Pages Navigation Menu

Make it matter: Scholastic journalism
must do more than give facts QT45

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Kristin Taylor
How can student journalists keep their publications relevant when information spreads faster than they can report it?

Professional journalists have struggled with this problem for years. Before the advent of the internet and social media, news producers — whether newspaper, radio or broadcast — were citizens’ primary source of information. News consumers found out about terrorists attacks and new government policies when they opened the morning paper or turned on the evening news.

In modern times, however, those gatekeepers have lost control. Now people have more information than they know what to do with. This flood of data creates a number of problems — especially in terms of helping people separate fact from fiction — but I want to focus today on the issue it creates in terms of engagement.

If news consumers have the facts about an event — or at least think they do — why should they care when the paper publishes a story about it? We hope they care because they trust traditional news sources to have a vetting process for their stories; unlike Tweets at 2 a.m., these stories have been fact-checked and include a variety of primary and expert sources to ensure truthfulness in a holistic sense. News literate consumers know the value of good journalism, we hope, and will therefore seek it out.

Beyond getting the facts right, good journalism has a larger responsibility to serve as sense-maker. “When most readers say they expect journalists to tell them what’s happening — whether that’s the latest outrages reported out of Kharkiv or city council in Kalamazoo — they mean connect the dots,” Ken Doctor writes. “No, they don’t want opinion — they want to know how the facts fit together to make an understandable whole.”

This is what sets major news sources such as the New York Times apart from local news sources, Doctor argues. “It’s authority,” he writes. “You read the Times to understand. Sometimes it does a better job of that than others, but its great success in reader revenue shows us its audience gets that part of the value equation. Yes, readers can get the facts of the Gaza War free in so many places, but they can’t get a volume of rich, contextual stories from both sides of the conflict elsewhere every day.”

In his essay “Journalism’s Moral Responsibility: Three Questions,” Bill Mitchell argues journalism has a moral obligation to cover important stories and help readers understand their importance. He poses three crucial questions:

  1. Do news organizations help citizens and communities, including political leaders, identify and respond to the most significant threats to well-being?
  2. Do news organizations pursue a well-grounded definition of what constitutes substantive coverage?
  3. Do news organizations take responsibility for how their work is pursued and how it is received?

The key, he argues, is to make important news salient. “In moral journalism, salient is more than important, interesting, or relevant. It’s more than selling a story that no one would otherwise read, or dumping it on an ignorant world with the righteous justification that it ought to be read. For journalists, Salient is a moral term, not a marketing one,” he writes. “Our moral responsibility is to cover significant threats to well-being, substantively, in such a way that our coverage leaps out, protrudes, and is strikingly and conspicuously prominent. So that it sears the conscience of our fellow citizens.”

He points to Laurel Leff’s research on the Times’ coverage of the Holocaust during 1939-1945. Leff found the Times did cover the Holocaust, but coverage tended to be on inside pages and was missing in editorial commentary and summaries of important news. In her report,

Leff writes, “Despite the detailed, credible information that was available, the American public actually did not know about the Holocaust while it was happening because mainstream American newspapers never presented the story of the extermination of the Jews in a way that highlighted its importance.” In other words, Mitchell concludes, “the Times had the story. It just didn’t make it salient.”

Mitchell’s essay aims at national and global news sources and news events on a much larger scale than those typical at a high school, clearly, but I believe this raises important questions for the moral responsibilities of scholastic journalists. If they want their reporting to matter — if they want their peers to read more than the humor columns or resta

Here are my suggestions for reworking Mitchell’s three questions for a scholastic journalism staff:

  1. Do you help members of the school community, including school and local leaders, identify and respond to the most significant problems affecting the community?
  2. Do you pursue a well-grounded definition of what constitutes substantive coverage, going beyond the who, what and where to explore how and why?
  3. Do you take responsibility for how your work is pursued

Although these questions are not a complete solution, they are a starting point for creating greater engagement without abandoning the most important stories.

Guideline:

Journalists should present relevant information in context so the audience has adequate information on which to base decisions. Context is just as important as factual accuracy and can help readers fully understand an issue and its relevance to their daily lives.

Social Media Post/Topic:

How can student journalists keep their publications relevant when information spreads faster than they can report it? Make it salient.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Staff members should not only fact-check their information but should also ask themselves questions such as “What does this story mean to my readers?” and “What do I want my readers to take away from this information?” This means gathering not only the 5Ws and H but also connecting dots for readers by helping them see related ideas, important relationships or significant background information. By assuming a topic is new to readers, editors can revise from the perspective of the audience and look for any holes that might be present.

Suggestions

  • Reporters should address all 5Ws and H. Training materials and checklists in the staff manual also should address helping readers understand what the information means and why it’s significant.
  • Part of the process may including asking members with no prior knowledge of a story to give feedback before publication or airing on whether the information provided is clear and paints a full picture of what is happening.
  • The staff manual should include material about how to solicit feedback from readers about what kinds of stories, details or information they need in order to better understand current events and make content salient.
  • Student media staffs should label analysis and opinion content so readers understand these are not objective news pieces.

 

Resources:

Good stories provide context, American Press Institute

Informing the news: The need for knowledge-based reporting, Journalists’ Resource

The newsonomics of how and why, Nieman Lab

Journalism’s Moral Responsibility: Three Questions, Poynter

10 essential principles from The Elements of Journalism, American Press Institute

“Context” is the new flavor for journalism, The Pomo Blog

Fast-Paced Journalism’s Neglect of Nuance and Context, Nieman Report

Read More

Quick Tips index

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Blog, Featured, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

A summary of SPRC

Forum status of student media
• If you’re developing a new policy, the Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends using language something like this:

[Name of publication] is a designated public forum for student expression. Student editors make all content decisions without prior review from school officials.

Prior review v. prior restraint
In brief, the Journalism Education Association has found prior review has no educational value. Instead, JEA believes it is simply the first step toward censorship and fake news. Prior review also contributes to self-censorship and lack of trust between students, advisers and administrators. Prior review conflicts with JEA’s adviser code of ethics.

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make
Students should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

What do you do in the event of student faculty death?
It’s important to have a guideline in place before a student or staff member dies. Journalists should report a student or staff death in an objective, consistent manner that has been decided when the staff manual is being revised. Choosing what to publish at the time of any tragedy is not wise and can cause staffs to make choices that create problems in the future.

Balance and objectivity are key to reporting
Balance and objectivity don’t mean isolation and a lack of care about people and their stories.

They do mean trying to report all points of view as best you can and providing background and context for the story.

Free press –– why students should make all decisions of content
For students to prepare themselves for their roles in a democracy, they must be able to practice guarantees of the First Amendment, thus knowing they can make a difference.

Avoid senior quotes; give them to senior class for publishing
The question of using senior quotes in student media came up recently on JEA’s listserv. The Scholastic Press Rights committee would urge schools not to run them, but turn them over too the senior class as part of its responsibility.

Should student media publish senior superlatives?
Publishing senior superlatives, if seniors decide they are worthwhile at all, is one of those “traditions” best moved from student media to those who most clearly benefit – the senior class.

So your student media want to do senior wills?
Because senior wills have minimal journalistic value and great potential for damage, they should not be used in school publications.

The issues with April Fools coverage
April Fool’s issues are fake news and can damage student media’s credibility.

Yes, some find them acceptable, but their negatives far outweigh their positives. The ultimate question is are they worth the risks?

Allowing sources to preview content is ethically questionable
The newest reporter on staff chooses to cover the story about the Science Department’s new policy on studying animal life. To do so, she must interview the head about a new policy on studying animal life. It’s fairly controversial because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is strongly opposed to dissection and the new curriculum for advanced biology includes that.

What to do if sources, including the expert, want to see the story ahead of time?

Takedown requests: When the right to preserve history conflicts with the desire to forget it
As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests.

The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

Publishing memes also means knowing copyright rules
Entertainment. Political statements. A way to comment on issues, events, people

And, if not done correctly, says Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, a way to violate the owner’s copyright. A violation several owners pursued.

Who should be on student media editorial boards, make decisions?
Because student media are productions of student work, only students should be on editorial boards of student media. That would include the general manager and producers of broadcast media.

The importance of staff editorials
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Covering controversy
Although some administrators would like for students to only publish “positive” stories, a journalist’s job is to watch and report on the school. This may involve students including stories that might make the school “look bad.”

Disturbing images: public’s right to know v. invasion of privacy
A 9-year-old girl, burning from napalm, runs naked down a Vietnam road. A vulture watches a Sudanese child, emaciated from famine, crawl across the ground. Two yellow-clad health workers carry a limp 8-year-old boy who might be infected with Ebola to a treatment facility.

