The newspaper staff of a small school sought me out at a national journalism conference a few years ago. Despite an informal of publishing with just the consultation of the adviser, the school’s principal now wanted to review the paper before it went to bed.
Although I didn’t agree with the principal’s decision, I knew why she put the new policy in place. I had already heard the story through the journalism teachers’ grapevine, but I had the students tell me their version.
“She said she doesn’t trust us any more.”
Fifth in a series
The post on building a climate of trust is the fifth in a series of blogs that will run each Wednesday. Topics discussed, in order, will include FOIA, news literacy, journalism education, positive relationships with administrators, private school journalism, prior review and Making a Difference. We hope you will enjoy them. If you have other topics you feel we should address, please let us know.
There was a trail of bad decisions on the part of the staff. The editors knew the package they were creating was around a hot-button issue (It doesn’t matter if it was about student drinking, smoking pot or engaging in unsafe sex — it’s all the same to some adults.), but instead of writing a fact-checked, balanced story, the editors decided to deliberately skew the student poll to make student engagement worse in the activity look worse than it actually was.
In large graphs. On the front page. Above the fold.
Their reasoning: “We knew there was a problem, and we wanted to get the word out. It seemed like a good idea.”
The staff broke some of the cardinal rules of journalism — what I call the ABCs; Be Accurate, Be Balanced, Be Clear.
In breaking those rules, the editors didn’t just break their trust with their principal but with their readers. Every story now looked suspect. Was the author “just trying to get a point across,” or was he accurately telling the truth in a balanced manner?
There was little balm I could offer the staff. Loss of trust is a big wound, and it takes time to heal. The staff would have to be extra diligent in its coverage from this time forward. All staffers wouldn’t just have to get their facts straight, but their spelling, grammar and syntax would have to be flawless.
I encouraged the staff to continue to take on important stories and show it had the skills and the good judgment to cover hard stories responsibly. The goal would be to these stories to rebuild trust with the administration and readers.
Then in six months, they could go back to the principal and show her proof that the staff was deserving of trust. If that didn’t work, then they should try it again in a year, in 18 months — as long as it took.
“Make it your mission,” I said. “Provide responsible journalism with no prior review. Be prepared that it may take time, but make it your legacy — even if it doesn’t happen this year.”
Should students be allowed to make mistakes? Certainly. Does the coach go on the field with a football player during the game to “make sure” he doesn’t drop the ball? Never. But the fact is, private schools and schools in Hazelwood states face a higher scrutiny.
With a strong foundation of trust and thoughtful storytelling, staffs and administrators can build a win-win policy. Together.
It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a private or religious school or one in a Hazelwood state — you can have a publication with high-quality journalism that speaks to your students. In a future post, we’ll talk about strategies you can use when your principal or board digs in its heels in because it wants to “protect” the community.
by John Bowen
Quill and Scroll’s Board of Trustees became the latest scholastic media group May 24 as it unanimously endorsed the Journalism Education Association and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication resolution on high school journalism censorship.
Quill and Scroll’s Proposed Resolution reads:
Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists joins with the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in stating that no legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism on the grounds that it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, that it candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or that it voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech, or the punishment of media advisers based on that speech, is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”
Be it further resolved that:
Quill and Scroll joins JEA and AEJMC in declaring that the Hazelwood level of control over student journalistic speech is clearly incompatible with the effective teaching of journalistic skills, values and practices, and that institutions of secondary and postsecondary education should renounce reliance on Hazelwood as a source of authority for the governance of student and educator expression.
Quill and Scroll joins the Kettle Moraine Press Association, the Ohio Scholastic Media Association, Kent State University’s Center for Scholastic Journalism and Michigan Interscholastic Press Association in endorsing the statement.
JEA and the Student Press Law Center urge state and regional journalism organizations to join them in making a national statement that nothing educational or legitimate comes from censorship stemming from the 1988 U. S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision.
by John Bowen
The Journalism Education Association and the Student Press Law Center urge state and regional journalism organizations to make a national statement that nothing educational or legitimate comes from censorship stemming from the 1988 U. S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision.
JEA’s board of directors voted unanimously to endorse a resolution by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication that said, in part, “the Hazelwood level of control over student journalistic speech is clearly incompatible with the effective teaching of journalistic skills, values and practices, and that institutions of secondary and postsecondary education should forswear reliance on Hazelwood as a source of authority for the governance of student and educator expression.”
JEA’s resolution differed slightly from the AEJMC model as it focused more directly on scholastic journalism.
“This resolution is important for two reasons,” JEA president Mark Newton said. “Anytime we can partner with our college colleagues in AEJMC it shows incredible solidarity. And, most importantly, as the leading scholastic journalism education group, we must stand tall and scream at injustice. Make no mistake, the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision and its subsequent interpretations are an injustice to education, students, advisers and the First Amendment.”
The pendulum simply has swung too far toward heavy-handed school control following 25 years of failed experimentation with the Hazelwood level of censorship authority, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said.
“Hazelwood has proven itself to be legally unsound, educationally counterproductive, and as a practical matter entirely unnecessary,” LoMonte said, ”since schools from California to Massachusetts have functioned just fine for decades without it.”
