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Tips for reporting the year’s toughest story

Posted by on Oct 7, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Bowen, MJE

It’s the story of the year, perhaps even the decade. The general topic is listed in the top 10 issues of concern for teens in almost every poll. Misunderstandings and misinformation play a big role, and adults so often don’t know how to talk about it either. This could and should be where student journalists step up, yet, sadly, it’s one of the hardest for them to write about.

Sex. And in particular, sexual assault, has been a female concern for a long time, getting more attention with Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo last year. And now with the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, teen males see the impact it could have on them – rightly or wrongly.

So, can student journalists write about it? Of course, they can – and should. Some administrators – face it, ALL administrators – may squirm at the thought, but how a staff covers the topic will make a huge difference and might help determine their success.

Here are some things to think about if your students want to write about sexual assault and some helpful resources as well.

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Stories students can best tell:
Reporting protests, walkouts and marches

Posted by on Mar 29, 2018 in Blog, Featured, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Between March 14 and March 24, the SPRC shared legal and ethical guidelines as well as coverage suggestions for reporting walkouts, protests and marches.

Because the topics are still ongoing and current, we’re loading all of our advice under one banner, for your convenience.

If you have other questions or examples of coverage you would like to share here, please submit them through the comments section below.

We intend to add material as needed or available.

Students, join movement to make change: Mary Beth Tinker
Legal issues in covering protests
Tips for reporting protests
Tips of audio reporting of protests, walkouts
Plan and pack for social media coverage of protests
More than a march: a civics lesson and a wake-up call
SPRC package offers  insights for reporting protests, marches
Reporting stories student journalists can best tell

Shared materials 

• Eric Garner shared this collaborative documentary created by the students of WMSD-TV at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as students and alum from schools across the country. It covers the days after the incident as the school begins the rebuilding, and healing, process. youtu.be/8EB5Uk5l660

• Coverage by Harker School of San Jose and San Francisco student marches. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JufhGhnFAbk

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Tips for reporting protests

Posted by on Mar 20, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

1,800 students, faculty and staff hold hands inthe halls in a unity chain to support Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, March 14. Photo by Theo Yoder, Harrisonburg High, used with permission.

by Candace Bowen, MJE
Covering a protest isn’t like covering a pep rally. The adrenalin rush might be similar, but the consequences are not. With marches in Washington, D.C. and
many other cities, it’s vital for reporters to prepare for what they might encounter.

The Student Press Law Center has helped by focusing on the legal issues involved. But beyond knowing about rights and risks, what else should reporters know? Here’s a list for student journalists covering protests, though by no means a complete one.

