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The R-Word and the WaPo

Posted by on Aug 24, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Matt Schott August 22, the Washington Post editorial board decided to no longer use the term Redskins in its editorials (I believe it will live on in the sports and news sections).

This is a decision that seems to be pretty roundly lauded, particularly by Native American groups who’ve been fighting for this change for years. And it is a decision to be lauded. Continuing to use a racial epithet as a team name is unacceptable.

However, let’s not get hurt ourselves patting the WaPo editorial board on the back for its decisions. While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first.

No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania.

Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

Even more specifically, you’d need to visit with the student editors of The Playwickian, Neshaminy’s student newspaper. 

While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first. No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania. Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

In a decision that raised the ire of students, their principal and their school board, the editorial board of The Playwickian decided to no longer use the term Redskins (which is the school mascot) more than a year ago. A year.

And for that past year, they’ve been locked in battles with those aforementioned groups, fighting the principal who overturned their ban. The editorial board continued to defy its principal, threatening legal action if the school district continued fighting the ban.

The students’ mettle was tested when a student submitted a letter to the editor using the word, disagreeing with the editorial board’s decision. The editors chose to run it with the word Redskins changed to R——-.

Administrators ordered it to run unedited. The editorial board pulled it, choosing to run white space instead. The timing from the WaPo dovetails nicely with these students’ fight.

While I’d imagine this was announced because the NFL season kicking off in early September, this is also the time of year where students head back to school.

It would be great, as the student editors at Neshaminy headed back to their student newsroom – if the Washington Post, one of the vanguards of American journalism in the last 50 years – would provide a tip of the hat to these student journalists who showed them where the path of right was on this issue.

Perhaps the Post could send a letter to the students on staff, offer some advice or something of that sort. So often in the scholastic journalism classroom, it is students who look to the professionals for ideas and inspiration.

In this case, it’s the professionals who stand on the shoulders of giants. They should acknowledge this.

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And now for something…untrue

Posted by on Sep 6, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Even though the “Great Roethlisberger Hoax” is history, parallel effects could be long-lasting.

What will happen to fact-checking, verification and synthesis in print media – and online – in the future? After all, there are some who would argue that journalism’s use of social media creates a new standards.

The need for speed outweighs the need for accuracy.

Scholastic journalism has had its own version of the hoax in the April Fools issues each year. I hate to think what could happen it they go online.

Credibility and integrity are at the heart of this incident, and NPR’s On the Media made the incident the focus of its Sept. 3 show. Wise defends his intent, which he said was to show that far too many “journalists” would pick up and repost his “scoop.”

Listen or read the transcript of the show. It is well worth your – and your students’ – time now, and maybe even again in April because it speaks to issues raised by legacy media and the potential for their rebirth online.

(For more information, go here and here).

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