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Student journalists can tackle current, key issues to bring

Posted by on Feb 23, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Student journalists can tackle current, key issues to bring


by John Bowen, MJE

For 19 days now, Ohioans anywhere near East Palestine, a town with close to 4,700 residents near the Pennsylvania state line, tried to grasp the Norfolk Southern train’s derailment impact on their futures and those of their town.

Today, Feb. 22, Northern Ohioans and others in the proximity of railroad tracks, might have reason to ask the same questions.

Feb. 19, news broke the train had traveled from Toledo through Cleveland before turning south with its load of toxic materials. Although we do not know the exact path yet, one route could take this train 2.2 miles from our house, slightly north of the city of Kent and through Ravenna, the county seat of Portage County.

Our estimate of a probable railroad journey south, based on the Norfolk Southern’s route map, goes from Cleveland up north, through Hudson, Ravenna and then east through Alliance. East Palestine is after Sebring, right about when the tracks cross the Pennsylvania border (the yellow line on a map).That itinerary was plotted by our high school grandson who knows railroads, trains and how they cross the state.

2.2 miles.

Now, all those who live and work and shop and enjoy the outdoors along railroad trucks, have reason to join 4,700 people in East Palestine, Ohio, concerned, and seeking answers.

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Throwing journalism to the dogs – the watchdogs

Posted by on Jan 11, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Throwing journalism to the dogs – the watchdogs


by Stan Zoller, MJE

Watchdog reporting can make a difference.

When you think of watchdog reporting, chances are you’ll think of mainstream media – The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, etc. 

Watchdog journalism: Student scribes should doggedly stick to journalistic fundamentals by reporting the truth by providing attribution, being honest with readers, adhering and documenting facts and being a positive force in the community. Original pexels photo by Kateryna Babaieva

Don’t however, look past non-profit organizations dedicated to enhancing transparency in government.

The BGA staff includes a number of outstanding and award-winning journalists who do more than report and investigate.

They advocate. 

One of the best is the Chicago-based Better Government Association. In addition to being an invaluable resource for information about open meetings, freedom of information issues, the BGA also aggressively addresses issues related to government actions, transparency and openness not just by blogging about them, but through outstanding and dogged reporting.

Student journalists, as the voice of their school’s student body, have an obligation to not only report on what’s happening at school, but to be the voice and advocates for the student body.

It’s not something district and building administrators are going to buy into, but as more and more school districts are required to teach civics, the bar of journalistic excellence and advocacy rises.

It’s easy for cynics to call investigative and watchdog journalism “fake news”  because the reality is, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep in the 1992 classic, “A Few Good Men,” they can’t handle the truth.

What student journalists can do is go above and beyond fundamental journalism to ensure they avoid allegations of fake news.

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When the law becomes a ‘liabullyity’

Posted by on Jan 2, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on When the law becomes a ‘liabullyity’


by Stan Zoller, MJE

Victory is sweet.
Whether on the football field, baseball field, soccer field or in the legislature.  It’s always great to win one for the ‘Gipper’ – or whomever.
When it comes to New Voices laws, the victors are student journalists. In those states where New Voices laws have been passed, scholastic journalism programs are experiencing a new breath of fresh air and the opportunity to practice journalism the way it should be practiced – without undue and unjust interference.

Districts are developing new policies for student activities, including student media. It appears some are cookie-cutter policies not drafted by a school board or district legal counsel. One example is a district with a policy for “High Schools.”

scrabble tiles

            At least that’s what you would hope.

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Make time for the First Amendment

Posted by on Dec 4, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Make time for the First Amendment


by Sarah Nichols, MJE
JEA President

December is a busy month, I know. And things still feel slower and more difficult than our pre-pandemic student media operations. But that’s all the more reason to invest the time to discuss and apply for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award before the Dec. 15 deadline.

Don’t underestimate your eligibility or feel like you “haven’t done enough” this year to deserve recognition. Applying to recognize your school doesn’t require a big fancy project or massive undertaking. You’re probably doing more than you realize to promote First Amendment awareness on your campus.

It may be outside your comfort zone to apply for an award. Instead of seeing it as seeking the spotlight, think of it this way: Your student media program is actively applying the First Amendment, and your school is supporting student press freedom. Sharing this acknowledgement not only makes you all look good, but it helps guarantee these policies and practices will continue for years to come. And what serves as positive reinforcement on your campus also adds to the list nationally. Journalism programs are worth fighting for – and recognizing.

If you’ve never thought about it, now’s the time. 

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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


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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