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Brett Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook provides teachable moments

Posted by on Sep 27, 2018 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Yearbook | 1 comment

Yearbooks are forever.

We wear this statement on matching T-shirts, mail it home on marketing postcards and proudly display it on homemade posters created by dedicated publications staffs nationwide.

But less than one week before National Yearbook Week 2018, the phrase takes on new significance during the hearings surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Earlier this week, Kavanaugh’s 1983 Georgetown Prep yearbook page made the news for its references to drinking and partying along with coded mentions of a female classmate that appear to be demeaning inside jokes.

Seeing a yearbook page in the news is always a teachable moment, of course. Journalism teachers can show students — and other stakeholders — the value of yearbooks as historical record, as memory keepers and, depending on one’s perspective, possibly as a sort of character reference. The way people hold on to yearbooks, as Heather Schwedel describes in this Slate article, draws attention to a student publication 35 years later as a form of historical evidence.

What complicates the larger discourse is the social media noise, which quickly shifted to placing blame on the yearbook adviser and others responsible for producing the publication. A tweet by Soledad O’Brien questioned the adviser, and the comments that followed illustrate the wide range of uninformed public opinions about what should and shouldn’t find its way into a yearbook — and who plays a hand in that decision.

What can yearbook staff members learn from the 1983 Cupola?

Recent H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year winners share their perspectives to help add context and offer guidance for students and teachers discussing this in their journalism classes.

 

What is the role of the adviser?

“Advisers are responsible for helping guide staff members in understanding their responsibilities and through challenges they face. They are not there to censor or to dictate content. They are there to provide support, advice and direction. Advisers are not there to serve as editors of student publications. They are there to help students establish the standards and guide them.”

— Brenda Field, MJE; Glenbrook South High School (Glenbrook, Ill.)

“First and foremost, the role of the yearbook adviser is to teach responsible journalism. If we’re doing our jobs, then students will be equipped to make responsible decisions regarding content. And this is what happens every single day in yearbook journalism classrooms across the country. Yes, I read every word that went into the books I advised, as that was the expectation in my school and community. But it was the editors and staff who ultimately determined content.”

— Cindy Todd; retired from Westlake High School (Austin, Texas)

 

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Facing ethical yearbook issues? Some thoughts

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Yearbook | 3 comments

by Mary Kay Downes
sprclogoThe very nature of a yearbook being the permanent record of the year presents numerous issues which primarily have to do with the permanency of the book. Yearbooks live forever! Often yearbooks are viewed as a public relations tool of the school, and the administration and/or community are reluctant to have any coverage at all which they would deem not supporting a pristine image of the institution.

This leads to self-censorship at best, and prior review or restraint at worst, as well as a myriad of other problems

Yearbook is a paid product compared to regular student media. We have an audience to satisfy, and because of this, we must considering their wants/needs differently than we do with a news website or news magazine because we want them to buy the book to pay the bill and be self-sustaining.

Although we absolutely don’t want to compromise journalism standards just to get students to buy the book, yearbook students are still obligated to cover everything, with accuracy and integrity, even as they’re trying to create a product people want to purchase.

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Instead of removing students from the solution, administrators should empower them to figure it out

Posted by on Aug 23, 2014 in Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Yearbook | 1 comment

What’s best for students? We return to that essential question constantly as decision-makers in every realm of education. In the “yearbook yikes” dilemma featured in this month’s Ethical Educator column in School Administrator magazine, the solutions address what may be best for one student but fail to mention what’s best for many others.

Where are the student editors in these discussions?

The opportunity to plan and produce student media is a valuable learning experience from start to finish. The communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking students on a yearbook staff experience continues well beyond the final page submission. Deciding how to handle the altered photo and ethical lapse is an essential piece of their learning.

Because students should be responsible for all content decisions, they also should be accountable to their audience and to each other. If the superintendent takes action to remedy the yearbook error, students are deprived of a major lesson in critical thinking and decision-making skills tied to journalistic standards and civic responsibility.

Ideally, student journalists address those standards and responsibilities long before producing even a single yearbook page by creating publication policies. With guidance and support from a trained journalism teacher, students define and put in writing what they stand for and why. The policy then serves as a guide — a commitment to themselves and their audience — for all future decisions. It includes what they will cover and why as well as how to handle errors, omissions, corrections and more.

If the students involved in the “yearbook yikes” dilemma have no such policy, this is an important lesson for them. Instead of removing students from the solution, administrators should empower them to figure it out and so they learn and grow from the process. As editors identify who was responsible for the altered photo and how to handle it (both internally with consequences and improved staff procedures as well as publicly and with the affected student), they can reevaluate their process and make it right.

