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alternative facts, fake news

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

With the events surrounding Inauguration Day comes a new journalistic concept, alternative facts. As we teach our students to be aware of fake news and now alternate facts, check out some additional resources that might lead to lessons and activities that rebuild trust in journalists – and journalism.

Kellyanne Conway says Donald Trump’s team has ‘alternative facts.’ Which pretty much says it all
Student journalists especially vulnerable to Trump’s press-as-enemy rhetoric
Don’t let Trump get away with ‘alternative facts’
• What does a news organization optimized for trust look like

And, as a lead-in to JEA’s One Book reading for this this spring, 1984:
George Orwell on ‘alternative facts’

The links take you to our other posts to identify and combat varieties of fake news.:

Censored news is fake news
Addressing issues involved in fake news
Our tasks for the future: Building a Tool Kit of Trust, Integrity

Censored news, including that created by prior-review limited outlets and insistence on alternative “facts,” leads to distortion and misinformation.

That is something we must address through leadership, enlightened publication and community education.






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Bill of Rights Day, Dec. 15

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Dec.15, 2016, is Bill of Rights Day and a good time to deepen students’ knowledge about intricacies of our government as seen through the first ten amendments.

Such discussions would also be timely and relevant given the political events of an election year and the  change associated with a new presidency.

In a 1941 proclamation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped the fifteenth day of December to be “a day of mobilization for freedom and for human rights, a day of remembrance of the democratic and peaceful action by which these rights were gained, a day of reassessment of their present meaning and their living worth.”

Here are links  to some of what is available:
• National Constitution Center, Bill of Rights Day
Has a section of educational resources and a great “Do-Now discussion question: “Not all the amendment James Madison proposed made it into the final Bill of Rights. Is there anything missing from the Bill of Rights you would have included?” 

• Bill of Rights Institute
With mission words of engage, educate and empower, the Institute provides information for students, teachers and supporters. The site features five lesson plans games and videos on Constitutional principles.

• Bill of Rights Day/United States Courts
This site offers resources for teachers, students and judges. The materials, reports the site, as meant to inform, involve and insire citizens to apapreciate and exercise the Bill of Rights.

• US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Bill of Rights Day
Provides materials available for immigrants tolearn about and prepare for the naturalization process. Good to see if your students could pass the naturalization test.

• 15 facts about the Bill of Rights
Interesting background information for further discussion and use.

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Making points; not just giving them

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE

A recent series of posts on the JEA Listserv piqued my interest more than others.

The topic was news quizzes.

What intrigued me was the discussion about not the quality of the news quizzes, where they are available and how they are being used.  There was also discussion about using them as a graded assignment as well as where teachers can find alternative quizzes to those posted by Candace Perkins Bowen.

Bowen, if you are not familiar with her, has done more for JEA than just write weekly news quizzes.  She currently serves on the JEA Board as past president, having served as president from 1993 – 1997. She is currently associate professor of journalism and director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University.  A little transparency is in order here; not only have I worked with Candace for a number of years on various projects, I am also a huge fan of the news quizzes.

But I don’t give them.

Instead I use them to generate class discussion.  I know — it’s not rocket science.  But rather than focus on what students know about the news, I use the news quizzes to find out how students found out about a specific news story, why the read the news story, what they thought of the story and what molded their opinion about a specific story.

I am often amazed by what stories resonate – or don’t – with college students.  The awareness, or lack of, adds challenges to the discussion.  Tease to a sports story and they’ll know it.  A story about the Kardashians or Beyoncé and they’ll know it.  A story about international affairs and you may get a series of blank stares.

Like Bowen, I am often amazed by what stories resonate – or don’t – with college students.  The awareness, or lack of, adds challenges to the discussion.  Tease to a sports story and they’ll know it.  A story about the Kardashians or Beyoncé and they’ll know it.  A story about international affairs and you may get a series of blank stares.

For those stories that receive a lion’s share of coverage, there’s a good chance there will be some familiarity with the issue.

For example, late last semester and, unfortunately into this semester, a story that continues to rear its ugly head is the continued fatal aggressiveness by the Chicago Police Department toward young African-American males.

The ongoing investigation and release of new videos documenting excessive force by Chicago cops gives students a chance to do more than say something like “yeah, I saw the story” or “that really sucks.”

It gives them a chance to debate the nature of today’s journalism, with many ethical questions being raised and discussed.

Among some of the discussion points that have been raised and discussed include:

  • Should broadcast media outlets have shown the entire video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald? Was it too sensitive for general television audiences?
  • Was the repetitive showing of the McDonald video in both the long and short form essential to follow-up reporting, or has it been done to generate viewers and website hits?
  • Is it more effective to have an African-American reporter assigned to the story? If so, can they be objective?