JEA’s resolution states, in part, “No legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism on the grounds that it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, that it candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or that it voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech, or the punishment of media advisers based on that speech, is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”
“The educators who know journalism best are united in their conviction school censorship authority should never be used to discourage students from engaging on the social and political issues that concern them, including issues involving the quality of their own educational experience,” LoMonte said. ”That is a message that the courts cannot ignore when the next Hazelwood censorship case invariably arises. What constitutes a “legitimate pedagogical concern” that justifies school censorship should be decided be educators, not school attorneys, and the JEA resolution sends the unmistakable message that censoring for purposes of P.R. image control is educationally indefensible.”
What you can do Here’s what JEA and its Scholastic Press Rights Commission would like you to do: • Study the AEJMC and JEA resolutions attached to this packet • Ask questions as needed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org • Prepare a statement showing your organization’s endorsement of JEA’s resolution and publish it • Notify JEA and the SPRC of your endorsement, and provide us with a copy of the resolution
“Our goal is to support journalism advisers and students with the full voice of the Kettle Moraine Press Association,” their resolution states in part. “In doing so, the KEMPA Board of Directors unanimously endorses the JEA Resolution: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier anniversary/First Amendment and censorship authority and its position that the censorship of speech which candidly discusses social and political issues in school publications and the punishment of media advisers based on that exercise of free speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching.”
JEA’s and the Scholastic Press Rights Comission’s goal is simple: We want to have all 50 states make a statement that can be cited by courts as consensus of journalism educators as to what is a legitimate educational reason for censorship – not the random fears Hazelwood generates.
Although JEA has set no deadline for state endorsements, SPRC chair John Bowen urged states to act as quickly as possible.
“The sooner we can point to agreement with these statements,” Bowen said, “the more likelihood we have of making a usable statement for courts and others. Having this in hand before school begins in August would be a real plus.”
Just like any big event — you remember where you were or what you were doing. Those who were advising scholastic media when the Supreme Court announced Hazelwood v.Kuhlmeier 25 years ago probably can recall their reactions — and maybe those of their administrators as well.
My own recollection: The principal, a fairly supportive guy, motioned me into his office. “Have you heard the decision?” Of course I knew what he meant. “Yes.” I smiled and added, “But there’s no room for you to moved your desk up to the X-Ray office.”
Luckily the St. Charles High School student newspaper, the X-Ray, didn’t face prior review. There had been some sticky moments in the past, but I got along well with this principal and his successor a short time later.
Not everyone had such smooth sailing. One way to find out what happened then and what changes followed was to talk to advisers who were in the classroom and student media newsroom both before Jan. 13, 1988 and after. What impact did they see from that landmark Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision? What difference did it make to them and their students and others they observed?
That’s why the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State took advantage of the Fall 2012 JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio to interview four such advisers who were attending. All taught at that time, and one is still in the classroom while the other three are retired but very much involved with high school media as mentors in the Journalism Education Association program and press association board members.
Gary Lindsay, JEA regional director recently retired from Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was only in his second year of advising when Hazelwood came about.
Janet Levin, adviser in 1988 and today at John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, Ill., remembers the local media reaching her when she didn’t yet know the decision.
At Homestead High School in Cupertino, Cal., Nick Ferentinos’ principal almost immediately took what he saw as an opportunity to remove an article in progress about an HIV-positive student.
Wayne Dunn, president of the Ohio Scholastic Media Association and JEA mentor, had been advising four years at Lebanon (Ohio) High School in 1988.
See what they had to say. Did Hazelwood have the kind of impact journalism educators feared in 1988? According to these four advisers who have seen the before and after, yes, the chilling effect on student journalists has indeed made a difference, and it hasn’t been a good one.
In a surveytaken at the San Antonio JEA and NSPA convention last November, students and advisers reported censorship was alive and well in America’s schools. Forty-two percent of students and 41 percent of advisers responding said school officials had told them not to publish or air something. Fifty-four percent of students indicated a school official reviewed student media content before publication or airing.
Both groups also incited self-censorship was an issue, prompting SPLC director Frank LoMonte to lay some of the blame for situations like these on the 1988 Hazelwood decision.
“Schools will continue to be disempowering places where no meaningful discussion of civic issues takes place so long as Hazelwood censorship is practiced,” he said.
Fortunately, some schools can and do tackle important issues and are not limited by misguided administrators. Others can learn from their efforts.
One example where students tackled substantive issues is the Verde at Palo Alto High School, in California, where they reported on a “rape culture” at their school. Another is the Triangle of Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana, which published on sexual assault. Both stories reinforce the importance of issues teens face as seen in events in Steubenville, Ohio, and Saratoga, California.
Below are links to these students’ reporting, and related stories. These stories are models of reporting student media is capable of when communities, school administrators and advisers support critical thinking and student decision making.
In the next several weeks, we will also report other efforts not only to limit Hazelwood’s impact but also to recognize schools around the country through our Make a Difference through substantive reporting project.
The SPLC developed its Cure Hazelwood website to help combat the effects of that 1988 Supreme Court decision, and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Association prepared its Seeking a Cure for the Hazelwood Blues and Teacher’s Kit for Curing Hazelwoodmaterials to educate all parties about the lack of education value in prior review and restrict by school officials. A myriad of essential curriculum materials and information about fighting Hazelwood exists on the Scholastic Press Rights Commission website.
For more information about the Verde and Triangle stories, see below: