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Editorial policy sets forum status,
decision-making standard and more

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Editorial policy

What is it/definition: Designed to provide legal framework for student media, editorial policies come in two forms, school-board level and media-level. In case of conflicts, a school-board policy usually will take precedence. Absent a policy, practice can help determine freedom of expression status. Typical content of an editorial policy can include:

  • Level of freedom of expression
  • Responsibility for student media content
  • Forum status
  • Prior review and restraint
  • References to guiding legal decisions and theories
  • Language about journalistic responsibility, civic engagement and future of democracy 
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What should go into an editorial policy?
What should not? QT3

Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process in policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package that protects journalistically responsible student expression and anchors staff manuals.

 

Question: What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

We recommend this wording as a basic policy statement: [NAME OF STUDENT MEDIA] are designated public forums for student expression in which students make all final content decisions without prior review from school officials.”

Other models could include more material and wording to explain the value of student decision-making, historical or educational reasoning.

Quick Tips are small tidbits of information designed to address specific legal or ethical concerns advisers and media staffs may have or have raised. These include a possible guideline, stance, rationale and resources for more information. This  is the third in the series

A guideline is a stance on an ethical topic. A guideline is more open to change by student staff to staff.

Beyond that, SPRC suggested models could include editorial guidelines (although we recommend several as ethical process and procedures) like:

  • Role of student media
  • Ownership of student content
  • Handling death
  • Advertising decisions
  • Handling letters/comments
  • Policy consistently applied across all platforms

A procedure is a way to do something. These might include how students answer the phone in the room or how they check out a camera. Procedures are how students carry out the policy and implement ethical guidelines. All are part of the staff manual but are clearly separated from policy so their roles are clearly distinct.

Stance:

Think of it this way: a strong policy is prescriptive. It says what students will do. A policy is like a constitution and sets the legal framework for student media.

We strongly discourage the inclusion of ethical guidelines or procedures and process from policy documents because ethics and staff manual procedures are suggestive. That means topics like byline suggestions, font choices and how to handle unnamed sources should not be same document as policy. Topics, procedures and details do not have the same purpose as policy.

Resources: The foundations of journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals
JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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Getting your editorial policy
the right way

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

Part 1 of a 2-part blog on teacher plagiarism and copyright issues

Teachers can be the world’s worst thieves without ever meaning to be.

We’ve all done it — sometimes out of panicked need, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes because we think our classroom is some sort of copyright-free zone.

So just what CAN teachers use that others have created? Just what is fair use in the classroom? What may be legal but not exactly ethical for us to use? This is the first of a two-part series concerning OUR use of others’ creative work.

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Students say they will follow editorial policy
not use ‘Redskins’ in coverage

Posted by on Dec 24, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Two articles worth noting on the Neshaminy, PA, controversy over mandated use of “Redskins” in student media, as students and their lawyers say they are willing to risk a court fight to not use the mascot’s name.

• An editorial from Bucks County Courier Times

• A news story in philly.com

Earlier, a USA Today article reported on the controversy.

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Procedures outline mission, policy, ethics to build a forum that cements the package

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Staff manual procedures

What is it/definition: A good staff manual provides pathways to help students to carry out their roles as journalists. Our model shares four suggested pathways for student media to study and adapt.

 

Mission statement, editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual  complement each other in a way to show student participants and community members what they can expect.

 

Important items of note  Our models are just that. Study then modify them. Adapt them to reflect as well as illuminate best practices. Ideally, the staff manual and its sections will guide student media into being public forums for student expression without prior review where students make all content decisions.

 

Guideline:  The mission statement, editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual should each be in separate sections of the manual to avoid confusion, especially between law and ethics.

 

Procedure: Students can study other schools’ and teachers’ manuals, stressing the need for clarity and local relevance. Having editorial guidelines and staff manual, though, does not mean they are right or effective.

 

During the past several years, we have seen:

  • Instances where having too much information in a policy can lead to unforeseen consequences, including censorship;
  • Instances where wrong wording created inaccurate interpretation and potential intervention from outside the staff;
  • Instances where items presented with policy can lead to procedures interpreted as policy.

