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Apply by Dec. 15 for national First Amendment recognition for student media and school

Posted by on Nov 23, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Apply by Dec. 15 for national First Amendment recognition for student media and school

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Schools, even if honored before with the First Amendment Press Freedom Award, must re-apply each year

If you feel your school actively supports and honors the First Amendment through its student media, consider submitting an entry for this year’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award. The two round award looks at the entire student media program and school support. Digital and print newspaper, yearbook and student broadcast are considered part of student media.

Information and Round One submission forms for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award (formerly the Let Freedom Ring Award) are available at the link below.

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A lesson from Tereza 

Posted by on Sep 9, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on A lesson from Tereza 

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Tereza is from the Czech Republic. Being somewhat unabashed, I quickly showed her the First Amendment printed on the back of the shirt. Her reaction? “That’s cool.” Imagine that, a young adult from a country with a history of political strife and dictatorships, thinks the First Amendment is cool. Moreso, she probably realized how important the five freedoms are and how lucky we are to have them guaranteed.

by Stan Zoller, MJE

My wife and I like to travel. It’s one of the joys of retirement. Earlier this year we decided set sail into the Caribbean to escape the cold and gloom of a Chicago winter.

Knowing I would not need sweatshirts, parkas and a plethora of other winter clothing, I made sure I backed plenty of shorts and T-shirts. And even though I am retired from active teaching and active reporting, I have not (nor will I) retired from advocating for press rights – whether scholastic, collegiate or professional.

So, I decided to combine my passion for press rights with the need for T-shirts by taking all of my press rights shirts with me – from JEA’s “45 Words” shirt to a shirt available from the Society of Professional Journalists’ “I Back the First” shirt, which, like the 45 Words shirt, includes the First Amendment.

It was a breath of fresh air to hear positive comments from people about the need for journalists and the importance of the First Amendment. There may have been some folks who took exception to a free press, but I didn’t hear from them.

One person, however, did have a question. A staff member at one of the beverage stations asked what it meant to “back the First.”

Her name was Tereza. She is from the Czech Republic. Being somewhat unabashed, I quickly showed her the First Amendment printed on the back of the shirt.

Her reaction? “That’s cool.” 

Imagine that, a young adult from a country with a history of political strife and dictatorships, thinks the First Amendment is cool. 

Moreso, she probably realized how important the five freedoms are and how lucky we are to have them guaranteed.

Two takeaways: 1. Perhaps she was envious. 2. Maybe we should be fortunate.

It shouldn’t take someone from an eastern European bloc country to reinforce the value of the five freedoms of the First Amendment. We also need to make sure that our student journalists don’t take the freedoms, especially Freedom of the Press, for granted.

A lot of people do. 

In 2006, when the Robert R. McCormick Foundation operated the “Freedom Museum” in Chicago, it surveyed 1,000 people and found that, wait for it, fewer than one percent could identify all five First Amendment freedoms, but more than 20 percent could identify the entire Simpsons family. Reality, what a concept.

With Constitution Day just around the corner (Sept. 17), it’s a good time to revisit not only the First Amendment, but the entire constitution and goals the framers had in mind when they wrote, debated and ultimately ratified and signed it.

As American democracy comes under fire, so too does the Constitution and the freedoms it has provided Americans since its signing 235 years ago. Student journalists – whether scholastic or collegiate need to do more than memorize the First Amendment – they need to practice it and perhaps more importantly, defend it.

With Constitution Day just around the corner (Sept. 17), it’s a good time to revisit not only the First Amendment, but the entire constitution and goals the framers had in mind when they wrote, debated and ultimately ratified and signed it.

It’s hard to imagine where we would be without it and even harder to imagine where we will be in the future if its foundation crumbles.

We need to agree with Tereza that it’s “Cool.”

We also need to agree that we wouldn’t want to trade places with her.

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Gauging Community Attitudes Towards First Amendment Rights

Posted by on Aug 30, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Gauging Community Attitudes Towards First Amendment Rights

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Description
The Knight Foundation surveys teens and teachers’ attitudes towards freedom of speech. Gauge your community’s attitudes towards first amendment rights as you prepare to advocate for the first ame

Objectives

  • Students will assess the findings of the Knight Foundation’s Future of the First Amendment 2022 report.
  • Students will interpret the findings to develop pertinent questions they would pose to their community.
  • Students will survey their community, then synthesize and report results.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Length

90 minutes

Materials / resources

Knight Foundation’s Future of the First Amendment 2022 report

Form Maker (ex, Google FormsMicrosoft Forms, etc)

Markers

Poster Paper

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Framing/Introduction (5 minutes)

Briefly ask students for anecdotal responses and first impressions to the following questions:

  • Should Schools Punish Students for Social Media Posts?
  • Does the First Amendment Protect You?
  • How Comfortable are You Disagreeing with Teachers/Other Students in Class?

This could be a discussion, an independent “Do Now” activity, and/or a private writing assignment in a journal.

Step 2 — Reading/Share (25 minutes)

Teacher introduces the Knight Foundation’s Future of the First Amendment 2022 report. Students are broken up into three groups. Each group is assigned a section to read, discuss, and then briefly present back to the entire class.

Step 3 — Reflection (15 minutes)

Ask the class to consider their local context (i.e., what is going on around them recently) and to reflect on what the most important questions in the entire survey are, especially if we are looking to educate the school community about the first amendment and freedom of speech. Choose the five most important questions to pose to the school community. What would you like to know more about? What would help you understand the state and impacts of free speech at your school? Do you think your local findings will replicate the findings from the report or diverge from them?