In addition to ethical issues, issues of legal matters can filter into the conversation.  For example,

  • Was the Chicago Police Department within its right to deny FOIA requests for release of the dash-cam video of the McDonald shooting within the realm of the law?
  • Were the minutes of the Chicago City Council meeting when a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family readily available after the meeting?
  • Why was another FOI request required to have the audio on the dash came included?
  • How much of the information posted on social media was verified?

These are just a few questions that could be asked from one news story, albeit a major one.  Instead of just citing a topic, I find coverage of a specific story and use it as an example. Careful deconstruction of the stories in a news quiz can cover not only the journalistic fundamentals, but also ethic and legal issues.

Bowen goes above and beyond in providing news quizzes for JEA member students.  Are there others out there?  Sure.  But odds are most are not ready for use in your classroom.

Using these news quizzes should do more than give points.

They should make points.

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JEA updates its Adviser Code of Ethics

Posted by on Nov 15, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoAt its board of directors meeting in Orlando Nov. 11, JEA updated its Adviser Code of Ethics by adding several new statements and updating several others.

Changes are noted in bold, below:
• Model standards of professional journalistic conduct. to students, administrators and others.
• Empower students to make decisions of style, structure and content by creating a learning atmosphere where students will actively practice critical thinking and decision-making.
• Encourage students to seek divergent points of view and to explore a variety of information sources in their decision-making.
• Support and defend a free, robust and active forum for student expression without prior review or restraint.
• Emphasize the importance of accuracy, balance and clarity in all aspects of news gathering and reporting.
• Show trust in students as they carry out their responsibilities by encouraging and supporting them in a caring, learning environment.
• Remain informed on press rights and responsibilities across media platforms.
• Advise and mentor, rather than act as censor or decision-maker.
• Display professional and personal integrity in situations that might be construed as potential conflicts of interest.
• Support free expression for others in local and larger communities.
Model traits of a life-long learner through continuous professional development in media education along with membership and involvement in professional media organizations.
• Foster cooperation and open communication with administrators and other stakeholders while students exercise their First Amendment rights.
• Encourage journalistically responsible use of social media in schools and educate students, school officials and community to its value. Educate students about the ramifications of its misuse.
• Champion inclusion so that ALL students not only see themselves and their ideas represented, but also see themselves as able to contribute to and to lead student-determined media.


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Be proud of each trip you take to publish student media

Posted by on Jan 14, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Stan Zoller
Several years ago I was having a conversation with my neighbor, also a teacher.  Our conversation covered the usual teacher stuff – students, administrators, curriculum, union contracts – and course loads.

It was while we discussing the classes we taught, he pronounced that “well, anyone can teach journalism.”

So much for good neighbors.

I asked him what his point of reference was and he, to no surprise, did not have a good answer, but seemed hint that “all we had to do” was put out the paper, which, I guess is like saying all drivers education teachers have to do is start the car.

Journalism teachers seem to be education’s misunderstood children.  It’s the destination – the newspaper, the yearbook, the broadcast or website by which we are judged.  That’s all we do.

What’s overlooked, as we all know, are the intricacies that go into student media.  Not the intricacies of InDesign or Photoshop – but the intricacies of journalism.  The laws, the ethics, the policies and the court decisions.

You know, “hey kids, go and report so we can produce the next edition, get the next sig done or post it.”  You know, we’re like Nike – we just do it.

Journalism educators are notoriously supportive of each other (well, for the most part) and of our craft.  We’re proud when the final product is published, produced or posted.

What we need to be proud of however, is not the destination – but the trip we took to get there.  My guess is most people – in education and out – do not have an idea of everything that goes into producing student media.  They see the photos, read the words, listen to the broadcast and say “nice job.”

What’s overlooked, as we all know, are the intricacies that go into student media.  Not the intricacies of InDesign or Photoshop – but the intricacies of journalism.  The laws, the ethics, the policies and the court decisions.

What separates journalism classes from the many other classes is what students need to know before they get “the keys to the car.”  Our students need to be exposed on a regular basis to court decisions that impact journalism, not just student journalism.

News consumers who read or watch student media should have the same expectations they do as if they were reading the Chicago Tribune, the Sacramento Bee, the Virginian-Pilot or the New York Times.

Unrealistic?  Maybe high school students don’t have Pulitzer Prize winning writing and reporting skills – but they need to have the same ethics and understanding of press law as any reporter.  Administrators need to understand that the student media is not an outlet for students to have fun in print, online or on air.  If journalism educators don’t keep the bar raised for their student journalists, then the door to prior review and prior restraint may swing open.

And before you know it, administrators may think that anyone can teach journalism.

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