Determine who owns student work before publication begins
Absent a written agreement indicating otherwise, student journalists own the copyright to the works they create. Each media outlet should ensure it has clear policies in place for staff members and the publication that spell out ownership and the right of the publication to use student work

The role of the adviser is multifold, but ethically, practically not a doer
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers.

That role means letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

How can my school get involved in the New Voices campaign?
Almost a quarter of all states have now passed legislation protecting voice in student media, and instilling the virtues of the First Amendment as state statute for student media. North Dakota’s success in 2015 seemed to spark the latest fire that has seen legislative recognition of student speech in Illinois, Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Empowering student decision-making
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers

Responsibility in scholastic media starts with ethics, accuracy, complete story
Administrators may want student media that depicts the school in a positive light, that promotes good news and overlooks the negative.

Is this responsible journalism?

Advisers may want student media that reflects students’ technical proficiency such as mechanics, grammar and style. Little else matters.

Is this responsible journalism?

Decision-making for most student broadcasts protected same as print, online
As more schools expand their journalism programs to include broadcast and radio, it should be clear how Tinker and Hazelwood positively or negatively affect broadcast programs

The answer is: it depends.

If they go out over the broadcast airways, Federal Communications Commission regulations apply.

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum
Forum concept reinforced by Dean v. Utica Community schools decision

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?
JEA historically has opposed prior review of student media by school officials.

That opposition continues.

Prior review leads only to control, active censorship and iis the first step toward the spread of fake news and less than complete disinformation.

What, students have rights?  Since 1943
Before the Barnette decision,when students came into conflict with public schools, the courts decided their cases—often against the students—without mentioning students’ right. They considered if the punishment was excessive (beating with a rawhide strap was okay in 1859). They also debated if it was the parents’ right or the schools’ right to discipline the students. The First Amendment was never mentioned.

Journalism integrity guides student media
As scholastic media advisers and students develop policies and guidelines to guide them with journalism standards, they should note these words: The only thing students have to lose as journalists is their credibility.

Ethical guidelines for monitoring yearbook coverage
Arguably, the two biggest complaints most yearbook staffs hear are that a wide cross section of the school is not covered adequately, and quotes are not represented accurately. These are tough criticisms to hear, but staffs must consider the potential criticism while they create the book.

Equipment purchase does not men content control
It has long been understood that school purchase of equipment or provision of a room that is not the only factor in who controls the content.

There other factors, including a guiding court decision.

Ethical photo editing, visuals
Student media should avoid electronic manipulation that alters the truth of a photograph unless it is used as art. In that case it should be clearly labeled as a photo illustration.

Academic dishonesty lessens media effectiveness
Dishonesty compromises the integrity and credibility of the student publication. The editorial board and/or adviser should address any instance of academic misconduct immediately

Social media that works in high school classrooms
Social media has had such a profound effect on journalism that it’s sometimes hard to remember how traditional news functioned before it. Reading this 2009 MediaShift article is a powerful reminder that Twitter wasn’t always the source of breaking news. In fact, as author Julie Posetti wrote just eight years ago, “Some employers are either so afraid of the platform or so disdainful about its journalistic potential that they’ve tried to bar their reporters from even accessing Twitter in the workplace.”

Handling online comments
Deciding whether to accept online comments can be a tough decision they can carry a lot of baggage. How to review and verify them? How does refusing to run them affect your forum status?

And that’s only the first decision.

When sources don’t respond
The publication staff will provide every reasonable opportunity for sources to respond to a request for an interview. Students must first attempt to contact the source in person or through an administrative assistant. If the person is not available, they should attempt calling and leaving a message with a request for an in-person interview. If, after 24 hours, the source does not respond to the telephone call, staffers should send an email requesting an in-person interview with a clear deadline by which the staffer will include the line “the source did not respond to an interview request.”

The perks of being a wallflower: How a school district escaped a lawsuit by fostering an independent student press
Because Lexington High School students made all the editorial, business and staffing decisions for both the LHS Yearbook and the school paper, a suit against the district failed. The school’s superintendent, principal, the two publication advisers and the five school members of the school committee escaped unharmed from the suit that alleged they were violating the First and Fourteenth amendments when the school publications refused two ads.

Choosing topics for editorials
The best and most effective staff editorials are those that tackle an important topic and then give audiences a reason and a way to address it.