  1. Realize you are there to observe and report, gather facts and details, not to participate or support those involved. This is the most important rule when covering a walkout or protest, no matter how sympathetic you may feel towards the cause.
  2. Decide what journalists from your school’s media are going. It’s always better to have more than one. Make sure you’re in touch with your newsroom and with others who know where you are. It’s vital to have a way to communicate with others on your staff covering the event. You might need help with video or audio if you discover an important aspect to cover. You would definitely want to be in contact in case of an emergency. Have a place to meet that’s secure if events become dangerous or chaotic. 
  3. Decide what method of reporting you want to use. Are you gathering information to write a story later? If so, have pen and reporter’s notebook or a smart phone with voice memos you can use. If you plan to tweet the events, discuss ahead of time with your editor how to ensure you are posting accurate, verified information. If you are live streaming, be sure you have the right equipment. Facebook Live works, but here are some other free apps that might be even better. You might also want natural sounds to add to an audio soundbite, so a little higher quality sound app like Voice Record Pro might be worthwhile.
  4. Be prepared for the protest. Dress appropriately for the weather. This may seem obvious, but if you’re wet and cold, you won’t be able to handle your equipment or take notes. Bring snacks like granola bars and water. You don’t know how long a protest will last.
  5. Have and display your press credentials prominently, although doing so could create its own problems. (See #7 below) If you have never had any created for your publication, talk to a local newspaper and see what theirs are like. Make ones that look professional.
  6. Let the police know you are merely doing your job to report what is going on. In previous protests, journalists have been injured and arrested, even when they were following the law. In 2017, there were 23 arrests and 25 physical attacks on journalists, most of them at protests, according to data collected by the US Press Freedom Tracker.
  7. Be aware of the dangers. Sadly, some people today consider journalists the enemy. The crowd may include friends, but counter protesters and others – even the police — could make it difficult for you to perform your job. Rallies earlier this year have included some participants who are armed. If heckled, it’s better to retreat, especially to a spot with other journalists, than to let the confrontation escalate. Be aware of your surroundings. Know where you could go for safety if the crowd gets out of control.
  8. Interview security officers in charge if at all possible, though don’t get in their way. What is the crowd estimate? What is their plan of action? To hold protesters in a limited area? To break up the crowd at a certain time? To do nothing and just monitor the situation unless protesters present a physical threat?
  9. Interview protesters, too. If the event is not in your town and you’re covering a larger protest in a nearby city or if you and those from your school have gone to a major city, make plans to meet at a certain time and place or be sure you have a way to reach them. Their thoughts and words (and photos!) would be most important to your audience, so you need to make sure you get that. Be sure to get names and contact information of resources so you can verify information later.
  10. Think of questions your audience wants to know. What will they not find in the local or national press? Maybe it’s what teens in the crowd think and are doing. Stay around if there’s any police or governmental press conference after the protest is over. Follow up by finding the number of arrests, the crowd estimate and what charges might be filed.

This is important news to cover – so it’s vital to do so professionally, ethically and legally. It’s also important to do so safely.

 

 

 

 

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Reporting stories student journalists
can best tell

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
The above statement is a good reminder or our social responsibility to report all aspects of teen issues – those with good, bad and impact – because our audiences  have a right to know.

These are stories student journalists can tell best.

As journalists we do not actively protest, lead walkouts or engage others We examine issues and events with diverse points of view, in context, accurate and complete that might as effectively create change.

We are mirrors to reflect events and candles to illuminate causes and issues that surround us, like the March 14 and March 24 planned protests, marches and discussions initiated by student reactions to the shooting deaths of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Our journalistic leadership should not prevent expression of our personal feelings and views. Our first obligation is to the truth as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write in The Elements of Journalism.

“A community that fails to reflect  its community deeply will not succeed,” the authors write in Elements, third edition.”But a newspaper that does not challenge its community’s values and preconceptions will lose respect for failing to provide the honesty and leadership newspapers are expected  to offer.”

In this case and others, student media can best tell that story.

We lead when we channel our insights into reporting so communities – or societies – can make intelligent and informed decisions affecting our democracy.

To assist students as they report events and issues surrounding walkouts and protests, local and national, the SPRC begins a series of blogposts focusing on protest in America, its relevance and why student media should make every effort to report on its deeper issues.

We start our discussion with the following links and will continue March 19.

  • Covering controversy  Controversy is often in the eye of the beholder. The best way to prevent a subject from becoming controversial is to use verifiable information, in context, from reliable sources – truthful, accurate, thorough and complete reporting. Students should be able to show why they used some information and not other. They should be transparent about why their coverage was important.
  • Practice sensitivity in your reporting  How do we, as today’s information consumers and creators, sift through the rumors, the gossip, the failed memories, the spin to capture something as accurately as possible? How can we overcome our own limits of perception, our biases, our experience and come to an account people will see as reliable. This essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. Controversy is in the eyes of the beholder. Our job is make sure anything controversial is reported thoroughly, accurately and coherently.
  • Respecting privacy and public space important for photographers, too  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. Student journalists should check the legal and ethical parameters of public space and the latest recommendations for journalistic activity from the Student Press Law Center.
  • Student Press Law Center online guide and resources for student journalists The new resource page is just one of several major steps SPLC took to ensure student journalists can cover protests, walkouts and the growing gun control discussions freely and fairly. See its news release: http://bit.ly/2ozAW5o
  • Covering walkouts and protests   From the SPLC, this guide provides helpful information student journalists reporting protests and walk-outs.