Plenty of great resources exist to aid in this process, such as the Model Code of Ethics from the National Scholastic Press Association, which charges student journalists to be accountable with a commitment to admit mistakes and publicize corrections. The Society of Professional Journalists also offers an extensive collection of policies journalism teachers can use with their students in these important discussions. The bottom line is that this dilemma affects many more students than just the one pictured in the yearbook, and administrators should consider the long-term effects as well as the shorter-term needs of addressing a parent complaint.

As a student media adviser, I know firsthand the inaccuracy of Sarah MacKenzie’s claim that “… most yearbooks are already gathering dust on shelves only to be retrieved for class reunions, if at all.” Even months after distribution day, students cart yearbooks to school events, pull them from their backpacks daily, poring over pages together to read stories and carry them on vacations to review the personal memories, photos and details of times passed.

That’s all the more reason student editors should strive to meet journalistic standards and operate with integrity, and absolutely why student editors should be accountable for their decisions, including determining the best solution to this and any other dilemma. With a stronger emphasis on their “why” as a staff, training and support from a qualified adviser and empowerment to solve problems based on their own critical thinking, students learn important lessons and make better decisions.

And that, of course, is what’s best for all students.

Sarah Nichols, MJE, M.Ed
teacher/adviser, Whitney High Student Media
2010 National Yearbook Adviser of the Year
vice president, Journalism Education Association
@sarahjnichols

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Handle yearbook copyright issues
before you find the book for sale online

Posted by on Jan 8, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen
Because advisers raised this issue on JEA’s listserv before Christmas break, we thought now would be the perfect time to address the issue.

Students and advisers unhappy with various groups who buy and sell school yearbooks online, with no funds going to the student media, have several steps to consider if they want to fight the practice.

First, some points to consider:
• Yearbooks published before March 1, 1989 are no longer copyright protected. Resellers have clear access to them.
• If there is no copyright notice in a yearbook or if there is and the owner of it is not the school, the school is not the owner of that book if nothing else suggests the school owns the rights to the book. The printing company also has no ownership rights. Having the school be the copyright owner would also suggest the school can control content and decisions, and that is not smart in the long-run for student freedom of expression.
• For current student editors to engage in a copyright lawsuit, they would have to actively pursue a legal copyright infringement claim or appoint an agent to do so.
• Past student yearbook editors would have to assign copyright rights to current editor(s) to allow them to pursue a lawsuit on their behalf. This could create a larger claim.
• Advisers have no legal right to claim copyright infringement, just as a school has no rights.
• No class action can likely occur because copyright infringement suits are too fact specific.
• Students would have had to – or would still have to – complete the formal registration process and be able to clearly demonstrate the yearbook’s value at the time of publication through some sort of price guide.

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Yearbook ethics guidelines

Posted by on Jan 12, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Projects, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Yearbook | 0 comments

Yearbook staffs are responsible for creating an annual publication that becomes the permanent record of the school and the school population they serve.

The publication they create will serve as a record/history book, memory book, business venture, classroom laboratory and public relations tool for the district.

Because the functions of the publication are so far reaching, and the publication itself is an historical document, the ethical questions facing the yearbook staff are challenging and unique.

For that reason, members of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission and representative winners in the Yearbook Adviser of the Year Competition have created ethical guidelines students and teachers might use in creating their own policies.

General Points

● The same ethical principles apply to yearbook journalism as to any other kind of media.
— Reporters should cover all sides of a story fairly and fully
— Reporters should identify themselves as representing the yearbook
— Reporters should verify source information with someone else or some other resource
— Reporters should avoid lurking on social media sites and should never use information gained from social media as their only resource. No information should be taken from a social media site without notification to the author of the site.
● Student yearbook staffs should also examine downloadable resources for additional ideas and approaches.
● In addition to the guidelines presented here, advisers should follow the tenets of JEA’s Adviser Code of Ethics, and students should continue to honor values expressed in existing resources.
● Although these guidelines may not apply to all staffs in every situation, it is recommended they be shared in discussions with adviser, staff members, administrators, school board members, members of the community and other stakeholders such as yearbook company representatives so all parties better understand the critical thinking, ethical and journalistic issues students experience as they make content decisions to summarize the year.
● Policies should be established to guide the staff in making fair, objective decisions regarding obits/memorials, ad sales, book sales and student classifications.
● Because the publication is created by students, for students, prior review by outside sources should be avoided and the staff should take precautions to report the story of the year fairly, fully and responsibly.