The importance of staff edits: critical thinking, leadership
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Given all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to see why writing an unsigned staff editorial might seem a lower priority than getting the next edition to print or finishing that great feature on the new student body president.

What is the process if someone wants to submit a guest commentary
Accepting guest commentaries, offered randomly, reinforces student media’s role as a public forum for student expression.

Letters or commentary can enhance public forum role
Publishing letters to the editor is another way of fulfilling student media’s forum obligations to engage audiences through journalistic responsibility.

That said, students should establish clear criteria for identifying the authors, receiving and verifying the information. Such viewpoint neutral guidelines do not violate the author’s free expression rights.

The process of deciding staff editorials
Keys to effective editorials include focused positions, credible sources and meaningful topics. If the topic is focused on issues and problems, strong editorials include a call to action or possible solutions.

“I wrote that just to get a grade:” Students should write what they believe
To ensure credibility, students should only write opinion stories that represent their beliefs. If, during the research phase, the student changes his or her mind, then the story should be reassigned or the content of the story be altered to reflect the change in view.

Interviewing ‘people on the street’
Four categories of sources exist: experts, authorities, knowledgeable and reactors (sometimes called bozos). The first three should be credible. The last not so much.

Why ask “what do you think about the tax levy?” if the person has no knowledge at all?

Students should ask permission to record before interviews begin and ethical reminders about interviewing
One of those areas easily overlooked is asking for permission to record interviews. Ethically — and in some states legally — students should always ask permission to record an interview.

Make it matter: Scholastic journalism must do more than give facts
How can student journalists keep their publications relevant when information spreads faster than they can report it?

Professional journalists have struggled with this problem for years. Before the advent of the internet and social media, news producers — whether newspaper, radio or broadcast — were citizens’ primary source of information. News consumers found out about terrorist attacks and new government policies when they opened the morning paper or turned on the evening news

Make it matter: Verification essential as journalists seek truth
One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. Given that Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” their 2016 word of the year and the president has called venerable traditional news sources “fake news,” getting the facts right is more crucial than ever.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process.

Respecting privacy and public space  important for photographers
Student journalists should never invade the privacy of others while accessing information or photos for a story.

However. it is their journalistic duty to know what constitutes invasion of privacy or what spaces they are legally allowed to access and what spaces they are not legally allowed to access.

Seeking visual truth is just as important as written truth
A reporter working on a story pauses from her transcription. “Hm,” she thinks. “This is a good quote, but my source could have said it so much better. I’ll just change it around and add a bit …”

By this point, responsible student journalists and their advisers are horrified. Of course you can’t change a source’s quote! Our job is to seek truth and report it, not to create fiction.

Consider emotional impact as well as news values when choosing images
When the editors of the Panther Prowler, the student-run school newspaper for Newbury Park High School, decided to write a feature article about teenagers having sex in 2015, they knew it was going to be controversial. The controversy wasn’t just about the content of the article, however — it was also about the image they paired with it, which appeared on the cover of their special edition magazine.

Since the article’s focus was the impact of limited sex education in and out of the classroom, the editors decided to use an iconic sex ed image: a condom on a banana.

Keeping ads and content separate
Student journalists should maintain a wall between promotional/paid content and journalistic content.

That historical wall should remain intact to help reassure audiences the content they receive is as thorough and complete as possible.

As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in The Elements of Journalism, journalists’ first loyalty is to the truth while maintaining an independence from those they report.

Handling controversial ads/content
Student media should not discriminate against advertising based on students’ personal beliefs.

For example, students should attempt to include advertisers from multiple perspectives. According to the federal court decision in Yeo v. Lexington, student editors have the right to reject advertisements and school administrators are not legally responsible for advertising decisions students make.

Handling sponsored content, native ads
Although it is quite possible scholastic media will never face making a decision to run material known as sponsored content or native ads, students and advisers should prepare guidelines just in case.

Sponsored content and native advertising, two media terms for paid materials, are becoming a fact of life for media and consumers. That said, student media, when faced with publishing them, should act carefully and with the best interests of the audience/consumer first.

Ad placement 
Newspapers used to keep in-depth, front page and opinion pages completely separated from advertising.

The thinking was the advertising and promotion of products should not appear to influence a newspaper’s editorial choices. They wanted to keep their most important pages dedicated to the content they deemed most important.

