by Fern Valentine
Sadly, many journalism advisers are having to defend their programs in an educational environment that concentrates on basic skills that are needed to pass national or state tests. However, employers interviewed across the country are looking for applied skills that they say are not found in most high school or even college graduates.
In “Are They Really Ready to Work?” employers listed clearly the applied skills they want in new entrants to the 21st Century U.S. workforce, and 100 percent of them are integral parts of a student-run publications program.
They define “applied skills” as those skills that enable new entrants –recently hired graduates from high school, two-year colleges or technical schools and four-years colleges– to use the basic knowledge acquired in school to perform in the workplace.
The study’s findings indicate applied skills on all educational levels trump basic knowledge and skills such as Reading Comprehension and Mathematics. They say that while basic skills are still fundamental to any worker’s ability to do the job, applied skills are “very important” to succeed in the workplace.
Among the most important skills cited by employers were Oral and Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration, Professional/Work Ethic, and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving.
Other necessary skills listed were: Information Technology Application, Diversity, Leadership, Lifelong Learning/ Self Direction, Creativity/Innovation, and Ethics/ Social Responsibility.
Sounds like a great journalism curriculum to me.
These skills are clearly developed and strengthened in the publications classroom where student editors lead the staff.
By working as a team producing school publications, students learn practical lessons in communication and in civic responsibility. They write for an audience of their peers instead of for their teachers. They research by interview rather than just by internet searches, developing oral communication skills not taught in other classes. They develop critical thinking skills, learn to meet deadlines, and work within a budget as part of a team.
Presenting their work in a graphically attractive manner is another unique skill practicing the very technology employers want and need.
Even more importantly, students learn first hand the civic lessons our forefathers intended when they built a free press into our democracy.
Project-based learning provided by working on a publications staff clearly prepares students for the working world. These skills are enhanced when the students themselves solve the problems and take responsibility for what they publish. The more involved they are, the more they learn.
Working on a publications staff, led by trained student editors, clearly prepares students for future careers, not just a journalism career, but any career. Employers say over and over that they want to employ people with the skills students clearly learn on publications staffs.
See http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/FINAL_REPORT_PDF09-29-06.pdf for the full 64 page report compiled by four organizations jointly surveying over 400 employers across the United States.
School districts across the country are cutting journalism programs from their curriculum. They clearly don’t realize the enhanced learning opportunity they provide.
Other districts restrict those learning opportunities because they are afraid to let students practice some of the skills employers say they want like ethics, social responsibility, self direction and leadership. Ironically, that restriction not only inhibits learning, it opens the district to greater liability.
Advisers are fighting to retain their programs when school districts seem to emphasize only classes that “teach to the test.” Advisers need to stress that along side the obvious writing skills, publications offer unique opportunities to learn lifelong skills that will help their students succeed no matter what career path they follow.
Advisers need to stress that students learn by doing and may need to call on former students, now successful in their chosen careers, to write administrators and school board members about the importance of the unique skills they learned by working on a student-run publications staff.
Only a few members of publications staffs will seek journalistic careers, but they will all be more informed consumers of the media and understand its essential role in a democracy.
When students are allowed to work responsibly as a team with the freedom to make creative and innovative choices, they learn and practice all the applied skills employers in all fields seek in their work force.
Districts need to recognize and encourage open forum publication programs not restrict or eliminate them. Advisers need to continue to make administrators and school boards aware of the unique learning opportunities a student-run publication can provide.
Marina Hendricks, a member of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission, has developed a “Social Media Toolbox” for use by student journalists and their advisers.
The toolbox, available at hendricksproject.wordpress.com, features 16 lessons on social media plus related resources. The lessons can be used as a unit or individually, depending on the needs of students, advisers and school publication programs.