Ethics Guidelines for Yearbooks with Print and/or Digital Components
Section I: Policies
Before the staff begins work on the book (or as soon as possible), editorial policies should be established, placed in written form and followed exactly as the staff has created them. Policies should be included for general coverage, portrait pictures, advertising, obituaries, return of books and any others that may relate specifically to the school. As staffs determine specific policies, they should keep in mind these considerations:

[General]
• What is the purpose of the book, and what type of stories, photos and other coverage elements help meet that purpose? How will the staff handle sensitive or possibly controversial topics? Will all groups, topics and events receive equal space or attention? May readers, teachers, administrators or community members submit content?
[Portraits]
• Are students required to be photographed by a particular photographer in order to appear in the album/people section? Will the school dress code apply? May students submit their own portraits to be included, and if so, what requirements exist in terms of size, content and technical quality? Does the staff reserve the right to exclude any photo it considers inappropriate? Will the staff provide other options for students who are absent, not yet enrolled or otherwise missing during the initial photographing period? If a student enrolls in the school later in the year, what are the options, if any, for being included in the album/people section? When will these deadlines occur, and will they be the same each year?
[Advertising]
• What type of ads will the staff accept, and are there any conditions under which a staff might reject a potential advertiser or its submitted artwork? How will the available amount of advertising space be determined? Will the staff accept advertising after its published deadline? Does the staff have a policy for corrections or omissions? How will the staff remedy the situation if a printed advertisement has an error or receives a complaint from the purchaser?
[Obituaries]
• How will the staff handle the death of a student, faculty or staff member in the book? If the staff will include some type of memorial treatment, will all deaths be treated equally? How will the size and type be determined? What if this occurs at a time when no space is available? What if this occurs at a time past the deadline cycle? What if this occurs in the summer? Does the cause of death play a factor in how the death will be handled? What role will the deceased person’s family play, if any, in determining the content included?
[Returns]
• Under what circumstances, if any, will the staff accept books for return? What happens if a student does not appear in the book? What happens if a student’s name is misspelled? What happens if a student moves away and no longer wants the book? What happens if a person, group or team is unhappy with its coverage? Will a damaged book be replaced? Does the staff take action to recover a lost or stolen book? What happens to books not retrieved at the distribution event, and for what length of time will the staff keep them?

Section II: Covering the Year
Those who have signed on to be part of the yearbook staff have agreed to be the eyes and ears of the student body as they capture the unique aspects of this particular year at a specific high school. This commitment means —
● Coverage will reflect all aspects and voices of the student body and will not be limited to those who are on staff or their friends. The book will reflect the school’s diversity and will have balance in terms of age and gender, with emphasis on student involvement more than faculty and staff.
● The book will include scoreboards for all teams even if it has not been a winning year, group pictures with complete names of all teams and organizations, as part of the important record-keeping information.
● To keep the book as complete and accurate as possible, the staff will take extra care to work with the counselors, registrar and administrators to determine the correct grade level of each student enrolled to be classified as such. The staff will determine a policy for how to classify students who fall above or below the determined credit level and/ or students who plan to graduate early. The staff will include a “not pictured” list in the portrait section.
● Because this is an historical document, special care will be given to accuracy, including fact checking all information, correct quotes, correct spelling of names. Faculty names, classes taught and extracurricular activities sponsored should be included with faculty portrait pictures.
● The staff will tell all stories fairly and fully using resources representing all points of view.
● It is not recommended that the staff include superlatives in the book because they are not journalistic and do little to tell the story of the year, but because the book is a student publication and students should be empowered to make content decisions, advisers may want to help students organize a selection process, encourage reporting of the selection process as well as the action and reaction to the superlatives selected. In any case, award categories should be based on achievements, timely topics, service, performance and non-physical or popularity-based voting so all types of students have a chance to be represented. Low voter turnout is evidence that readers are not interested in superlatives, and is another clue that the staff should eliminate them.

Section III: Original Work
The story of the year should be as special as its characters (the students) and as creative and fresh as its authors (the yearbook staff). Because the story of your school this year can only be told once, the yearbook is a one-of-a-kind publication. The staff then —
● Will use previous years’ books only as a quick guide, and will avoid lifting material from previous books to include in the current book.
● Will use the books from other schools as inspiration only rather than copying their techniques for replication in the current book.
● Will refer to professional publications for inspiration and ideas but will use elements of what they find to create their own design, headline package or color usage. Credit should be given to professional inspirations in the colophon.
● Will not lift material (photos or text) from Internet resources without permission and will give proper attribution for that material as suggested by the resource provider.
● Will officially copyright their own work to protect it from use by those who have not requested permission.
● Will make clear when material not created by the staff is included in the publication. Because the yearbook is a student production, it is the ethical responsibility of staff members to notify the reader if pictures have been taken, copy written or designs created by someone other than a student staff member. Photo credits should be given individually to all photos and bylines should appear with all stories.

