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those who would limit media

Posted by on Aug 16, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
A Boston Globe article about its Aug. 16 campaign for media to speak out against President Donald Trump’s attacks on journalists called the president’s rhetoric ”alarming.”`

“Whatever happened to the free press?  Whatever happened to honest reporting,” the reporter quotes the president in an Aug. 2 political rally in Pennsylvania. “They don’t report it. They only make it up.”

The Globe seeks editorial comment from other media to stress potential damage to our democracy from the intimidation,  and the importance of an unfettered press.

In a way, the current round of attacks from the president and others have some roots in the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision. The court’s majority enabled public school officials to limit student expression – not just of student media but any expression in school – under certain conditions.

We now have a generation of teachers and administrators, let along their students, who have only seen media control in many  of our schools.

In a way, the current round of attacks from the president and others have some roots in the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision. The court’s majority enabled public school officials to limit student expression – not just of student media but any expression in school – under certain conditions.

Hazelwood and other decisions essentially created an expectation student media in public schools could and should be controlled.

If school officials frowned upon criticism, demanded a positive image and prior reviewed and restrained where information did not match their their view of what student media should be, that became the norm. Challenge it and students faced censorship, suspension, withdrawal of school recommendations.

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The importance of staff editorials QT16

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 in Blog, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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.

But these editorials represent a unique and powerful opportunity for the board to be leaders in their school communities, and editors tempted to skip writing them should reconsider their priorities.

As overseers of all publication content, school news editors know more about what’s going on in their communities than just about anyone else in the school. As they read each article and listen with a journalist’s ear to what’s happening around them day-to-day, they can see patterns and problems most people cannot, adults included.

Coming together as a group, they can choose meaningful topics to address and think critically about what they want to say about those topics as a board. Once they reach a majority opinion on the topic, they can write collaboratively on a Google doc or take turns writing the first draft and then edit that draft into a clear, concise final piece.

Because staff editorials are unsigned, they carry more weight than a single writer’s opinion and may have greater impact. Well researched, authoritative editorials are powerful tools for change in a school community, and editorial boards should make them a priority.

 

Guideline:

Student journalists should act as candles lighting issues within their communities as well as mirrors reflecting current events. One way to enact this leadership is for the student editorial board to write regular unsigned editorials to advocate, solve a problem or commend. Editorial opinions should be clearly labeled and separate from the news section and should not affect objective news coverage.

Social Media Post/Topic:

Does your student editorial board write regular unsigned editorials? If not, they are missing an opportunity to lead.

Reasoning/suggestions: Student media show leadership in many ways, and one of the most traditional is through concise, focused and authoritative statements of well argued and supported opinion which represent the institutional voice of the student media.

These editorials are a unique opportunity for student leaders to give voice to student perspectives on important topics. Editorial board members who take this process seriously and write consistently can advocate for change, serve as calls to action or commend positive conditions.

Because staff editorials are unsigned, they carry more weight than a single writer’s opinion and may have greater impact.

Resources:

Quick Hit: Picking a topic for staff editorials, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Quick Hit: Staff editorial process, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Mirror, mirror on the wall,” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Where have the leaders gone?” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Editorials under attack, Student Press Law Center

Explained: why newspapers endorse presidential candidates, Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle

They need the freedom to make mistakes, too,” Lindsay Coppens, JEA Press Rights Committee

Reading newspapers: Editorial and opinion pieces, Learn NC

Video: How to write an editorial, New York Times

Writing an Editorial, Alan Weintraut

 

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Tips for training ethical reporters

Posted by on Aug 26, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

What’s the best advice you can give your beginning reporters? What’s going to help them enjoy what they are doing because they’re doing it well?

Columbia Journalism Review had an outstanding article in mid-August by Adeshina Emmanuel and Justin Ray. “Top journalists reveal the best reporting advice they have received,”  which covers a wide range of suggestions from keeping lists for future story ideas to starting at a small news outlet so you can make your mistakes there. (Maybe that applies to student media, too?)

But to me the best suggestions are those that warn young reporters not to have preconceived notions when they start to write an article. It’s hard to get at the truth that way.

An exchange with student reporters that always raises my hackles:

Me: How’s your story coming?

Cub reporter: I just need one more quote.

No! She may need a quote to show an expert view or make the article more lively, but the thing she really needs is more information – and not necessarily when she thinks she should go out and get.

In the CJR article, The Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan says she’s not sure where she learned this – maybe “Reporting 101,” but she still finds it helpful. “Report against your own biases. That is, include the reporting that has a chance of proving you wrong, not just confirming what you already think or think that you know. At the very least, this will allow you to know in advance what the objections to a story might be. It tends to make reporting more fair—and more bulletproof.”