As a unit, the lessons are designed to help student journalists and their advisers navigate the transition into using social media as part of their publication programs. The unit starts with ethical decision-making to help guide students through the process. It continues with exploration of reasons for using social media, consideration of how social media tools are employed by journalists, and evaluation of the school community’s use of social media through a survey.
Other lessons focus on legal issues, social media policies and roles, cyberbullying, reporting using social media, and tutorials for implementing popular tools such as Facebook and Twitter. The unit concludes by challenging students to design an educational program on social media for the school community.
This is a fantastic educational opportunity for students and teachers to determine the impact of social media in a scholastic journalism setting and for administrators and communities to see how they can support and enhance a journalistically strong – free and responsible – social media program.
About the author: Marina is senior manager of communications for the Newspaper Association of America in Arlington, Va. In a previous life, she ran a program for teen journalists sponsored by The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. She also served as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Charleston, teaching an introductory journalism course. She completed the “Social Media Toolbox” as the final project for her master of arts in journalism education at Kent State University, under the supervision of Candace Perkins Bowen, John Bowen and Mark Goodman.
Looking for a way to help students understand the importance of verifying information before they break stories – no matter which platform they use?
Check out NewsU’s Sources, Verification and Credibility self-directed course.
In the course you will study:
- The characteristics of different forms of information, including news, advertising and public relations
- How to identify different types of sources
- How to evaluate the credibility of sources
- How to assess the credibility of websites
- Questions you should ask to ensure you’re publishing credible information.
As we saw this week, understanding the importance of verifying information and sources can be crucial to maintain credibility of our publications.
Like many of NewsU’s course, it is free. Like many of the courses, it is interactive.
* Note: So I am transparent, Candace Perkins Bowen developed the course.
Yearbook staffs are responsible for creating an annual publication that becomes the permanent record of the school and the school population they serve.
The publication they create will serve as a record/history book, memory book, business venture, classroom laboratory and public relations tool for the district.
Because the functions of the publication are so far reaching, and the publication itself is an historical document, the ethical questions facing the yearbook staff are challenging and unique.
For that reason, members of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission and representative winners in the Yearbook Adviser of the Year Competition have created ethical guidelines students and teachers might use in creating their own policies.
● The same ethical principles apply to yearbook journalism as to any other kind of media.
— Reporters should cover all sides of a story fairly and fully
— Reporters should identify themselves as representing the yearbook
— Reporters should verify source information with someone else or some other resource
— Reporters should avoid lurking on social media sites and should never use information gained from social media as their only resource. No information should be taken from a social media site without notification to the author of the site.
● Student yearbook staffs should also examine downloadable resources for additional ideas and approaches.
● In addition to the guidelines presented here, advisers should follow the tenets of JEA’s Adviser Code of Ethics, and students should continue to honor values expressed in existing resources.
● Although these guidelines may not apply to all staffs in every situation, it is recommended they be shared in discussions with adviser, staff members, administrators, school board members, members of the community and other stakeholders such as yearbook company representatives so all parties better understand the critical thinking, ethical and journalistic issues students experience as they make content decisions to summarize the year.
● Policies should be established to guide the staff in making fair, objective decisions regarding obits/memorials, ad sales, book sales and student classifications.
● Because the publication is created by students, for students, prior review by outside sources should be avoided and the staff should take precautions to report the story of the year fairly, fully and responsibly.
Ethics Guidelines for Yearbooks with Print and/or Digital Components
Section I: Policies
Before the staff begins work on the book (or as soon as possible), editorial policies should be established, placed in written form and followed exactly as the staff has created them. Policies should be included for general coverage, portrait pictures, advertising, obituaries, return of books and any others that may relate specifically to the school. As staffs determine specific policies, they should keep in mind these considerations:
• What is the purpose of the book, and what type of stories, photos and other coverage elements help meet that purpose? How will the staff handle sensitive or possibly controversial topics? Will all groups, topics and events receive equal space or attention? May readers, teachers, administrators or community members submit content?
