Posts Tagged "Law and Ethics"

Be proud of each trip you take to publish student media


by Stan Zoller
Several years ago I was having a conversation with my neighbor, also a teacher.  Our conversation covered the usual teacher stuff – students, administrators, curriculum, union contracts – and course loads.

It was while we discussing the classes we taught, he pronounced that “well, anyone can teach journalism.”

So much for good neighbors.

I asked him what his point of reference was and he, to no surprise, did not have a good answer, but seemed hint that “all we had to do” was put out the paper, which, I guess is like saying all drivers education teachers have to do is start the car.

Journalism teachers seem to be education’s misunderstood children.  It’s the destination – the newspaper, the yearbook, the broadcast or website by which we are judged.  That’s all we do.

What’s overlooked, as we all know, are the intricacies that go into student media.  Not the intricacies of InDesign or Photoshop – but the intricacies of journalism.  The laws, the ethics, the policies and the court decisions.

You know, “hey kids, go and report so we can produce the next edition, get the next sig done or post it.”  You know, we’re like Nike – we just do it.

Journalism educators are notoriously supportive of each other (well, for the most part) and of our craft.  We’re proud when the final product is published, produced or posted.

What we need to be proud of however, is not the destination – but the trip we took to get there.  My guess is most people – in education and out – do not have an idea of everything that goes into producing student media.  They see the photos, read the words, listen to the broadcast and say “nice job.”

What’s overlooked, as we all know, are the intricacies that go into student media.  Not the intricacies of InDesign or Photoshop – but the intricacies of journalism.  The laws, the ethics, the policies and the court decisions.

What separates journalism classes from the many other classes is what students need to know before they get “the keys to the car.”  Our students need to be exposed on a regular basis to court decisions that impact journalism, not just student journalism.

News consumers who read or watch student media should have the same expectations they do as if they were reading the Chicago Tribune, the Sacramento Bee, the Virginian-Pilot or the New York Times.

Unrealistic?  Maybe high school students don’t have Pulitzer Prize winning writing and reporting skills – but they need to have the same ethics and understanding of press law as any reporter.  Administrators need to understand that the student media is not an outlet for students to have fun in print, online or on air.  If journalism educators don’t keep the bar raised for their student journalists, then the door to prior review and prior restraint may swing open.

And before you know it, administrators may think that anyone can teach journalism.

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A Praxis about journalism?
What do YOU know?


by Candace Bowen

Chemistry teachers take a test showing they know electronic configurations based on the periodic table. History teachers demonstrate what they know about the early river valley civilizations. And the list goes on.

But how often and where do journalism teachers have to prove their knowledge?

Not too often, if the Praxis content area tests are any measure. There has been no such test for future journalism teachers until recently, though the list of tests for those teaching other sorts of courses is long.

First, full disclosure: I know nothing about electronic configurations and even less about early river valley civilizations. I don’t even know too much about the Praxis content area tests.

But the latter isn’t my fault. As soon as I heard about a month ago that such a test exists, my goal was to find out about it.

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‘Whad’ya know?’
New teachers should answer, ‘Law & ethics!’


by Candace Bowen
As Wisconsin Public Radio’s Michael Feldman asks each week, “Whad’ya  know?” Sadly, even some secondary school journalism teachers with proper credentials can answer, like Feldman’s audience, “Not much!”

At least that appears to be true when it comes to law and ethics.

And some teachers don’t know much because no one required them to learn much to get their jobs.

Case #1:  My own state — Ohio — has Integrated Language Arts licensure, a common sort of “mile wide, half inch deep” curriculum that means pre-service teachers study something about English, speech, theater and journalism, but not necessarily much about any one of those.

In addition, the state Department of Education approves each college’s curriculum, but anecdotal evidence indicates some higher education programs don’t stick to what they submitted for approval more than 10 years ago. Thus students graduate with little or no journalism, and what they do have is often only beginning newswriting.

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Yes, Common Core has room for law & ethics

Yes, Common Core has room for law & ethics

by Candace Bowen

Like so many things, it’s good news and bad news. The Common Core State Standards actually may help us show how journalism has skills everyone should know, but in the process could we be losing support to teach the very framework necessary to use our voices in democracy?

In other words, where does teaching law and ethics fit with the new standards?

Nowhere that’s obvious, that’s for sure, but maybe we can find niches that aren’t so apparent.

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#SJW11 and beyond: Legal and ethical foundations for tomorrow’s citizens


The Common Core State Standards were developed by the National Governors Association Center of Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn” and were “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”

When released in June 2010, the NGA Center and CCSSO indicated these standards are “aligned with college and work expectations, so that all students are prepared for success upon graduating from high school.” The writers concluded,  “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”  As of mid-February 2011, all but nine states have adopted some form of these.

The standards only address English-language arts and math, according to the Common Core State Standards website,  “because these two subjects are skills, upon which students build skill sets in other subject areas. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.” The group “may develop common core in additional subject areas.”

Yet, without the legal and ethical foundations on which the United States is based and the free expression these support, no amount of focus on rigor or international benchmarking will be enough to save our democracy.  Standards that offer expectations for tomorrow’s citizens, whether headed to college or career, are vital. Being able to read is not enough without the ability to assess accuracy, completeness and bias of content. Being able to write or speak without knowing legal constraints and ethical guidelines is equally worthless.

Thus, members of the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission offer these additional standards as a way to address what we believe is missing from those currently available. We offer the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Citizenship and the Media. These mirror the format of the Common Core Standards in all but two ways: (1) They are readily applicable to journalism and/or media classes, though they could apply to social studies and English courses as well, and (2) they do not offer grade-specific standards because many such courses have a range of student grade levels included. With no national group currently proposing such a set of standards, we suggest each state adopt its own.

Key Ideas and Details

1. Demonstrate the core values and principles of U.S. democracy as set forth in documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and court decisions.
• Understand First Amendment rights and responsibilities when choosing media content.
• Analyze relevant court decisions as precedents.
• Practice these key ideas by collaborating on decisions through a student-led democratic process.

2. Demonstrate understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the principles of civic involvement, including individual rights and their accompanying responsibilities.
• Produce opinion or editorial pieces that spark conversation and question authorities regarding current issues.
• Report accurately and objectively on the news and issues of the day.
• Search for solutions to problems.
• Provide alternative voices through credible reporting and constructive criticism.

3. Understand the importance and function of the marketplace of ideas in a democracy, including the necessity for diverse views.
• Create an open forum for student expression, including opportunities for outside voices to be heard.
• Strive to ensure all social, economic, ethnic, academic and grade-level groups are represented.
• Use a balance of sources and coverage in presentation of topics.
• Resist prior review and restraint by authorities and present sound reasons why that practice should not be instituted or continued.
• Exercise critical thinking and exchange ideas when making final content decisions.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

4. Demonstrate knowledge of the function, effect and parameters of law as they apply to the specific content areas.
• Exercise rights as afforded by the First Amendment and court cases.
• Recognize the difference between protected and unprotected speech and apply it to media choices.
• Recognize and abide by accurate interpretations of FERPA, FOIA, HIPPA and other relevant legislation.

5. Assess ethical issues and how society might be impacted by choices affecting students and community members.
• Explore, analyze and debate the impact of ethical choices by government officials, including public school administrators, school board members and other figures of authority.
• Provide leadership through sustained coverage of topics related to such ethical choices.
• Localize off-campus issues to show how they impact readers.
• Engage communities through accurate and thorough reporting of such issues.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

6. Apply ethical principles in decision-making, including responsibility, thoroughness, honesty, accuracy, independence, accountability and credibility.
• Recognize the importance of independent thought in reporting.
• Utilize constructive criticism in editorial commentary.
• Access multiple resources to ensure accurate, thorough and balanced reporting.
• Accept accountability for all content.
• Correct and retract misleading or incorrect information.

7.  Develop and refine ethical skills for choosing, gathering and organizing information.
• Investigate credibility of sources and confirm questionable assertions.
• Use anonymous sources only when it is essential to the content of the story, and honors confidentiality promised.
• Verify and synthesize when gathering and disseminating information.

Application of Knowledge and Ideas to Future Concepts

8. Prepare for the legal and ethical implications of technological changes in communication.
• Apply copyright laws to digital media.
• Properly attribute sources when using the work of others.
• Practice transparency in information-gathering by identifying methods of acquisition.
• Refrain from creating a false impression of reality through digital manipulation of photo, video or audio files.
• Avoid conflict of interest in information presented.
• Work to assure accuracy and thoroughness of information.
• Recognize privacy implications when gathering and publishing information.

Are we missing anything?  We’d love to hear your suggestions – and comments.

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