 

 

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Make it matter: Verification essential
as journalists seek truth QT46

Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Kristin Taylor

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. Looking at real life examples such as the process NYT reporter Suzanne Craig used to verify Trump’s tax records will help to see the steps responsible reporters take to ensure accuracy.

Being accurate means verifying information gathering in the reporting process. Whether it’s how to spell a name or if the percentages the treasurer is giving you add up to 100, always question and check the facts.

One good method to corroborate “facts” you receive is to make sure others agree. Ask the same question to several sources and make sure you get the same answers. If you don’t, dig deeper.

You should practice identifying verifiable facts in article drafts and create strategies you can use to verify those facts, such as how to check quotes for accuracy without sharing the entire article draft with the source, how to use secondary sources to verify facts, how to check information with multiple sources to provide more context and how to verify images and information on social networks.

Some suggestions:

  • Set up multiple deadlines for stories so editors can watch reporters’ progress. This helps cut down on the last-minute rush to deadline when reporters run out of time to verify.
  • Be sure all reporters know what to say if a source – particularly a school administrator or an intimidating adult – asks to read a complete story ahead of time. Create a process wh
  • ere students can check quotes for accuracy without showing the source the whole piece.Ask multiple sources the same question to make sure their answers line up.

Guideline: Journalists should approach their reporting and interviewing with a healthy dose of skepticism. This doesn’t mean they should trust no one, but it means they should be aware of potential conflicts of interest or barriers to receiving accurate information. Reporters should always verify, even if the information seems incredibly obvious and simplistic. Verifying information is much like fact-checking. Students should seek multiple forms of evidence to confirm information.

Social Media Post/Question: Why is it important for students to verify information as part of the reporting process?

Reasoning/suggestions: One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. That means being accurate, and accuracy means verifying. Whether it’s how to spell a name or if the percentages the treasurer is giving you add up to 100, always question and check the facts.

One good method to corroborate “facts” you receive is to make sure others agree. Ask the same question to several sources and make sure you get the same answers. If you don’t, dig deeper.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process. Looking at real life examples such as the process NYT reporter Suzanne Craig used to verify Trump’s tax records will help students to see the steps responsible reporters take to ensure accuracy.

Students should practice identifying facts that can be verified in article drafts and create strategies reporters can use to verify those facts, such as how to check quotes for accuracy without sharing the entire article draft with the source, how to use secondary sources to verify facts, how to check information with multiple sources to provide more context and how to verify images and information on social networks.

Suggestions include:

  • Set up multiple deadlines for stories so editors can watch reporters’ progress. This helps cut down on the last-minute rush to deadline when reporters run out of time to verify.
  • Be sure all reporters know what to say if a source – particularly a school administrator or an intimidating adult – asks to read a complete story ahead of time. Create a process where students can check quotes for accuracy without showing the source the whole piece.
  • Ask multiple sources the same question to make sure their answers line up.

Resources:

The Time I Found Donald Trump’s Tax Records in My Mailbox” – Susanne Craig

American Press Institute’s guidelines for verification and accuracy

How do journalists verify? A Poynter Institute Media Wire column by Canadian researchers delves into the answers.

New research details how journalists verify information – Craig Silverman, Poynter

Tools for verifying and assessing the validity of social media and user-generated content – Josh Stearns and Leighton Walter Kille, Journalist’s Resource

FactChecking Day – Poynter

Fact-checking resources – SchoolJournalism.org

Are you a journalist? Download this free guide for verifying photos and videos – Alastair Reid

Should journalists outsource fact-checking to academics? – Alexios Mantzarlis

Journalists and their sources – Thomas Patterson (talk at Carnegie)

 

 

 

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