• Are students required to be photographed by a particular photographer in order to appear in the album/people section? Will the school dress code apply? May students submit their own portraits to be included, and if so, what requirements exist in terms of size, content and technical quality? Does the staff reserve the right to exclude any photo it considers inappropriate? Will the staff provide other options for students who are absent, not yet enrolled or otherwise missing during the initial photographing period? If a student enrolls in the school later in the year, what are the options, if any, for being included in the album/people section? When will these deadlines occur, and will they be the same each year?
• What type of ads will the staff accept, and are there any conditions under which a staff might reject a potential advertiser or its submitted artwork? How will the available amount of advertising space be determined? Will the staff accept advertising after its published deadline? Does the staff have a policy for corrections or omissions? How will the staff remedy the situation if a printed advertisement has an error or receives a complaint from the purchaser?
• How will the staff handle the death of a student, faculty or staff member in the book? If the staff will include some type of memorial treatment, will all deaths be treated equally? How will the size and type be determined? What if this occurs at a time when no space is available? What if this occurs at a time past the deadline cycle? What if this occurs in the summer? Does the cause of death play a factor in how the death will be handled? What role will the deceased person’s family play, if any, in determining the content included?
• Under what circumstances, if any, will the staff accept books for return? What happens if a student does not appear in the book? What happens if a student’s name is misspelled? What happens if a student moves away and no longer wants the book? What happens if a person, group or team is unhappy with its coverage? Will a damaged book be replaced? Does the staff take action to recover a lost or stolen book? What happens to books not retrieved at the distribution event, and for what length of time will the staff keep them?
Section II: Covering the Year
Those who have signed on to be part of the yearbook staff have agreed to be the eyes and ears of the student body as they capture the unique aspects of this particular year at a specific high school. This commitment means —
● Coverage will reflect all aspects and voices of the student body and will not be limited to those who are on staff or their friends. The book will reflect the school’s diversity and will have balance in terms of age and gender, with emphasis on student involvement more than faculty and staff.
● The book will include scoreboards for all teams even if it has not been a winning year, group pictures with complete names of all teams and organizations, as part of the important record-keeping information.
● To keep the book as complete and accurate as possible, the staff will take extra care to work with the counselors, registrar and administrators to determine the correct grade level of each student enrolled to be classified as such. The staff will determine a policy for how to classify students who fall above or below the determined credit level and/ or students who plan to graduate early. The staff will include a “not pictured” list in the portrait section.
● Because this is an historical document, special care will be given to accuracy, including fact checking all information, correct quotes, correct spelling of names. Faculty names, classes taught and extracurricular activities sponsored should be included with faculty portrait pictures.
● The staff will tell all stories fairly and fully using resources representing all points of view.
● It is not recommended that the staff include superlatives in the book because they are not journalistic and do little to tell the story of the year, but because the book is a student publication and students should be empowered to make content decisions, advisers may want to help students organize a selection process, encourage reporting of the selection process as well as the action and reaction to the superlatives selected. In any case, award categories should be based on achievements, timely topics, service, performance and non-physical or popularity-based voting so all types of students have a chance to be represented. Low voter turnout is evidence that readers are not interested in superlatives, and is another clue that the staff should eliminate them.
Section III: Original Work
The story of the year should be as special as its characters (the students) and as creative and fresh as its authors (the yearbook staff). Because the story of your school this year can only be told once, the yearbook is a one-of-a-kind publication. The staff then —
● Will use previous years’ books only as a quick guide, and will avoid lifting material from previous books to include in the current book.
● Will use the books from other schools as inspiration only rather than copying their techniques for replication in the current book.
● Will refer to professional publications for inspiration and ideas but will use elements of what they find to create their own design, headline package or color usage. Credit should be given to professional inspirations in the colophon.
● Will not lift material (photos or text) from Internet resources without permission and will give proper attribution for that material as suggested by the resource provider.
