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Basic lessons for teachers to use during online learning

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Lori Keekley, MJE

Several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee developed some lessons for advisers to use with their journalism students. The lessons are intended to be asynchronous basic introductions. The goal is to introduce students to the content and provide resources they then can examine further. 

The lessons include information on the First Amendment, copyright, libel, staff manual creation, how to choose a forum concept, prior review and some situational legal and ethical considerations. 

First Amendment — Freedom of Speech rights, especially when it comes to students in any sort of student publication, can be very complex, but there are some overall principles that can lead to a solid understanding of the basics. This lesson provides details and background on what rights student journalists generally possess, gives resources for understanding how any local policies affect those rights and supplies scenarios and links to promote further discussion and involvement.

Copyright — This online lesson helps students independently learn the basics of copyright law and the exceptions to it. After a brief tutorial, students will then either draw or create an online infographic explaining what they have learned. 

Libel — This online lesson guides students through the basics of libel law and the specifics of how it applies to real-world situations. It includes a brief instructional video, a quiz for understanding, and a discussion/writing prompt.

Manual — Staff manuals provide student journalists with resources and guidance during times of need. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate (and review) your current guidelines — and maybe even policies. These virtual conversations will not only help students understand what to do, but also what they may want to examine for future. 

Forum status –– This online lesson guides students through the basics of forum status for student media and the specifics of how it applies to student media. A statement of forum status is an essential part of a staff manual.

Prior review and restraint –– This online lesson guides students through the basics of prior review and prior restraint and the specifics of how it applies to student media. Almost every national journalism education group and professional journalism organization opposes prior review and restraint as having little to no educational value. A position on prior review is an essential part of a staff manual.

Legal and ethical scenarios — Teachers could do this as one scenario per day unit or sprinkle them throughout many weeks while addressing other areas as well. Topics covered include both legal and ethical concerns such as copyright, photo ethics, basic reporting, takedown requests, etc.

If you have any questions, please contact Lori Keekley

Other contributing committee members:

John Bowen

Lori Keekley

Matthew Smith

Kristin Taylor

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Cutting through the ‘New Normal’

Posted by on Mar 30, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Identifying what is credible, in context and complete

by John Bowen, MJE

As the hours turn into days and the days turn into weeks, the amount of information piles up next to the growing stack of conflicting ideas and ways to deal with COVID-19. Will Chloroquine be the right type of medicine? How much time should people stay in homes? When, or if, does quarantine harm the American economy?

Although your journalism students might not tackle these topics, some will deal with the same real information, reporting on the local crisis and the dis- and misinformation attached to topics like this.

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School buildings close and yearbook deadlines loom

Posted by on Mar 26, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Susan McNulty, CJE The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

What a shock when COVID-19 escalated quickly from a virus in China to a threat that brought about a near total shutdown of life as we know it. And what is a yearbook adviser to do, when empty pages intended for spring sports, clubs and organizations sit waiting for photos that will never develop?

As a yearbook adviser at a big school with a big yearbook (416 pages) I am grappling with those issues now, just like many fellow advisers across the country.

Image from CDC

If your students publish online or still have time to revise and update the yearbook before your final deadline, remember to keep coverage of the pandemic local by finding out how to make the COVID-19 story relevant to your readers.

Was the NJROTC team already at the airport headed to nationals, only to learn that the competition was cancelled? Was the softball team undefeated when the season abruptly ended? What about those journalism students who had been looking forward to JEA/NSPA in Nashville?

How did they respond to the cancellations? What did students do instead? How did everyone adjust to online learning?

Free resources exist to help you and your staff as you report on the virus. Social media proves valuable when reaching students as they shelter in place.

The Student Press Law Center has compiled resources for journalism teachers and student journalists, including guides to covering the pandemic remotely.

Yearbook publishers can be excellent resources for coverage ideas and communication information, so reach out to your representative for guidance.

The Student Press Law Center has compiled resources for journalism teachers and student journalists, including guides to covering the pandemic remotely.

And remember to follow all copyright laws when using graphics in your reporting. The CDC provided graphics free to download and use.

Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/images.htm

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Intense times require intense journalists

Posted by on Mar 22, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Stan Zoller, MJE

The COVID-19 pandemic that is gripping the country, let alone the world, has had this simple impact on journalists – intense times require intense journalism.

And that starts with all journalists and journalism educators.

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An activity for a dose of skepticism

Posted by on Mar 4, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Lindsay Coppens, The Harbinger, Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass.

Scholastic journalists, like all journalists, need to be skeptical. Not only of news they read and of sources they interview, but of themselves.

Journalists should question everything, including each other. 

If student journalists aren’t willing to take a hard look with a discerning eye at the journalism they produce, they will put themselves at more risk of criticism, and possibly condemnation, from others.

And while we all work to question and to think critically, I’ve found when a mid or late-year lull hits, my editors and reporters tend to get soft in their skepticism. They stop questioning as much. They are more likely to simply accept what they’re told, what they hear or what they read, even when editing each others’ work.

This easy acceptance can lead to articles that don’t report as incisively and thoroughly as they should. It can also result in “clerkism,” what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel define in their book Blur as “the practice of uncritically accepting the official version of things.”

If you find your staff hitting one of those skeptical lulls where they may not be digging for facts, verifying news or questioning each other’s reporting as thoroughly as they should, pausing to look back at previous reporting with a critical eye could help them get reenergized and refocused.

Here’s an activity that could be done in a class period or staff meeting. It could even become part of regular routines:

First have the editors-in-chief lead a discussion about why skepticism is important, for both news consumers and reporters. Then they should discuss questions such as these: When have readers been skeptical of your publication? When have you been skeptical as reporters and editors? Are there times you realized after the fact, whether from reader criticism or from your own reflection, that the reporting you published was not as incisive or as accurate as it should have been?

Perhaps even have them read and discuss pages 26-34 of Blur, which focus on the importance of skepticism and verification.

Then spend some time looking at their publication’s coverage in the past months with a skeptical eye. Encourage them to question critically and agree they won’t take it personally if a piece they worked on is identified as falling short. The goal is to become stronger as individuals and as a group while practicing skeptical thinking.

Have they accepted and reported what those in power have stated without questioning or verifying? Have they played into any particular interest groups without realizing it? Are there places where now, with hindsight, they see they got the story wrong or didn’t dig deep enough to ask questions and get the full truth?

Look closely at the publication’s coverage as a whole and at individual articles, especially those on complex topics and those that involve administrative decisions and actions. Have they simply affirmed what readers already know and were told thorough announcements, meetings and emails? Have they accepted and reported what those in power have stated without questioning or verifying? Have they played into any particular interest groups without realizing it? Are there places where now, with hindsight, they see they got the story wrong or didn’t dig deep enough to ask questions and get the full truth?

After skeptically analyzing and discussing, as a group identify ways reporting and coverage could be improved. What should reporters do to be sure they move beyond clerkism? How should editors question skeptically as part of the feedback process? Are there any topics they should follow up on to provide more thorough coverage? 

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