As we head into a break for the holidays, three issues and concepts stand out as worth some future consideration.
• The First Amendment: In the land of the free, why are schools afraid of freedom by Charles Haynes.
Written by this First Amendment advocate following the JEA/NSPA Washington, DC, convention, the column challenges us all to question administrator misuse of First Amendment. The article cites instances of prior review to limit discussion of ideas and groups and the elimination of some groups from school student media coverage while permitting others. The last time I checked, ordering blanket silence on some groups served no educational value or pedagogy. Haynes likened this process as a fear of freedom and questioned such philosophy as a misplaced attempt to either make schools safe. He also urged all journalism programs in schools subject to prior review – or restraint – to build a campaign to end it. You certainly would have a legion of supporters.
• The epic Rolling Stone gang-rape fallout – and how major publications get it wrong. This is only one of many resources on this coverage that violated one of journalism’s basic principles: verify your information and ensure your sources are credible. Citing the premonition “something just doesn’t feel right” about a story, author Terrence McCoy leads with the story of Richard Bradley feeling the gang rape reported in Rolling Stone did not happen. Bradley, it seems, had some experience with this kind of thing before. He once edited Stephen Glass, McCoy wrote.
In a rush to get a seemingly wonderful story into print, journalists will not verify a story or have the right sources. Because such incidents happen more than we would like to admit, we must stress scholastic reporters like others have to go beyond pre-existing bias or view and learn to apply skills of skeptical knowing or crap-detecting or just plan digging to every story, every day and across every platform. It’s an ongoing lesson never to be dropped from our curricula or from our practices.
• A toolkit by the solutions journalism network and Pulitzer Center. This material caught my eye because it focuses on something we do not do enough of: Perspective reporting and identifying sources who strive for solutions. Historians have long said those who don’t learn about an issue or concept as destined to repeat it. Is it because journalists don’t do enough follow-up reporting, add enough perspective and address solutions? This particular piece might be just the right tool at the right time to help us not only report but to keep solutions or alternatives in the public’s eye. It’s certainly worth our time to investigate the concept and give its points a shakedown cruise. Even if our students do not deal with international issues, the principles and concepts presented are worth localization. Introducing at the scholastic level just might help students, whether they become commercial journalists or not, begin to know we need to think in terms of solutions as much as issues identification.
According to a new report from the American Library Association, Internet-filtering software blocks more content than required and deprives students of access to information and collaborative tools
Titled Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later, the report also argues those children most affected are the poor, who might not otherwise have unfiltered Internet Access if they cannot access it at school.
JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee would like to see how journalism programs currently fare in today’s filtered high schools.
We urge you to complete the linked survey to see what your schools filters block, either for your students or for other classes in your school.
Students surfing the Web themselves or interviewing others who do can provide students with a worthwhile experience in news literacy as they become informed about information availability and how that affects society’s knowledge and ability to act on that knowledge.
We hope this survey will gather enough representative information to allow JEA and others to design strategies to help journalism programs work in a less filtered environment.
This lesson plan by Lori Keekley can add structure to your searching.
- Click here to go to the survey.
- Each student or adviser should complete a separate form.
- Each form allows the student or adviser to identify multiple blocked sites
- Submit the results of your surveys from Sept. 24 to Oct. 3
- Submit all forms by Oct. 3
- If you gathered any of your information using audio or video or have any visual reporting, please feel free to share that with us here
- Use links on the accompanying graphic to access Internet filtering
- JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will post information about the results in the near future
- Publish results of your own surveys to show the local impact of filtering and share with us
- If you have questions or run into problems, contact us here
Several events in the world of scholastic journalism – and that affects it – occurred recently. Censorship issues have not taken a summer break:
• Both good and bad news exist for two publications in NJ. First the good news. John Wodnick, the adviser of the Allendale , NJ newspaper, said. “Thought you should know– the censored article was published today in the Senior Issue. Big victory for Adelina and the Fling! Here’s the SPLC article on the situation (there’s a link to a pdf of the article near the end of the news brief):” The adviser of the paper has since resigned. So, while the students had victories with two censorship cases in their favor, their advisers lost. This makes the third member of the GSSPA board lost, John Tagliareni of New Jersey, said.
