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In plain view from public places: Photojournalists and free speech

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Legal issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Visual Reporting | 0 comments

freespeechweek_logo_mainWhat can and cannot be photographed continues to fall under question, bringing attention to photojournalists and igniting important First Amendment conversations. As part of other Free Speech Week lessons and activities, teachers may use this opportunity to incorporate key readings and discussion geared toward visual storytellers.

For starters, journalism students paying attention to current events likely caught last week’s story of documentarian Deia Schlosberg arrested while filming an oil pipeline protest in North Dakota. If needed, teachers can engage students in a quick research activity to update each other. Key questions: What’s the story? How does this relate to the First Amendment? How does a photojournalist’s role compare to that of a documentarian?

Photojournalists use the phrase “in plain view from public spaces” to describe in broad terms their interpretation of access and privacy as related to their First Amendment rights. What does this mean? Teachers can consider this as a warm-up writing prompt or partner conversation between students before sharing as a larger group.

To read more about photojournalists and the First Amendment, teachers can assign small groups to read and report on any of these articles:

NYT Lens blog: Criminalizing photography

University of Missouri protest “muscle” incident

Pennsylvania student shooting routine traffic stop

First Amendment Center: Photographs as speech

ACLU: What to do if you’re detained

Police, cameras and the Constitution

To tie in a media literacy component, teachers may add “Photography and the Law: Know Your Rights” from Photojojo. How is this article more or less credible? How does the material compare to the other articles under discussion? What factor(s) affected your analysis?


It’s likely that most journalism classes already discussed this photo from Aleppo and a related article
 back in August, but the connection here is strong between the power of a photo and why the world depends on photojournalists to capture what audiences need to see, regardless of how terrifying, depressing or controversial those images may be.

The National Press Photographers Association offers this statement about its advocacy work protecting photojournalists’ rights.
After reading related articles and discussing efforts underway to protect those constitutional freedoms, teachers may want to present powerful storytelling images that may spark debate about free speech and/or the ethical considerations photojournalists face. One option is to assign students to find and share photos on their own.

Here is a simple list of possible photos and/or photographers to research and discuss:

  • Yannis Behrakis, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography, on the refugee crisis in Greece
  • General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon” by Eddie Adams in 1968
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning photos taken by photojournalist Paul Watson of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu
  • Image galleries showing treatment of Iraq prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison complex
  • “The vulture and the little girl” by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993
  • “The Falling Man” by Richard Drew during 9/11 attacks
  • “Fire on Marlborough Street” or “Fire escape collapse” by Stanley Forman
  • “The Burning Monk” by Malcolm Browne

From celebrating Free Speech Week and First Amendment protection of what photojournalists can do legally to the ongoing considerations of what they should do ethically, the topic is one worth exploring on a regular basis.

by Sarah Nichols, MJE

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Censorship and broadcasting video

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Title

Censorship and broadcasting video

by Chris Waugaman

Primary Common Core state standards addressed

(see http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy )

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

 

Brief goal/outcome statement:
This would be intended to be a lesson I would use with producers in my broadcasting class or even my online editors who often use video and stream events.

  • Students will learn terms that familiarize them with censorship in video and radio.
  • Students will use their skills at gathering information and using online sources to guide them in times of legal uncertainty.
  • Students will learn how to make critical decisions regarding their press rights by applying the case outcomes they learn in this lesson.
• COMPREHENSION • PRACTICE •APPLICATION • REFLECTION
 

·       Gathering Information

·       Documentation

·       Note-taking

 

 

·       Using web as resource

·       Responding to questions

·       Documentation

 

·       Using modern events to make decisions for their staff

 

 

·       Describe the process of video censorship

·       Discuss other possible scenarios that can occur

 

Unit: Scholastic Press Rights

Lesson – Censorship and Broadcasting

Length of lesson: One 90 minute block (35 minutes instruction/45 minutes activity/10 minute reflection)

Resources/Equipment:

Handouts/Internet/Computer

  1. Introduction & Instruction: The instruction aspect of this lesson includes instruction in what is the FCC and how is video normally regulated. Students will understand what most news broadcast organizations are required to consider when broadcasting.

There will also be a clear indication of what is required to be censored with video. It would be helpful if students are familiar with the Hazelwood court case and the Tinker court case before this lesson, but it is not a requirement.

Who governs free speech on radio and television? What is censorable on television?

https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/faqs-television-and-cable

https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202731600-Obscene-Indecent-and-Profane-Broadcasts

For most high school programs, students publish videos online. The FCC does not govern such publication; however, students can still make decisions with this knowledge. 

With the following case students should consider a few factors in relating to the content and situation at hand: 

  • Is the video part of a school sponsored publication or is it for an individual?
  • What is the publication’s forum status?
  • Is there a valid educational purpose for censoring? (Hazelwood)
  • Can the administration predict a reasonable disruption of the school activities or will it present an invasion of privacy? (Tinker) 

In the following case, a student shot video of a post-fight activity in a school. That camera was confiscated along with the video. Read the following account or what happened, and the SPLC response to determine if the student’s rights were violated.

Seizing video of a fight
http://www.splc.org/article/2004/08/officials-seize-video-of-fight-from-student

Article about video of school fight and SPLC position:
http://www.splc.org/article/2004/04/n-y-high-school-principal-confiscates-tape-of-school-fight

  • We will briefly explain what happened in this case from 2004.
  • We will cover the Privacy Protection Act and how it might apply to this case. http://www.splc.org/article/2002/01/student-media-guide-to-the-privacy-protection-act
  • Next I ask the students to identify what in the school handbook should protect this student journalist.
  • As a final element to the 35-minute discussion I ask the students to conclude if this scenario impacts our publication and work.

Key pages such as the SPLC web page will be introduced as a primary source for research as it involves the law of the student press.

List of other helpful websites:

http://www.collegefreedom.org
http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/
http://teachfirstamendment.org/
http://www.freedomforum.org/
http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/
http://www.nfoic.org/
http://jeapressrights.org/
http://www.splc.org

Sometimes this will take longer than 35 minutes.

  1. Practice: Students will pick from one of the following cases chronicled on the SPLC site.
    • http://www.splc.org/blog/splc/2015/06/judge-rules-security-videos-subject-to-ferpa-protections
    http://www.splc.org/blog/splc/2014/11/connecticut-school-security-video-ruled-exempt-from-ferpa
    • http://www.splc.org/blog/splc/2014/02/students-lewd-video-about-teacher-provokes-errant-wisconsin-ruling-applying-online-harassment-law
    • http://www.splc.org/article/2004/04/ill-school-refuses-to-allow-students-to-air-video-tribute-of-deceased-student
    • http://www.splc.org/article/2004/06/calif-university-bars-student-from-airing-beheading-video-on-school-sponsored-tv
    • http://www.splc.org/article/2015/02/western-illinois-u-editor-reinstated-after-suspension-for-freelancing-video-of-campus-brawl
    • http://www.splc.org/article/2012/03/u-of-rhode-island-proposal-would-bar-photos-video-of-sensitive-material

They will read the article and answer the questions below to the best of their ability.

Students need to be prepared to briefly describe what happened in the case they have chosen to the class. They can brief the class by presenting their responses to the questions.
• Who does the case involve?
• What happened in the case? How does it involve video?
• Who has made the decision?
• Was this case similar to any other cases you have heard about? What was it?
• How does this situation relate to Hazelwood or Tinker?
• Does the video include anything that is obscene, indecent, or profane?
• How could this case set a precedent?
• Name and document any other sources from the web that pertain to this case.

III. Application: Have students decide together which case could most likely occur this school year.

Students should outline a policy in their staff manual that will inform students how to proceed should a similar scenario to the one that they have researched could develop.

The policy should be agreed upon by the entire staff and be introduced to the administration, along with any updates on the staff manual, for the year.

  1. Reflection: Have students write in their logs details about what new considerations they have thought of after learning about video censorship. It can be as structured as you would like or as open as “what did you learn during the process of researching your topic that you did not realize would happen simply by following the examples I explained at the beginning of the lesson.”
  1. Assessment: Credit for completing questions on case. Credit for hypothetical scenario. Credit for reflection in daily log. Each assignment is worth 33% of the total unit grade. See RUBRIC ON NEXT PAGE.
  2. Assessment: Credit for completing questions on researching topic. Credit for hypothetical scenario. Credit for reflection in daily log. Each assignment is worth 33 percent of the total unit grade.

 

Grade A (100) B (90) C (80) D (70)
 

Questions on Selected Topic

 

 

All questions are answered thoroughly with great detail included about case and sources (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

 

All questions are answered adequately with some detail included about case and sources (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

 

Most questions are answered. Question 6 must be answered.

 

 

Some questions are answered. Question 6 must be answered.

 

Paper with Scenario

 

 

The created scenario must be on topic with a great amount of detail included about case and sources (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

 

The created scenario must be on topic with enough details to answer questions from activity one (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

 

The created scenario addresses topic and answers most of the questions from activity one (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

 

A scenario is created and it answers some of the questions from activity one (Special Attention Ques 6).

 

Reflection

 

 

 

 

The reflection includes details about the process of online research. Some details are included. It reflects an understanding of the process and a response to the activity,

 

The reflection addresses the process of online research. It reflects an understanding of the process and a response to the activity,

 

The reflection shows an understanding of the process and a response to the activity,

 

It responds to the activity,

 

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Curriculum to help students formulate
policies, guidelines and procedures

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Lesson Title

Ethical guidelines and procedure statements: Creating the foundationsprclogo

Description
In this lesson, students will analyze current policies and write guidelines and procedures. Students will then analyze the others’ classwork and provide feedback. Students will be able to rewrite their contribution after the feedback is given. Students will also audit the publication’s diversity.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze their board- or media-level policies.
  • Students will construct guidelines and procedures.
  • Students will examine these guidelines and procedures and revise after receiving feedback.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.9.B Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Length
300 minutes (6 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Resource: Editorial guidelines and policy statements, SPRC website
Resource: Working with a board approved policy, SPRC website

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1:
Materials / resources
Slideshow, Day 1: version 1 or Day 1: version 2  (See below for the version you should use.)

Teacher should have copies of either the board-level and/or media-level policies applicable to student media. (If no policy exists, students will work together to create a First-Amendment friendly one and use version 2 of the slideshow.)

If a board or media-level policy exists:
Step 1: Show slideshow (50 minutes)

Students should work through the slideshow using the Day 1: version 1. When prompted, teacher should disseminate board-level or media-level policy.

If no policy exists:

Step 1: Show slideshow (50 minutes)

Students should work through the slideshow using the Day 1: version 2.  Students will create a media-level policy.

Day 1 Version 1

Day 1, Version 2

Day 2:
Resources
Slideshow: Day 2: Ethical guidelines and procedures

Handout: Foundations of journalism: Policy, procedure, guidelines
Resource: JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee’s Foundations: Editorial guidelines and policy statements
Rubric: Ethical guidelines and procedures
Computer lab (if possible) for Step 3

Step 1 — Slideshow (20 minutes)
Go through the slideshow with the students

Day 2 Slideshow

 

Step 2 — Work time (10 minutes)
If you already have job descriptions, make them available. Ask students what to add or modify from these descriptions.

If you don’t have job descriptions, ask students to create one for a general staffer, editor or adviser.

Step 3 — Small group work (20 minutes)
Hand out the following excerpts from JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism:
Editor-staff relationships
Staff conduct
Balance and objectivity
Academic dishonesty
Ownership of student content
Controversial coverage
News judgment and news values

Ask students to use the handout to draft guidelines or procedures (or both) about their assigned areas using the handout provided (one handout per topic). Also, encourage students to examine the resources listed (if computer lab or other Internet access is possible) and to peer edit each other’s work using the back of the handout.

Students should turn in what they have at the end of the class period. Teacher should not grade these. Teacher will need these for the application phase of the lesson.

Day 3: Diversity and sources
Resources:
Diversity audit
Copies of the publications (including online if available)
Handout: Foundations of Journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals
Diversity Audit

For this lesson, students will need either Internet access or a copy of the school’s newspaper and yearbook. (Note: you could substitute any type of student media including broadcast, magazine, newsmagazine, etc.)

Step 1 — Class preparation (2 minutes)
Divide the class into groups of three. Explain to the class the groups will be completing a “diversity audit.” They will be using the handout titled “Diversity audit” to record their findings.

Step 2 — Evaluating the newspaper/newsmagazine (10 minutes)
The groups should first get a copy of the print or online publication. Divide the students up by the different pages/webpages. (For example, the first group of three should assess the first news page, the second should assess the second page, etc.) Ask students to record the information asked of them on the handout. Ask students to hold on to the publications until after the large group discussion.

Step 3 — Evaluating the yearbook (20 minutes)
Pass out copies of the most recent yearbook. Again, divide the students up by pages. This should take a longer because they may have more to comb through in order to find the information required. Ask students to hold on to the publications until after the large group discussion.

Step 4 — Reporting findings (10 minutes)

Ask students to tally their findings on the board using the Diversity audit pdf.

Step 5 — Large group discussion (5 minutes)
Post the percentage breakdown of the student body on the board. Ask students to look at the percentage of students used. Does the coverage reflect the makeup of the student body? Are any groups under or overrepresented?

Step 6 — Policy starter assignment (3 minutes)
Tell the students that now that they have examined the coverage, how should they craft a guideline or procedure on diversity of sources using the handout. They should bring a draft to the next class meeting. Everyone will draft a guideline or procedure on this topic.

Extension:
Teacher could expand this to as many student media platforms as they have. Teacher might need to add a day to lessons.

Day 4
Rubric: Ethical guidelines and procedures
Slideshow: Day 4: Ethical guidelines and procedures
Web resource and computer lab: JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism

Step 1 — Large-group discussion (10 minutes)
Ask students to share their homework from the previous class.

Step 2 — Recrafting (5 minutes)
Give students time to rewrite their homework if they would like. (Teacher will assess this based on same rubric given Day 2.)

Step 3 — Slideshow (5 minutes)
Show Slideshow: Day 4: Manuals, guidelines, procedures

Day 4 Slideshow

 

Step 4 — Group assignments (Remainder of the class)
(this may be pairs, depending on how many students you have). You may assign each group two of the topics below.

Ask students to use the handout to draft guidelines or procedures (or both) about their assigned areas using the handout provided (one handout per topic). Also, encourage students to examine the resources listed and questions provided in the resource: JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism (if computer lab or other Internet access is possible). Students should peer edit each other’s work using the back of the handout in whatever time remains in the class.

Students should turn in what they have at the end of the class period. Teacher should not grade these. Teacher will need these for the application phase of the lesson.
Treatment of sources
Recording sources during interviews
Allowing sources to preview content before publication
Emailing and texting digital information gathering
Verification
Unnamed sources
Treatment of minors
Public records and meetings
Handling links
Providing context
Advertising
Social media
Sponsored content
Use of profanity
Obituaries
Visual reporting
Guidelines for breaking news
Evaluating and critiquing content
Correcting errors
Takedown requests
Handling letters to the editor, online comments

Day 5
Resources
Class set of policies and guidelines as created by students (Teacher will need to create this packet from submitted student work.)

Handouts: Scenario practice    Scenario key

Rubric: Ethical guidelines and procedures

Computer lab to access JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism

Step 1 — Preparation

Teacher should make copies of the  ethical guidelines and procedures created for the entire class and should have the Foundations available.

Step 2 — Small groups (40 minutes)

Students should use the guidelines and go through the scenarios. They should:

  1. identify the area applicable and use the corresponding guideline or procedure as created by the class.
  2. look at JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism and go through the questions for each section.
  3. make notes on any discrepancies found while practicing these scenarios.

Step 4 — Feedback (10 minutes)

This step is intended to allow students to obtain feedback and change their guidelines and procedures as needed.

What worked and didn’t work about each policy or guideline? The group who created the policy or guideline should lead the discussion concerning this. Have someone from each group take notes.

Day 6
Resources

Class set of policies and guidelines as created by students (Teacher will need to create this packet from submitted student work.)

Slideshow: Scenario practice

Rubric: Ethical guidelines and procedures

Computer lab to access JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism

Step 1 — Preparation
Teacher should make copies of the ethical guidelines and procedures created for the entire class and should have the Foundations available.

Step 2 — Small groups (20 minutes)
Students should look as pairs four of the topics not already used in the scenarios using the JEA’s SPRC website: Foundations of Journalism as a resource. Teacher should divide the foundation points by the number of groups and assign the topics to each group. (For example, the first group will tackle the first five listed. The second group will address the next five, etc.) Students also could use the rubric if they need more guidance.

Step 3 — Large-group feedback (25 minutes)
Students should report back to the large group on the points they assessed.

What worked and didn’t work about each policy or guideline? The group who created the policy or guideline should lead the discussion concerning this. Have someone from each group take notes.

Step 4 — Assignment (5 minutes)
Students responsible for each segment of the policy or guideline should plan how they will revise any content. These will be due at the beginning of class tomorrow.

Teacher should remind students to reference the rubric provided.

Differentiation
As indicated, it’s important for students to evaluate what they have. If any item is missing or they would like to include one not listed above, students should craft the missing procedure or guideline.

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Op/Ed Writing With An Ethics Twist: An In-Class Lesson

Posted by on Apr 11, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

By Megan Fromm

This lesson was inspired by the recent Twitterfest regarding Kansas high school student Emma Sullivan’s tweet about the governor during a trip to the capital. The lesson will take 30+ minutes, and students will need their own paper and pencil. Here are some links for background information on the incident, which will come in handy toward the end of the lesson.

Intro:

Ask students to discuss openly what things they may not like about their school (of course, remind them that they should be as respectful as possible in this discussion). It could be anything, but the point is to stimulate a 5-minute or so discussion (that will likely get a bit heated, that’s OK!).

Write some of their statements on the board (ie: the school food sucks, the principal is mean, the school doesn’t let us have any say, lunch periods are too short, teachers give too much homework, etc). Leave blank space under the statements, and after you have a range of claims, have students go back to the ideas on the board and write supporting facts underneath each claim.  These must be provable facts, researchable items of support that lead them to believe those claims.

Exercise:

Choose the claim that has the LEAST number of supporting facts underneath. Students will then take 5-10 minutes to write the beginnings of an opinion piece on this topic (some might write 500 words, but encourage students to get at least a couple paragraphs down—you’re not editing for spelling or grammar, but how they express their opinion using ONLY the facts on the board to support their opinion).

Once the time is up, discuss with the class how easy/hard this was. What kind of information do they wish they had to support their opinions? What questions would they ask to get more information? How seriously do they think the administration/teachers/other students would take their opinion, considering the lack of facts to support it? What other facts would it take to convince people of their claim? How easy/hard would it be to argue with the opinion you’ve established?

Now, after the time is up, pick the claim with the MOST number of supporting facts, and repeat the exercise. They are allowed to support their opinion ONLY with the facts on the board. (Note: if you don’t have any claim with at least 5-7 facts, provide a few more “facts” of your own for the student to incorporate in their writing.)

Again, once the time is up, discuss how writing about this claim was different. Was it easier (it should have been)? Why? How did having more facts add to their argument?  How do they think the administration or student body would respond to these opinion pieces versus the first? How easy/hard would it be to argue with the opinion you’ve established in this piece?

Takeaway:

Follow up their responses with a discussion on informed opinions, and the value of opinion writing when it is supported by facts and research.  This process is similar to how they should start writing opinion pieces in the school paper: it all starts with a complaint, a grievance, an idea, a perspective, but the professionals know how to support their perspectives with research, facts, and explanations that sound intelligent and insightful instead of whiny.  Their research builds them up, making it harder for critics to attack what they are saying.

Follow-up

Now, use the story links at the beginning as background information to discuss what happened in Kansas with your students/staff. Once they know what has happened with Emma Sullivan, have them make a list on the board of questions or facts that would need to be addressed in order to support Sullivan’s twitter claim that the governor “sucks.”  Imagine she were writing a full opinion/editorial piece—how much information would she need to know?

“Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Finally, (depending on your time, this could be a whole different discussion) discuss with students why it is so important that as journalists, we support even our opinion/editorial perspectives with facts and research.  Why do we need to be responsible and accurate with opinion writing? Why must facts be involved? Who are we responsible to? Emma was not a journalist, no one was counting on her to be accurate, fair, and clear—what if someone on your newspaper staff wrote a tweet like hers? How can journalists have opinions but still be respected, respectful, and responsible? What kind of issues should we consider in regards to our school journalists using social media to express their opinions?  The school decided not to mandate a punishment, but what if her tweet was a line in an article in the school newspaper? 

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Op/Ed Writing With An Ethics Twist: An In-Class Lesson

Posted by on Nov 30, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

By Megan Fromm

This lesson was inspired by the recent Twitterfest regarding Kansas high school student Emma Sullivan’s tweet about the governor during a trip to the capital. The lesson will take 30+ minutes, and students will need their own paper and pencil. Here are some links for background information on the incident, which will come in handy toward the end of the lesson.

Intro:

Ask students to discuss openly what things they may not like about their school (of course, remind them that they should be as respectful as possible in this discussion). It could be anything, but the point is to stimulate a 5-minute or so discussion (that will likely get a bit heated, that’s OK!).

Write some of their statements on the board (ie: the school food sucks, the principal is mean, the school doesn’t let us have any say, lunch periods are too short, teachers give too much homework, etc). Leave blank space under the statements, and after you have a range of claims, have students go back to the ideas on the board and write supporting facts underneath each claim.  These must be provable facts, researchable items of support that lead them to believe those claims.

Exercise:

Choose the claim that has the LEAST number of supporting facts underneath. Students will then take 5-10 minutes to write the beginnings of an opinion piece on this topic (some might write 500 words, but encourage students to get at least a couple paragraphs down—you’re not editing for spelling or grammar, but how they express their opinion using ONLY the facts on the board to support their opinion).

Once the time is up, discuss with the class how easy/hard this was. What kind of information do they wish they had to support their opinions? What questions would they ask to get more information? How seriously do they think the administration/teachers/other students would take their opinion, considering the lack of facts to support it? What other facts would it take to convince people of their claim? How easy/hard would it be to argue with the opinion you’ve established?

Now, after the time is up, pick the claim with the MOST number of supporting facts, and repeat the exercise. They are allowed to support their opinion ONLY with the facts on the board. (Note: if you don’t have any claim with at least 5-7 facts, provide a few more “facts” of your own for the student to incorporate in their writing.)

Again, once the time is up, discuss how writing about this claim was different. Was it easier (it should have been)? Why? How did having more facts add to their argument?  How do they think the administration or student body would respond to these opinion pieces versus the first? How easy/hard would it be to argue with the opinion you’ve established in this piece?

Takeaway:

Follow up their responses with a discussion on informed opinions, and the value of opinion writing when it is supported by facts and research.  This process is similar to how they should start writing opinion pieces in the school paper: it all starts with a complaint, a grievance, an idea, a perspective, but the professionals know how to support their perspectives with research, facts, and explanations that sound intelligent and insightful instead of whiny.  Their research builds them up, making it harder for critics to attack what they are saying.

Follow-up

Now, use the story links at the beginning as background information to discuss what happened in Kansas with your students/staff. Once they know what has happened with Emma Sullivan, have them make a list on the board of questions or facts that would need to be addressed in order to support Sullivan’s twitter claim that the governor “sucks.”  Imagine she were writing a full opinion/editorial piece—how much information would she need to know?

“Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Finally, (depending on your time, this could be a whole different discussion) discuss with students why it is so important that as journalists, we support even our opinion/editorial perspectives with facts and research.  Why do we need to be responsible and accurate with opinion writing? Why must facts be involved? Who are we responsible to? Emma was not a journalist, no one was counting on her to be accurate, fair, and clear—what if someone on your newspaper staff wrote a tweet like hers? How can journalists have opinions but still be respected, respectful, and responsible? What kind of issues should we consider in regards to our school journalists using social media to express their opinions?  The school decided not to mandate a punishment, but what if her tweet was a line in an article in the school newspaper? 

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