Section IV: Working with the Printer The yearbook staff is the publisher of the book and the yearbook company is the printer. The difference between the two is an important distinction. The publisher controls the content of the book while the printer works for the publisher to print the content as defined in a printing contract. The yearbook printer is an important part of the team but does not control content and is not the publisher. Because the relationship with the printer is a business as well as personal one, making ethical decisions is even more important.
● The printing contract outlines deadlines and number of pages due on each deadline. It is the ethical responsibility of the yearbook staff to meet all of those deadlines with pages that are complete and ready for the printer. Sending incomplete or dummy pages really does not hold up your end of the contract and results in extra time-consuming work for  the plant.
● The printer’s representative should notify the staff if additions being considered will add to the final invoice for the book. In an open, honest relationship there should be no surprises when the final bill arrives.
● The printer should not make corrections or remove questionable content unless directed to do so by the yearbook staff with advice from the adviser.
● It is not the responsibility of the printer to find errors or catch questionable content. All content is the responsibility of the staff.
● Staffs who choose to use company-generated templates, plug-ins and other materials should let the reader know in the colophon that those printer aids were used and not all design work is original.
● Advisers should take special care in working with yearbook company representatives during a bid process for the printing contract. All information should be distributed to every representative in an open, transparent manner. Should one representative request special information, it should be sent to everyone at the same time.
● A review of the final bill should be made as soon after delivery as possible. Any adjustments to the bill should be made on the current book rather than on future contracts.

Linked resources
• JEA’s Model Guidelines: http://jea.org/about/guidelines.html
• JEA Adviser Code of Ethics: http://www.jeasprc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/JEAadvisercodeof-ethics-2012
• NSPA Student Code of Ethics: http://studentpress.org/nspa/pdf/wheel_modelcodeofethics.pdf
• Student Press Law Center: http://splc.org , http://yearbooklaw.com.
Sample SPLC yearbook staff member license
http://www.splc.org/pdf/yearbook_license.pdf
• Handling obituaries, NSPA: http://www.studentpress.org/nspa/wheel.html
• Yearbook controversy a time for discussion
http://www.jeasprc.org/?cat=6

Bios for yearbook-ethics guidelines

Mary Kay Downes, MJE, has taught journalism and advised the Chantilly High School Odyssey yearbook for 23 years where she also teaches English and serves as the English Department Chair. She presents at national workshops and yearbook camps and writes articles for journalism magazines. She has been honored as the 2007 JEA National Yearbook Adviser of the Year and received the Columbia Scholastic  Press Association Gold Key, the National Scholastic Press Pioneer Award as well  as local and state honors. Odyssey is in the NSPA Hall of Fame and has received several CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards. Downes is the past president of the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association and is a member of the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission.

Sarah Nichols, MJE, advises student media at Whitney High School in Rocklin,  Calif. She was named National Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2011 and received a Medal of Merit in 2010 from JEA as well as the NSPA Pioneer Award in 2008.  During her 13 years advising, her students have earned national recognition such as NSPA Pacemakers and CSPA Gold Crowns, among other honors. Nichols currently serves as JEA’s vice president and is a member of the Scholastic Press Rights Commission and Digital Media Committee as well as past-president for JEANC in  Northern California. She is a former JEA state director and Certification Commission member. Previously she advised in Indiana and was an officer for the Indiana High School Press Association.

Linda Puntney, MJE, is JEA’s former executive director. A professor emeritus of journalism at Kansas State University, she was director of Student Publications  and Royal Purple yearbook adviser. The Royal Purple staff received 20 Gold Crown and Pacemaker awards in her 21-year tenure — more than any college yearbook in the nation. Puntney’s honors include College Media Advisers Distinguished Yearbook Adviser and Distinguished Magazine Adviser, CMA Hall of Fame, NSPA Pioneer Award, CSPA Gold Key and Charles O’Malley Award, the JEA Carl Towley, Medal of Merit, Lifetime Achievement and Teacher Inspiration awards.

Nancy Y. Smith, MJE, advises the newspaper, yearbook, online paper and DVD at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, MO. She has been teaching and advising  publications for 26 years and frequently speaks at workshops and conferences  across the country. She has earned Master Journalism Educator status from the Journalism Education Association and is the JEA National Write-off Chair. She been recognized by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund as a Special Recognition Adviser  and was named a Distinguished Adviser in the National Yearbook Adviser of the  Year competition. She was also one of six finalists for the 2007-2008 Missouri Teacher of the Year.

Lynn Strause advised 30 yearbooks before she retired in 2007. The Ceniad, which she advised for 13 years, earned 13 consecutive Spartan Awards from Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, Gold and Silver Crowns and Pacemakers during her tenure. She was named JEA National Yearbook Adviser of the year in 2001. She is yearbook chair on the MIPA board, works with individual schools and teaches at a number of summer workshops, state and national conventions.

 

 

 

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