In addition, there is further news, both good and bad, from Pemberton, NJ. The Student Press Law Center reported that The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, came out with its 2014 Jefferson Muzzles, the annual award it presents to those that “forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’” The organization gave the dubious distinction by “honoring” principal Ida Smith for the censorship case.
However, the students are now fighting to keep their journalism classes. While the enrollment numbers are down, in the past, the classes would have been consolidated. John Tagliareni spoke directly to the students, who are fighting the cuts. They, and adviser Bill Gurden, feel the cuts are retribution for the battles and their victory of the publication of their censored article. Sound familiar? The latest bit of information is definitely not good.
• Neshaminy, PA, on the issue of using the term “Redskins:”
–Update: The Neshaminy board police committee voted Tuesday, June 24, to move the full policy, #600, requiring students to use the word “Redskin” for a vote June 26, Thursday. The board will also vote on a social media policy affecting students, #811.
–The U.S. Patent Office has canceled six trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins football team, saying they are offensive to Native Americans. A related article provides more background on the situation.
–ajc.com wrote this piece about the issue of the “R” word.
by Marina Hendricks
As I wrote this, Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast. A week remains until the election in which U.S. voters will choose their leader for the next four years. The Detroit Tigers played the San Francisco Giants for a World Series title. And I’m willing to bet there’s something interesting happening in your community.
News events, whether they are national or local in scope, offer excellent opportunities to help students assess their own journalistic practices and think about how to improve their work.
With the following list from “Media Ethics: Issues and Cases” by Philip Patterson and Lee Wilkins, students can evaluate coverage of a major news story. Each point on the checklist also should be considered in light of what students can apply to their own reporting, writing and editing.
Ethical News Values
• Accuracy – Are the facts correct? Has the reporter used the right words? What are some examples of right and wrong words? Is information in the proper context? What biases could the reporter have brought to the story?
• Confirmation – Does the story hold up inside and outside the newsroom? Are there holes?
• Tenacity – Has the reporter gone to extra effort on the story, or merely followed the pack? Is there depth to the story? If so, what are some examples from the story that point to depth?
• Dignity – Has the reporter treated the subject of the story with respect? Have the others involved with publication of the story – photographers, editors, videographers, designers, ad sales representatives – done so?
• Reciprocity – Do you think the reporter has taken a “do unto others” approach with respect to the subject of the story? Does the story pander to the lowest common denominator? What is important in this story from the audience’s perspective? Has the reporter addressed that?
• Sufficiency – Has the reporter had adequate resources to cover this story? Why or why not?
• Equity – Have all sources and subjects been treated in the same manner? Have all sides of the story been told? What are they?
• Community – How does the community benefit from this story? How does the media outlet benefit?
• Diversity – Are all parts of the audience represented in this story? If not, who is missing?
Regular study of news coverage by other journalists helps students learn what works, what doesn’t and what they themselves can do better – all in the safe context of analyzing someone else’s stories.
And there’s no need to wait for a huge storm, four-year election or big game, because news happens all the time.
About this series of posts
*Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a series of rotating columns by commission members to appear Wednesdays. Megan Fromm will present best practices for teaching ethics; Jeff Kocur will discuss common problems student leaders and advisers face and how to overcome them; Candace Perkins Bowen will examine journalistic ties to teaching issues, like Common Core standards; Mark Goodman will write about current events and impact on law as it affects scholastic media and Marina Hendricks will address ethical issues and online journalism.
Our second Question for Thought involves a common argument for censorship: Damaging the public’s image of the school or its programs.
• Explore instances where scholastic media excess damaged public trust, a belief in the First Amendment and/or a school system. What led to the excess? How best could it have been prevented? What actions, including censorship, would have prevented it? Would we be better off limiting our freedoms to avoid the excesses? Why or why not? Using a a process determined by the instructor, sketch out an approach that could have prevented the excess.