And what about journalistic laws and ethics?

“Oh,” she said, “I cover those later in the course.”

I was reminded of this discussion while teaching at a recent workshop.  My students were all editorial leaders and during our discussion of prior review, prior restraint and New Voices legislation, both the Tinker and Hazelwood cases (naturally) came up.

To my dismay none of the students were familiar with either of these cases.

Where, pray tell, were their journalism teachers and/or advisers?

While some students were working on club media, or had small programs, there obviously has to be a faculty member or administrator involved. They should, at the very least, be familiar with both Tinker and Hazelwood so they can provide guidance to the student journalists.

They apparently don’t.  Unfortunately, several students told me content for their media is prior reviewed and, as one student said, needs to be written so it presents the school in a positive light.

Why is it important to start with the fundamental press law and ethics? I like to equate it to driver’s education – you don’t get the keys to the car and go on the road until you know the rules of the road.

I can hear Fred Rogers saying “Can you say PR tool, boys and girls? I knew you could.”

Why is it important to start with the fundamental press law and ethics? I like to equate it to driver’s education – you don’t get the keys to the car and go on the road until you know the rules of the road.

While Tinker and Hazelwood are not the foundation of press law, when it comes to scholastic journalism, they are an essential part of the foundation. All journalists should know the basics of media ethics and law before they go on an interview, take a picture or start recording video.

This is not breaking news, but journalists, in this case beginning with scholastic journalists, need to realize laws tell journalists what they must do while ethics guide scribes to what they should do. This is why it’s paramount to make sure journalism students are well versed in these fundamentals before they start their work as journalists.

The basics of both the Tinker case Tinker Decision and Hazelwood case Hazelwood decision will help students understand the scope of what administrators can – and cannot do.  JEA members can find additional information about both cases in the JEA curriculum at JEA curriculum

If scholastic journalists are going to be prepared to deal with issues related to prior review, prior restraint and the scope of New Voices registration, they need to have the basics down pat.

Not sure?

Ask yourself – would you ride with someone who never took driver’s ed?

A complete look at key cases, including Tinker and Hazelwood, can be found at JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission’s web site, Scholastic Press Rights Commission

 

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