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New Voices: Learning the lessons

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE
There’s good news . . . and then there’s news when it comes to New Voices bills to protect student journalists.

First, the exciting part. Chris Evans, from the University of Vermont and chairman of College Media Association’s First Amendment Advocacy, posted Friday, May 5 on the New Voices USA Facebook page: “Today, Vermont’s New Voices legislation passed BOTH the Senate and House of Representatives. Student free-speech activism FTW!”

And a win it is. As Frank LoMonte reported on the SPLC website, “After months of back-and-forth, student press protections are on their way to the governor’s desk in Vermont.”

The article explains that this was part of “an omnibus education bill” and will now move to Gov. Phil Scott, “who is expected to sign it into law,” reports.

The fourth New Voices bill to get this far since North Dakota started the momentum in 2015, Vermont’s law would give protection to student journalists in K-12 schools and public colleges plus protection to faculty advisers who refuse to censor the legally protected work of their students.

But the other news demonstrates some of the challenges for those attempting to pass similar legislation in their states. Nevada and Michigan both have active bills at the time, but for varied reasons, they are still in process.

Patrick File, a media law professor at University of Nevada, Reno and former SPLC intern, said the way Nevada’s legislature operates creates a couple of challenges. First, the Senate and Assembly meet only every other year. “It’s an absolute sprint for 120 days from February to June,” File said.

File worked with LoMonte, plus a UNLV associate professor, the executive director of the Nevada Press Association and an attorney from the SPLC attorney network to find Senator Nicole Cannizzaro, who was willing and able to sponsor the bill.

File found support from high school advisers in both Reno and Las Vegas. Casandra Workman, CJE, spoke at a Senate committee hearing in Las Vegas, where she teaches, to “address some of the concerns” that had come up. Liz Walsh, MJE from Reno, wrote testimony and Christy Briggs, MJE, also from Reno, took students to the Senate session..

Senate Bill 420 was drafted, as all Nevada’s bills are, by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, a group of lawyers working for the legislators. Although the original bill had been patterned after the successful one in Maryland, the LCB later added amendments its members thought would improve the bill.

Not so, said File and others. Included was language that essentially requires prior review and a disciplinary process for students and advisers (but not administrators) who would prohibit free press.

As of Monday, May 8, File indicated some confidence that LCB would remove the problematic amendments, and the bill could go to the Assembly.

“My takeaway,“ File said, “is the need to be the eyes and ears of the sponsor, who’s not always as knowledgeable about student media and has 20 or 30 bills to follow, but we only have one. We have to stay on top of the language.”

Jeremy Steele, Michigan Interscholastic Press Association executive director, said, “A lot things can happen during the legislative process, and every New Voices campaign will be thrown at least one curve ball. Expect a surprise. Plan for it as best you can.”

That state currently has a bill in the House, sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Darrin Camilleri, a former high school social studies teacher, “so this bill speaks to issues that he’s passionate about,” Steele said.

The challenge here? Republicans far outnumber Democrats in the Michigan House, 100 to 63.

But Steele and those in Michigan working on New Voices say they appreciate Camilleri’s interest and “look forward to finding ways to work with him.”

Meanwhile, Steele said they have a good record from last year with bipartisan support in the Senate. The previous sponsor, Sen. Rick Jones, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now working with them on a new version of the bill to “address many of the concerns we heard from stakeholders last session,” Steele said.

Sharing lessons learned like these seems to be one thing that’s helping current legislation move forward. Steve Listopad, then from North Dakota and the driving force between the first New Voices legislation, maintains a website that also contains helpful content from the SPLC.

Other useful tips come in videos from a November 2016 symposium hosted by Kent State University’s Center for Scholastic Journalism. Student media advisers at both the high school and college levels, scholastic press association leaders, lobbyists and others concerned with student voices from 17 states and the District of Columbia, participated. Videos captured all the panels, including one sponsored in part by JEA: “Part 6: Getting Advisers/Students/Scholastic Press Associations Engaged.”


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What our tech-savvy kids don’t know

Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment


by Candace Bowen, MJE
Foundations_mainThey may be digital natives with instincts that allow them to use the latest app and easily share photos and video on social media platforms, but when it comes to evaluating information they access on the web, those from middle school through college aren’t nearly as knowledgeable as some might think.