● Will officially copyright their own work to protect it from use by those who have not requested permission.
● Will make clear when material not created by the staff is included in the publication. Because the yearbook is a student production, it is the ethical responsibility of staff members to notify the reader if pictures have been taken, copy written or designs created by someone other than a student staff member. Photo credits should be given individually to all photos and bylines should appear with all stories.
Section IV: Working with the Printer The yearbook staff is the publisher of the book and the yearbook company is the printer. The difference between the two is an important distinction. The publisher controls the content of the book while the printer works for the publisher to print the content as defined in a printing contract. The yearbook printer is an important part of the team but does not control content and is not the publisher. Because the relationship with the printer is a business as well as personal one, making ethical decisions is even more important.
● The printing contract outlines deadlines and number of pages due on each deadline. It is the ethical responsibility of the yearbook staff to meet all of those deadlines with pages that are complete and ready for the printer. Sending incomplete or dummy pages really does not hold up your end of the contract and results in extra time-consuming work for the plant.
● The printer’s representative should notify the staff if additions being considered will add to the final invoice for the book. In an open, honest relationship there should be no surprises when the final bill arrives.
● The printer should not make corrections or remove questionable content unless directed to do so by the yearbook staff with advice from the adviser.
● It is not the responsibility of the printer to find errors or catch questionable content. All content is the responsibility of the staff.
● Staffs who choose to use company-generated templates, plug-ins and other materials should let the reader know in the colophon that those printer aids were used and not all design work is original.
● Advisers should take special care in working with yearbook company representatives during a bid process for the printing contract. All information should be distributed to every representative in an open, transparent manner. Should one representative request special information, it should be sent to everyone at the same time.
● A review of the final bill should be made as soon after delivery as possible. Any adjustments to the bill should be made on the current book rather than on future contracts.
• JEA’s Model Guidelines: http://jea.org/about/guidelines.html
• JEA Adviser Code of Ethics: http://www.jeasprc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/JEAadvisercodeof-ethics-2012
• NSPA Student Code of Ethics: http://studentpress.org/nspa/pdf/wheel_modelcodeofethics.pdf
• Student Press Law Center: http://splc.org , http://yearbooklaw.com.
Sample SPLC yearbook staff member license
• Handling obituaries, NSPA: http://www.studentpress.org/nspa/wheel.html
• Yearbook controversy a time for discussion
Bios for yearbook-ethics guidelines
Mary Kay Downes, MJE, has taught journalism and advised the Chantilly High School Odyssey yearbook for 23 years where she also teaches English and serves as the English Department Chair. She presents at national workshops and yearbook camps and writes articles for journalism magazines. She has been honored as the 2007 JEA National Yearbook Adviser of the Year and received the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Key, the National Scholastic Press Pioneer Award as well as local and state honors. Odyssey is in the NSPA Hall of Fame and has received several CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards. Downes is the past president of the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association and is a member of the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission.
Sarah Nichols, MJE, advises student media at Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif. She was named National Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2011 and received a Medal of Merit in 2010 from JEA as well as the NSPA Pioneer Award in 2008. During her 13 years advising, her students have earned national recognition such as NSPA Pacemakers and CSPA Gold Crowns, among other honors. Nichols currently serves as JEA’s vice president and is a member of the Scholastic Press Rights Commission and Digital Media Committee as well as past-president for JEANC in Northern California. She is a former JEA state director and Certification Commission member. Previously she advised in Indiana and was an officer for the Indiana High School Press Association.
Linda Puntney, MJE, is JEA’s former executive director. A professor emeritus of journalism at Kansas State University, she was director of Student Publications and Royal Purple yearbook adviser. The Royal Purple staff received 20 Gold Crown and Pacemaker awards in her 21-year tenure — more than any college yearbook in the nation. Puntney’s honors include College Media Advisers Distinguished Yearbook Adviser and Distinguished Magazine Adviser, CMA Hall of Fame, NSPA Pioneer Award, CSPA Gold Key and Charles O’Malley Award, the JEA Carl Towley, Medal of Merit, Lifetime Achievement and Teacher Inspiration awards.
Nancy Y. Smith, MJE, advises the newspaper, yearbook, online paper and DVD at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, MO. She has been teaching and advising publications for 26 years and frequently speaks at workshops and conferences across the country. She has earned Master Journalism Educator status from the Journalism Education Association and is the JEA National Write-off Chair. She been recognized by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund as a Special Recognition Adviser and was named a Distinguished Adviser in the National Yearbook Adviser of the Year competition. She was also one of six finalists for the 2007-2008 Missouri Teacher of the Year.
Lynn Strause advised 30 yearbooks before she retired in 2007. The Ceniad, which she advised for 13 years, earned 13 consecutive Spartan Awards from Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, Gold and Silver Crowns and Pacemakers during her tenure. She was named JEA National Yearbook Adviser of the year in 2001. She is yearbook chair on the MIPA board, works with individual schools and teaches at a number of summer workshops, state and national conventions.
So, Friday was a good day.
What Friday demonstrated was that when an injustice – and I know that sounds huge and the slightest bit pretentious – is done, some people are still willing to stand up and do what is right. And the silence from the sponsor of the bill and the complete about face by the governor should tell you all you need to know about this law.
The outcry from teachers – and particularly journalism advisers – in Missouri was a bit of a sight to behold.
Honestly, I think Missouri teachers’ reaction to this bill may have been a reaction to things that have happened in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana over the past year, where teachers have been put in the crosshairs by politicians. And much like in those cases – particularly Wisconsin and Ohio – politicians have learned a lesson the hard way: do not mess with teachers.
Because while we are impossibly busy preparing your – and our – children to be the leaders of tomorrow, we will absolutely, positively no longer stand for this.
Even more impressive was the reaction of students.
Cameron Carlson, a former student at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo., created a Facebook group in the days proceeding its signing into law. In less than a month, it has almost 1,000 members.
Devan Coggan, a recent graduate of Kirkwood HS wrote a letter to her local representative detailing her thoughts on the matter, after posting it on her Tumblr blog.
Students from four high schools across Missouri participated in a Google+ hangout with Aurora Meyer, from the Missouri State Teachers Association, as part of a press conference for their coverage of the issue.
And I can’t even begin to count the number of tweets sent on this matter.
So, lessons to be learned?
First, is that the First Amendment and social media are powerful tools. By taking to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, opponents of SB54 used a little bit of social media jujitsu to help propel this law back in Sen. Jane Cunningham’s face. The irony of all this makes me smile.
Teachers in all states must be vigilant of what is going on in their state legislatures. I heard about this bill in the middle of July, shortly before Gov. Jay Nixon signed it into law. In the current climate of what is going on in state legislatures across the country, teachers (and their unions, see below) need to be on the ball and prepared to act quickly and decisively when they are threatened, no matter the type of law.
Union members need to hold union leadership accountable. MSTA stepped up to the plate and did its job to represent its members by filing the suit that led to the the injunction against SB54. MNEA did so to a lesser extent, trying to work with Sen. Jane Cunningham, who crafted the law. Honestly though, the offending portions of SB54 shouldn’t have ever made it out of committee, much less to the governor’s desk. There have been several things MNEA has helped stall or kill that many teachers would argue were more important than this bill, but missing this patently ridiculous and obviously unconstitutional portion of this law is a big miss.
Finally, educators – and journalism educators in particular – deserve leadership from the media. All too many of the state’s papers weighed in on SB54 after the heavy work was done.
I appreciate the support of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Joseph News-Press and any other media outlets that have weighed in, but editorial pages are a place to lead. At least that’s what I teach my students.
The fact the state’s major papers maintained radio silence over the course of most of August is shameful, particularly on a First Amendment issue.