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After 234 years, Hamilton’s words remain spot on

Posted by on Mar 8, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Stan Zoller, MJE

When Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers in 1787, odds are more than pretty good that scholastic journalism wasn’t on their minds. 

two black skeleton keys on an old paper
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Safe bet.

In one of the 51 essays he wrote, Hamilton noted that “…A government continually at a distance and out of sight can hardly be expected to interest the sensations of the people.”

His point is simple – government needs to be visible and accountable to the people. Pronounced 234 years ago, the point still rings true today and it has obviously been a challenge for the media to be the watchdog of governments, large and small, national and local.

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Quick Tips

Posted by on Mar 2, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

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Yearbook finished? Independent project planning need ideas? Class or media ideas require supercharging? Search SPRC’s Quick Tips for a wide range of models, activities and resources. And, if you discover we don’t have something your students need or want, let us know.

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Journalism Against the Odds

Posted by on Feb 19, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Cyndi Hyatt

Student Press Freedom Day is February 26. 

This year’s theme is Journalism Against the Odds – how fitting for the bulk of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.

Last March who could have predicted the unfolding of a global pandemic closing high schools and colleges, cutting students off from campuses and classrooms, classmates and school staffs.  Who would have predicted the shutdown of entertainment events, restaurants, sporting venues? 

These past 12 months have been challenging in every way for  students who want to cover community news in a predominantly virtual world.  

The first few months of the pandemic were messy and difficult for student-run journalism programs trying to figure out how to keep momentum and how to find and report the important stories,  how to battle administrations who wanted to curtail and limit their production in virtual and hybrid environments.

Student journalists, innovative and creative as ever, rose to the challenge producing newspapers, broadcasts, podcasts, news and literary magazines, yearbooks and social media adapted to the new normal.  

Subsequently, these past 12 months created a new kind of student journalist, one who canrise to challenges, overcome obstacles and adjust coverage. 

Against odds, they continued to report stories that mattered then and still matter now:  Covid-19 and its effect on their communities, local government elections, the 2020 Presidential election, the 2021 Capitol insurrection and systemic racism and social inequity.  

And many of these journalists stood up to barriers and attempted censorship challenging their freedoms and rights to cover protests, to criticize policies, to voice their opinions, to obtain public records, to record, report and tell the truth.

Despite the challenges, there is no better time to be a student journalist.  

February 26 celebrates the successes and innovative reporting produced in the last 12 months.  Embrace the First Amendment and its freedoms.  Stand up to censorship. Get excited about the stories that still need to be told.

February 26 celebrates the successes and innovative reporting produced in the last 12 months.  Embrace the First Amendment and its freedoms.  Stand up to censorship. Get excited about the stories that still need to be told.  

And don’t let the odds stand in your way.

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Transparency revisited

Posted by on Feb 13, 2021 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Approach maintains credibility, builds trust and strengthens reporting

To maintain credibility student reporters and editors should strive to be transparent in all aspects of their reporting, from choosing sources, angles and  context to revealing within the text of a story how interviews were obtained (if anything other than an in-person interview is used), giving proper attribution to direct quotes, as well as using indirect quotes to give attribution to ideas and details that come from sources. 

Reporters should also be transparent in how secondary source information was obtained (i.e. through a public records request, etc.).

Question:
Why is transparency important in student reporting? How can students be transparent in their reporting?

Stance
Student reporters should strive for transparency within their writing and student editors should confirm where information came from as part of their routine fact-checking duties before publication.

Key points/action:
• Students during the reporting process they should take thorough notes so they know where information comes from
•Teach students how to attribute information using both direct and indirect quotes
• Require student editors to do a “transparency check” before publication. While editing stories, if they are not sure where a piece of information came from they should discuss with the reporter the need to be transparent

Reasoning/suggestions
• Transparency is important in student media because it establishes credibility and combats the illusion of “fake news.” If readers or viewers know where the information came from, they are less likely to question its accuracy or claim falsities in the publication.
• It also serves to replace objectivity in a way that can show how and why certain information and sourcing supports the truth and journalistic responsibility .

Bottom line: Be clear where information comes from so no one can question the validity of that information (or if they do they can take those questions to the source and not the publication/reporter).

Resources:
Why Journalists Should Use Transparency as a Tool to Deepen
Engagement
Is Transparency the New Objectivity in Journalism

Related:Attribution & Objectivity

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New Voices may bring new challenges

Posted by on Jan 31, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

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by Stan Zoller, MJE 

As the pandemic lingers and school districts ping-pong back and forth between at-home learning, in-school learning and hybrid learning, one thing hasn’t changed. 

Laws governing student expression.

Fourteen states already have laws that protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists and, reports the Student Press Law Center, laws have been introduced or reintroduced in seven states. Full details about New Voices legislation can be found at this SPLC link.

But it’s not, as the late Al McGuire would say, “all seashells and balloons.”

The pandemic had led some school districts to come up with new policies regulating student behavior ranging from wearing pajamas during at-home learning to, you guessed it, student expression.

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