Political ads: Who can place an advertisement
Students make all content decisions, including those related to advertising, and maintain the right to reject any ads.

Student media do not necessarily endorse the products or services offered in advertisements. Students should strive to retain as much control of funds or services obtained from the sale of advertising, subscriptions or other student fundraisers as possible. All businesses should have a street address

Accepting ads from competing organizations
Students who sell ads sometimes hesitate to solicit advertising from competing companies. They sometimes have a loyalty to one of their clients or they believe their clients will be frustrated if their competitor is also advertising in the same publication.

This is a good problem to have. Too many advertisers want to support your publication, and you should encourage a forum for advertising that is as robust as your editorial content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

‘I just wrote that to get a grade:’
Students should write what they believe QT42

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Guideline:

For opinion stories, students should stand behind what they write.

Key points/Action:

To ensure credibility, students should only write opinion stories that represent their beliefs. If, during the research phase, the student changes his or her mind, then the story should be reassigned or the content of the story be altered to reflect the change in view.

Stance:

Credibility is everything in journalism. Give the reader the ability to trust what you say.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel wrote in “Elements of Journalism” about the importance of transparency and credibility.

“If nothing else, this responsibility requires that journalists be as open and honest with audiences as they can about what they know and what they don’t. How can you claim to be seeking the truth when you’re not truthful with the audience in the first place?”

Students should heed this advice. Students must be truthful with their audience in all stories they write regardless of the type.

Resources:

The Best Way for Publishers to Build Credibility through Transparency, API

Elements of Journalism, Rosenstiel and Kovach

 

Read More

Accepting guest commentaries
enhances forum role QT 39

Posted by on Jan 3, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Accepting guest commentaries, offered randomly, reinforces student media’s role as a public forum for student expression.

This would not include the creation of stranding guest columns for administrations, faculty or other school or city officials.

Students should develop guidelines for accepting guest commentaries following the same legal and ethical guides they follow.

Guideline:

Guest commentaries are accepted at the discretion of the editors provided the writer abides by the same legal and ethical guidelines as the staff, does not overuse the privilege and does not exceed 500 words. Guest commentaries should not be from publications staff. Students have the final say on which commentary they will accept.

Social media post/question: What do we say when someone wants to submit a guest commentary?

Stance: Guest commentaries show up in professional newspapers all the time, and they are a fantastic way to engage the community. You should welcome hosting guest commentaries on your pages with the caveat that the editors still get to maintain editorial control.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Guest commentaries are opportunities for your community to have a voice on the pages you host. They are usually done in an extended opinion form of between 250-500 words.

Your guidelines must clearly spell out your procedures for accepting guest commentaries, and the editors still must maintain editorial control. Editorial control does not mean only including opinions with which you agree. In fact, you should use this opportunity to welcome differing viewpoints and voices. Making sure you have viewpoint agnostic guidelines will help to ensure you maintain some control of your content.

Resources:

Star Tribune Commentary Guidelines

 

Read More

Equipment purchase does not mean content control QT30

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

It has long been understood that school purchase of equipment or provision of a room that is not the only factor in who controls the content.

There other factors, including a guiding court decision.

According to Antonelli v. Hammond, “We are well beyond the belief that any manner of state regulation is permissible simply because it involves an activity which is a part of the university structure and is financed with funds controlled by the administration. The state is not necessarily the unrestrained master of what it creates and fosters.”

Even though that was about a college situation, it is applicable to student media that receive state or federal funds for their student media.

 

Policy and Guidelines

Students in designated forums for student expression control content decisions for their student media regardless of who bought the equipment.

Question: When and why should student media take down content, in print or online?

Key points/action: Simply put, state/government involvement in providing funding and facilities for student media does not give content control.

Guidance comes from a college case, Antonelli v. Hammond,  308 F, Supp. 1329 (D. Mass, 1970).

Stance: Advisers and student staffs need to understand and make others aware of this point, even adding it to editorial policies if applicable.

Reasoning/suggestions: According to the decision, “We are well beyond the belief that any manner of state regulation is permissible simply because it involves an activity which is a part of the university structure and is financed with funds controlled by the administration. The state is not necessarily the unrestrained master of what it creates and fosters.”

ResourcesAntonelli v. Hammond,  308 F, Supp. 1329 (D. Mass, 1970). Print reference is also available on page 40 of the red edition of Law of the Student Press.

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

 

 

 

Read More