The underlining is mine because this may be the most important lesson to learn about ethical journalism. Any reporter who approaches a story convinced about what he or she will find is going to miss the real story out there. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds can be so sure what’s right and wrong, real and false, they make assumptions that destroy their reporting.

So, the most important thing they need to learn is probably not AP Style or where to put the commas – it’s starting out with an open mind that will allow them to find and write the truth.

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Note: Another CJR article full of good suggestions and a link in this same CJR piece is “Eight simple rules for accurate journalism,” by Craig Silverman, written in 2011 but very true still today.

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What you don’t know COULD hurt you

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

Recent applications for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award revealed some knowledge gaps. Perhaps it’s not surprising that school principals couldn’t define unprotected speech on the forms each school submitted. So often media advisers and student publication staff members have to do a little educating of their administrators.

But a sizable number of advisers and student editors, who also had to respond to the same question, didn’t know the answer either….

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Satire: Easy to confuse when used without context

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoby Tom Gayda
Aw, satire. So fun and entertaining when done well. How many times have I been taken aback for a second by an Onion headline? More than I care to share! Satire can be very powerful when done with purpose, but satire for the sake of satire often falls flat.

My students are always open to try new things, and I always let the editor make the final decision. A few years ago the newspaper editor suggested a satire page. I voiced a few concerns, but said if you’re going to do this, just make sure the page is clearly labeled as such. The editor did fine: the page was labeled “Satire” and the folio called the paper “NOT The Northern Lights.” Seemed to be good to me.
However, after the second issue we quickly learned people don’t pay much attention to folios. Two stories appeared on the satire page: “Mascot name offensive, changes needed” was a nod to the use of Redskins as a team mascot, this time saying our Panther was a bad choice and that PETA was needed to intervene; the other story, “Like government, school shutdown impending” poked fun at the Obamacare controversy by discussing how school was soon to have full nurse coverage during the school day and how that would cut in to other programs. Entertaining? Yes. Best satire ever? No.

With the paper in print and online, eventually alumni saw the stories and emailed. Now mind you, just a few, but enough to learn a lesson or two. First, not everyone gets satire. Two, you offend your readers when you point out to them the story was satirical and not to be taken seriously. 

With the paper in print and online, eventually alumni saw the stories and emailed. Now mind you, just a few, but enough to learn a lesson or two. First, not everyone gets satire. Two, you offend your readers when you point out to them the story was satirical and not to be taken seriously.
Is satire worth it? Maybe sometimes, but remember: most newspapers don’t include satire, so it is easy for a reader to get confused when what is a typical straightforward paper decides to enter the world of comedy. Perhaps a special publication for satire would be a better way to go.

Model ethical guidelines for satire
Satire can make for entertaining writing, however two major points should be considered when discussing the inclusion of satire: 1: Will readers get “it?” and 2: Even if readers do get “it,” are you walking a fine line with the type of content expected of your publication and that which isn’t necessarily journalistic?

While there may be nothing inherently unethical about including satirical content in a student publication, is that the type of content the publication should be known for?

Consider this: does the nightly news ever take a segment for anchors to report on something that didn’t really happen? The back page of the Washington Post run Onion-like stories? Certainly there is a place for satire, but is the legitimate news source the correct place?

Staff manual process
Discuss the need for policies and information about satire depending on the type of media you are. While satire might be appropriate for a literary magazine or humor magazine, does it have a place in the newspaper or on the website?

Suggestions
• Satire can be an effective tool when writing an opinion piece. Consider limiting satire to the opinion pages, where it is clearly labeled opinion.

  • Satire online can create issues. Consider a former student searching for school news and comes upon a satirical piece that isn’t obviously satirical by just Googling the school name. Is the desire to include satire in a legitimate news source worth the confusion? Is satire journalistic?
  • Some schools produce special edition papers for April Fools Day. Imagine The New York Times doing the same. Hard to do, isn’t it? Why sacrifice the integrity of the paper for fun? Perhaps if satire is so important, the staff should produce a separate humor publication that doesn’t conflict with news. Staffs often think everyone will get the joke, but that’s not always the case. Further, the next time you do try to cover hard-hitting news the readers might think back to how you took everything as a joke the last issue.
  • Spend time discussing what your role as a journalist is. Are you a trained satirical writer? Just as we would advise against horoscopes and advice columns as teens often aren’t qualified to provide such content, how does satire fit in with a serious journalistic program?

Resources
Introduction to Satire, JEA  
Avoiding Libel in Satire, JEA 
Ethics and Satire, JEA 
Satire Writing Tips 
How to Start Writing Satire

To find the rest of the Foundations ethical guidelines and more, go here and here.

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