Step 4 — Survey (15 minutes, plus HW or out-of-class time)

Build a survey to use with your class or your entire school community. Consider how you might achieve a representative sample. How many people would have to respond? Who might you need to ask to respond to make sure you are incorporating enough perspectives?

Execute the survey and record your results.

Step 5 — Report (30 minutes)

Interpret your results and develop infographics to help communicate the results. Consider the work in the Knight Foundation report as an example and think how you might visually represent your data to inform and engage your audience. Consider making posters to display around school.

Differentiation

This lesson could incorporate more digital tools to build the survey and create infographics. Teachers might choose to go more in depth to discuss the top-line findings of the report. Teachers might work with students to brainstorm strategies to educate the community about first amendment rights and social issues throughout the year.

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Key to First Amendment cases

Posted by on Aug 30, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Key to First Amendment cases

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In search of a free and fair press

Posted by on Aug 30, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on In search of a free and fair press

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Description

Democracy is based on an informed electorate going to the polls to choose its leaders. Only a free and fair press can make that possible. If news media include slanted views and bias, readers can be unknowingly swayed to believe something that may not be true. That hurts democracy. To help students read more critically, compare two news articles about the same event and start developing the skills to spot ways some media may be giving readers a slanted view.

Objectives

  • Students will acknowledge that news media are at times biased. 
  • Students will recognize how specific words and visuals can influence how an audience views a situation. 
  • Students will be able to compare media coverage and recognize well-sourced and fairly balanced news.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account. 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). 
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose. 

Length

50 – 60 minutes (one class period)

Materials / resources

●      Liz Cheney takes a final swipe at Trump after GOP defeat: ‘That was a path I could not take,’ Salon, Aug. 16, 2022

●      Trump gloats over nemesis Liz Cheney’s primary loss, calls her ‘fool,’ New York Post, Aug. 17, 2022 (These two articles might be dated by the time you are using this assignment. Comparable ones should be fairly easy to find.)

●    Cheney Ponders 2024 bid after losing Wyoming GOP primary, Associated Press, Aug.16, 2022 and Liz Cheney is considering a presidential run to stop Trump after losing her House seat, NPR, Aug. 17, 2021 (for possibly analyzing a more middle of the road approach)

●      Graphic Organizer to compare articles

 New York PostSalon
How does the headline make yoHow does the headline make you feel? Do any words make you think positively or negatively about anyone in the article? u feel? Do any words make you think positively or negatively about anyone in the article?   
What about words in the story? Are any emphasized (in partial quotes or a different typography)? How does this affect your thinking?  
Who is the focus of each article? (For instance, count the number of times each person’s name is used)  
Are outside experts cited to analyze the situation? What kind of credentials do you think they have?   
Describe the visuals in each article. Who is pictured and how do they look? Is it a sympathetic photo or video? Why? Why not?  
Describe the cutlines (captions) of each photo or video. What is emphasized?   

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Bell-ringer: Ask students to write on a slip of paper where they and their family get their news. Tell them to be specific – which websites, newspapers, magazines, television, social media, friends, etc.
  2. Briefly discuss their answers and how much they trust their sources. Why or why not? Do they think their sources show bias? Why or why not?
  3. Project on a screen (or have students display on their devices) the Ad Fontes Media Bias chart. Explain how it works and its premise. If students included any mainstream media on their bell-ringer lists, discuss where it falls on the chart. (Sometimes the only things they will list are social media or word-of-mouth, but the pros and cons of that can lead to a discussion, too.)
  4. Think-pair-share exercise with students using the graphic organizer to find examples of bias in the two articles. Have pairs contribute to a list on the board or large paper to see how many examples were found. Discuss the lists. Make sure students find specific words and visuals that would sway a reader’s opinion one way or the other.
  5. (Optional in-class or out-of-class assignment) Find one of the “middle of the road” news outlets and compare how that covered the same story.  Note that both AP and NPR focus more on what Cheney might do now than on the loss.
  6. Exit slip/formative assessment: “List one specific thing might you look for now in news reports to decide how much bias the article has? If you decide it’s slanted, then what will you do?”

Teacher notes:

Things they might note in the Post article:

  • Headline quotes Trump saying she is a “fool”
  • The word “gloat” has the connotation of being superior.
  • Note the words in red – Crushing, WIN, “very decisive win” by the challenger, Cheney’s loss was “far bigger than had ever been anticipated.” Also, “wonderful result for America,” etc.
  • Inset of Trump tweets – “uninspiring speech” to a “tiny” crowd and she “played right into the hands of those who want to destroy our Country.”
  • More emphasis on his last election being “Rigger & Stolen”
  • Finally, a meme showing Trump getting food from Cheney working at McDonalds. 

Things they might note in the Salon article:

  • The photo of Cheney is more sympathetic.
  • The headline is from her, not from Trump about her, and shows her reason for doing the things she has.
  • “Cheney sacrificed her political career when she didn’t have to” – definitely an opinion from the right with no source.
  • The next sentence portrays her as still willing to continue the fight 
  • Paragraph about the Trump-endorsed winner points out her opposition to federal rules to protect land, water and endangered species.
  • Video shows Cheney’s concession speech.
  • However, tweets at the bottom are from those who were glad she lost.
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