As scholastic media and their advisers move more to online media and use more social media as a reporting tool, verification remains a critical issue.
Enter the Verification Handbook, a product of Poynter’s Craig Silverman and American Copy Editors Society (ACES) Merrill Perlman.
Subtitled “A definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage” it comes across as a thorough, easy to use and authoritative tool for our students to use as they grow into digital and social media reporting.
Fourth in a series of articles about student journalism that makes a difference
Jane Blystone, MJE
Covering a taboo topic like “rape culture” can be very daunting to any journalist. However the scholastic journalists at Palo Alto High School did not let the culture of silence deter them from telling covering this story that their peers needed to read. Students saw 3000+ copies of “Verde” distributed and 25,000 hits to their sister publication’s website, www.palyvoice.com, move into the public arena.
Their adviser, Paul Kandell, shared the intensity of the work done by the students to cover this story in a thorough and sensitive manner. “With 3,000 print copies, 25,000+ online hits (as of May 1) and countless retellings through print, radio, TV and online interviews by Verde editors, the “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” package has broadly impacted awareness and discussion of a taboo subject: “rape culture” and its presence in high school life, particularly when combined with alcohol abuse. The package feels like a public inoculation: It’s hard to imagine any teen reading the story and being as cavalier about drinking or sex – or slut-shaming girls who have been raped. The more who read it the better.”
Students took the initiative to work with the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism, the Student Press Law Center, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a Poynter Institute course work on “Reporting on Sexual Violence.” Was the work intense work? Yes. Was the issue hard to write? Yes. Was the work worth it? Yes. Has it made a difference? Absolutely, and for all time.
Kandell is right and we share these documents with you to show you that well-trained and uncensored scholastic journalists can tackle hard-hitting stories with great depth, broad coverage and a sensitivity that is humbling.
1. Lisie Sabbag’s article “‘You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped’”
2. Will Queen’s piece “Breaking the Silence,”
3. Staff Editorial editorial.
4. Interviews of male students “From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys,”
5. Savannah Cordova’s column Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you
6. Staff infographic The state of rape today
7. Complete issue of Verde PDF of Verde Magazine on issuu
8. Letter sent to faculty http://palyvoice.com/2013/04/23/copy-of-introduction-letter-sent-to-faculty/
PART 2 OF a 3-PART SERIES
An experienced Ohio newspaper adviser teams up with a former student — who now has a law degree — to teach the staff about using public records. An alleged rape on campus requires student editors to stand their ground accessing information about it. Once they have details about the incident, they have to decide just what they should – or maybe should not – use. It’s a tale that has all the makings of excellent reporting.
An unexpected faculty meeting 10th period in mid-September. Police in the halls earlier in the day. All the students at Shaker Heights High School were talking, but the journalism students were more than curious.
“When I came back (to the journalism room) after the meeting, I told them I was forbidden to talk about it,” adviser Natalie Sekicky said. “Yes, there was an incident. Yes, something happened. But we have to be sensitive.”
Part of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission’s Constitution Day lessons and activity package. The whole package can be seen here: http://jeasprc.org/constitution-day-2013-teaching-materials-and-lessons/
by Jeff Kocur
Objective: For students to explore ethical situations using the TUFF formula as described in the lesson. This unit focuses possible discussion points for inclusion in editorial policies.
Primary Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
Secondary Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1b, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1d
Introduction: Start the class with the following hypothetical situation: “A student on staff has overheard his father (a police officer in a neighboring town) talking about pulling over your high school principal for suspicion of drunk driving. The staff member heard his father report that the principal was barely over the legal limit. And then would ask the following questions:
- How do you verify the accuracy of this? Is the father a reliable source? Where else could you get the info you needed?
- Does the community deserve to know if one of their leaders engages in this behavior?
- How much does the school board know about this?
- Does the fact that the infraction was just over the legal limit influence your decision?
- Whose interest should prevail in this instance?
- How do you negotiate what is fair here?
Don’t self-censor. Learn how to approach controversial stories with confidence and professionalism. #25HZLWD
Sometimes, being a student journalist means going head-to-head with others over stories that make people—even those on your staff—uncomfortable. Often, students are incredibly thoughtful and sensitive toward what stories might create tension or even generate real scrutiny of a person or process in their school.
Feeling wary about a story, and about what could happen if you publish that story, is a completely normal reaction. But it’s important to remember that having caution and sensitivity towards a subject doesn’t mean you should drop the story completely. Professional news media cover sensitive topics on a daily basis, and figuring out how to do this is one of the most important lessons student journalists can learn.
When you are faced with covering a difficult or sensitive story, take the time to consider all your options, discuss the ethical implications and ask important legal questions. You CAN approach controversial stories with professionalism, but it takes time and effort, and willingness on your part not to self-censor the tough stuff.