In fact, they can’t tell an ad from a news story or hate group propaganda from factual material from a respected news outlet. In fact, the Stanford History Education Group described students’ reasoning ability when it comes to Internet information as “bleak.”

The group’s 18-month project, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” looked at “the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets and computers.”

From January 2015 to June 2016, the researchers developed and administered assessments to 7,804 students in 12 states, from inner-city LA to suburban Minneapolis, and at six different universities from those with tough admission standards to state schools that accept most applicants.

As the group’s recently released report states, “For every challenge facing this nation, there are scores of websites pretending to be something they are not. Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed. But on the unregulated Internet, all bets are off.”

As the group’s recently released report states, “For every challenge facing this nation, there are scores of websites pretending to be something they are not. Ordinary people once relied on publishers, editors, and subject matter experts to vet the information they consumed. But on the unregulated Internet, all bets are off.”

To get an idea of just how much these students really know about the Internet, the researchers tested their understanding of a range of information that appears on social media and other Internet venues. For instance, they showed middle school students “sponsored content” and news articles to see if they could recognize an ad. They showed high school students studying about gun laws a chart from a gun owners’ political action committee to see if they would accept it at face value. And they showed college students a tweet to see if they might use it as an eventual source in an article.

Perhaps even more intriguing – especially for education nerds – are the sample questions the report contains, along with a rubric for each and sample responses that show mastery (the student answers correctly and provides coherent reasoning for the response), emerging (the student answers correctly but provides limited or incoherent reasoning) and beginning (the student answers incorrectly).

The results the group reports are indeed bleak, but this shows the kind of media literacy journalism teachers might be able to help promote. Much of it deals with concepts we teach all the time: “Question Authority.” And of course there’s “verify” and “be transparent.” At least we hope our students would do better on this group’s assessment.

Also, the report ends with “Next Steps,” which include a promise to pilot lesson plans to use with these assessments and an awareness of the problem that is far worse than the researchers originally thought.

“Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite,” the researchers say. They hope to produce web videos to show how digital literacy is vital for a country like ours that relies on an informed electorate.

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Ethics workshop offers videos, lesson plans

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments




by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

When Kent State University and The Poynter Institute team up for their annual ethics workshop, they don’t forget high school journalism teachers and students who can’t come to Ohio for a day of top speakers and plenty of exploration into some aspect of media ethics.

Again this year, with Social Justice Journalism as the theme, they have provided detailed lesson plans to go along with some of the day’s events.

Keynoter — and the subject of one set of plans — was Jose Antonio Vargas, the opening speaker at the National High School Journalism convention in Los Angeles in the spring. Archived videos of his very personal and passionate talk about being an undocumented immigrant plus videos of all the other panels of the day are now available online.

A lesson plan about Vargas’s situation and one of a panel focused on the Flint water crisis — and what those could mean as student media topics  — are downloadable here.

Archives for previous workshops on topics such as Enduring Trauma, That’s Entertainment, Dirty Politics and Foul Play (sports issues) are also available along with lesson plans. (Archives in the top purple bar)

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What you don’t know COULD hurt you

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

Recent applications for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award revealed some knowledge gaps. Perhaps it’s not surprising that school principals couldn’t define unprotected speech on the forms each school submitted. So often media advisers and student publication staff members have to do a little educating of their administrators.

But a sizable number of advisers and student editors, who also had to respond to the same question, didn’t know the answer either….

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Ferguson incident sparks youth summit documentaries

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Living in St. Louis, Mo., during the past year has been very difficult, especially if your school is near Ferguson, Mo., the site of much violence and after the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen in that community.

Student journalists at Ritenour High School, have chronicled how the community has risen up to support local youth.

Jane Bannester, media adviser of KRHS Media, shared this, “Living in St. Louis, MO, Ritenour High School’s media program, KRHS Media, spent the last year documenting the effects of Ferguson on youth, and those effecting youth, in our community. Our work was able to highlight the impact on students, and follow the communities’ action to support the youth. By attending youth summits, our students interviewed and documented multiple voices of those who were engaging the issues of race, with hopes of change for our future.”

These two student-created documentaries at KRHS Media record the student leadership experiences which took place in the St. Louis during the past year.

Student Summit on Race 2015 stories can be accessed at these links:

1. “Gateway2Change Movement: Empowering St. Louis to Challenge Racial Divide”

2. “Gateway2Change Movement: Soldan/Parkway Sister Exchange”



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