 

Remember to keep mission brief and focused on principles and goals. Policy should be legally consistent. It can use must and will. Ethics is not absolute; it ought to use the should. Ethical guidelines are not absolutes, should not be used to spark school punishment if not  followed and can be changeable. Policy is like laws and should not be often changed. Its focus can be will and must. Staff manual procedures and processes are not policy and should not be confused with policy. Manual language urges the daily decision-making process, focusing on why and how.

 

Quick Tip:

 

QT indexThis represents our collection of Quick Tips, where ethics and procedures work together to create guidelines for handling issues that face students daily. Links exist to many valuable sites on a wide variety of  topics and journalistic  approaches.

 

SPRC blogs

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manualA good staff manual creates an atmosphere consistent with board-and media-level policies’ sound legal principles and uses ethical guidelines to shape procedure. Such a roadmap can help students justify content to administrators or introduce new staffers to common newsroom policies.

 

Mission statements  outline values and role.

Policies – board-and media- levels– dictate what principles focus the student media.

Ethical guidelinesestablish guides to apply the principles.

Staff manual proceduresframe daily steps necessary to complete the beliefs, attitudes and standards of each of the previous points.

 

Policy sets standards and staff manuals ethically carry them out Having editorial guidelines and staff manual, though, does not mean they are right or effective.

In the last year, we have seen:

  • Instances where having too much information in a policy can lead to unforeseen consequences, including censorship;
  • Instances where wrong wording created inaccurate interpretation and potential intervention from outside the staff;
  • Instances where items presented with policy can lead to procedures interpreted as policy.

 

From mission to manual: Fitting the pieces into a strong Foundation  The four pieces of the journalistic puzzle – mission statement, editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual – complement each other in a way to show student participants and community members what they can expect. Taken together, they lead journalists to carry out their key roles, information gathering, thorough interviewing, observing, researching and leadership.

Mission statements  outline values and role.

Policies – board-and media- levels– dictate what principles focus the student media.

Ethical guidelinesestablish guides to apply the principles.

Staff manual proceduresframe daily steps necessary to complete the beliefs, attitudes and standards of each of the previous points.

http://jeasprc.org/curriculum-to-help-students-formulate-policies-guidelines-and-procedures/

 

SPRC adds six new ethics-staff manual models  Models exist to help students and advisers determine what their legal and ethical handbook should look like. These models are not meant to just be copied but to be adapted to fit into your local needs.

 

Sitemap for developing policy and ethics in student mediaPick one model from policies and as many as you need from the ethics/staff manual sections and you are on your way to building your own Foundations package.  We designed the ethics and staff manual sections into four main segments, from establishing the principles and ethical guidelines to evaluating them.

 

Editor-staff relationshipsEditors should be aware of potential challenges that may arise as a result of both positive and negative relationships with peers. While it may be unrealistic for editors to define absolute policies, they should use the staff manual as an opportunity to address ethical considerations of relationships with suggested model behavior.  (Example of ethics-staff manual guideline)

 

Staff Conduct   Students participating in scholastic media should hold themselves to high standards to earn and preserve trust and respect from the audiences they serve. Lapses in judgment affect the staff as well as the credibility of the media they produce. Students should realize that discipline problems or poor choices extend beyond individual consequences.

 

PowerPoint on Policies and manualsThe goal of a mission statement is to set the overarching  purpose of student media briefly. Our model raises some new thinking for a Legal and Ethical Handbook.

 

Curriculum to help students formulate policies, guidelines and proceduresStudents will analyze current policies and write guidelines and procedures. Students will then analyze the others’ classwork and provide feedback. Students will be able to rewrite their contribution after the feedback is given. Students will also audit the publication’s diversity.

 

Podcast/RPM:

 

JEA law/ethics curriculum:

 

SPLC resources:

 

Other resources:

 

 

Related Content: Foundation/ Staff Guidelines | Mission | Policy | Ethical guidelines | Prior Review | Restraint | Censorship

 

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