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Journalism Against the Odds

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


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


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.).

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

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

• 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).

Why Journalists Should Use Transparency as a Tool to Deepen
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


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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Questioning Authority

Posted by on Jan 24, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments


Fallout from the 2020 election expands into a second impeachment trial. Mobs attack the Capital raising charges of unAmerican activity and sedition. Questions of whether not wearing masks and large groups partying extend our national pain of a nearly year-old pandemic.

It is certain scholastic media will address plenty of issues. Just recently Facebook and other digital media addressed questions about obsolescence of objectivity: Could it be obsolete? What does that mean for the emergence of advocacy reporting? Could media roles change? Should they?

Questions concern revision of ethical standards: to reflect guidelines that apply to the newest tools journalists use.

Questions would tackle takedown of published information and the potential impact of deleting historical memory.

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Posted by on Jan 17, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE

While JEA condemns attack on the Capitol Jan. 6, it also urged journalism teachers and advisers to continue facilitating fact-based journalism, especially of locally-related issues.

To help students and advisers with that coverage, The SPRC highlights information and ideas that can assist in exploring current events or national issues.

JEA commended journalism educators, president Sarah Nichols, MJE, said, for finding ways to engage students in class and through coverage.

“Courageous journalism informs us all and serves as a historical record. The reporting during and after such events underscores the importance of the work journalists do based on shared values of truth and justice,” Nichols said …”Knowing these actions were largely related to deep-rooted beliefs of hate and intolerance makes the attack all the more critical for us to address.”

Students, Nichols said, students have the right to cover the news; doing so is also their responsibility.

“JEA stands behind journalists exercising their First Amendment right to report and inform the public,” Nichols said. “Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of retribution or harm.”

Activities | lessons | and more

Legal issues covering protests

Covering controversy

If covering protests, note these points

Questioning authority

Riding out the storm should entail future planning

Protest and the First Amendment

Tools of truth/Sloppy reporting lessons

Stories students can best tell: Reporting protests, walkouts and marches

Covering insurrection: Covering Insurrection: News Frames, Word Choice, & Whose Story to Tell. (online, free workshop)

State capitols brace for right-wing violence; D.C. locks down ahead of inauguration

Pushed to the edge by the Capitol riot, people are reporting their family and friends to the FBI

Texas insurrectionist asks Trump for pardon

One last point. Student media prevented from covering, or prior reviewed by anyone outside the student media staff, on Jan. 6 related issues, please let the Student Press Law Center and us (the SPRC) know. Use the SPLC link and the Panic Button.

panic button
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