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Expanding upon the JEA curriculum to teach the SPJ Code of Ethics

Posted by on Nov 3, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Expanding upon the JEA curriculum to teach the SPJ Code of Ethics

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by Kirsten Gilliland

This school year, I am teaching intro classes for the first time, including photo/digital journalism and Journalism 1-2. The past four years I’ve only taught production classes (broadcasting, newspaper, yearbook) and intro to photography/intermediate photography.

Like many journalism teachers, I turned to the curriculum section of the JEA website for guidance. After looking at my lesson options and sample curriculum maps, I created my own course layouts with ethics towards the beginning. 

For photo/digital journalism specifically, I taught the “Legal and ethical considerations in photojournalism” lesson. Students at my new school are at a lower level academically than they were at my last school.

‘So, instead of providing the recommended 10 minutes to read the SPJ code of ethics individually, I decided we’d do it in chunks as a class to make sure everyone received the content and understood—they could ask questions and I could summarize/provide examples.  

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Self-care mitigates the stress of advising and advocating

Posted by on Oct 28, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Self-care mitigates the stress of advising and advocating

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by Mark Dzula

Working as an adviser can be wonderful and rewarding, especially as you work with young journalists as they take risks, realize their potential and dig into work in the field. It can be gratifying to watch a team coalesce, support each other and develop a sense of efficacy.

At the same time, our work can also be isolating, overwhelming and stressful—especially as we advocate for students’ rights and navigate conflicts with stakeholders.

That’s also part of the gratifying work, though, right? Knowing that your work as an adviser has impact in and out of the newsroom lends one a sense of professional purpose. At the same time, acting as an adviser and advocating for young people can be emotionally taxing and at times overwhelming, especially if you come into conflict with stakeholders. This blog will discuss some possible stressors and also offer suggestions for self-care and self-preservation that may help stem fatigue and protect against burnout.

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Scholastic journalism aid regrowing news desert communities by reporting education issues, info

Posted by on Oct 23, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Scholastic journalism aid regrowing news desert communities by reporting education issues, info

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Reporting school news challenges newsroom pros, students: Part 4/4

My original blog idea started as a simple little suggestion to encourage high school student journalists to cover school board meetings and educational topics in communities without commercial media – those rural and urban areas considered news deserts. But it’s grown much bigger than that. These will be the weekly installments.

Reporting school news challenges newsroom pros, students

Part 1: We’ll explore what happened when a student reporter offered a story about her school to a local “news and digital marketing platform.” It was posted – and then….

Part 2: What do those involved with student media legal issues say about this? We’ll talk to the Student Press Law Center about what rights such young journalists have.

Part 3: How do the hyperlocal web outlets see their role when working with students – or do they see that as a possibility at all? 

Part 4:  Are there ways we – advisers and journalism teachers – can help students and communities get vital information, especially about local education? How can we educate those who might be working with student journalists but have no background in scholastic media and student rights and responsibilities

a sunflower field at sunset

The News Desert

‘If no one writes about what’s happening in their meetings, no one questions their plans and proposals and how they spend tax dollars, how will anyone know if they should remain in office – or step aside for those with better ideas?’ Photo by Jesús Esteban San José on Pexels.com

by Candace Bowen, MJE

This 4-part blog’s premise: Student journalists may be able to help communities in news deserts – places that have no local media coverage and thus no good insight into local government and nothing to help them make important decisions at the polls. 

Education seems like a natural coverage area for student journalists. School boards in particular make decisions that will impact a community for years to come, but if no one writes about what’s happening in their meetings, no one questions their plans and proposals and how they spend tax dollars, how will anyone know if they should remain in office – or step aside for those with better ideas?

One way is to cover more about school board decisions and other local government issues that impact the teen audience in our student media. That can be a plus – and blog content later in the year will cover some ideas about how to do that more effectively – and safely.

Having students intern or write for local community news sites, many of them grant-supported, is another way. The plus with this is the news gets to all the community. It also gives students another venue for their reporting But, with the background from the first three parts of this blog, it’s clear this won’t be easy. The question now is: How can we do — those who understand what student journalists want and need to be effective —to help the editors they might work with on these websites.

What things might such an editor need to know about a potential “employee” who’s 16 years old:

  • Just tossing them into [writing news] just doesn’t work,” said Rachel Dissell, a former student journalist and award-winning reporter with Signal Cleveland. She’s working now with 10 students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and she knows they need foundational skills first.
  • For Dissell, that means first some lessons in civics and government. “Students need to understand the decision-making process.” She shows her students a video of a government meeting, and they discuss how to know who’s there, how to spell their names, how to attribute quotes or to paraphrase, and how to summarize what happened.
  • Ben Wolford, editor of the Portager, hopes to find students in each high school in Portage County to cover educational issues. He said he knows it will take coaching students from the inception of the story to who to talk to and what questions to ask. “They haven’t had a lot of experience dealing with the subtleties of sourcing like what to do if they say it’s off the record,” he said. Yes, that will be a lot of work, but he said that’s how he and others like him learned. 
  • Sourcing is a big challenge for anyone working with teen journalists. Dissell helps her students learn about attribution and paraphrasing and also about accessing data and using databases to support their meeting coverage.
  • Some other things we educators know, but the newsroom pros might not:
  • Teens are certainly capable, but sometimes, out of necessity have spread themselves too thin. Jobs, classes (AP or an extra load), home responsibilities, often with younger siblings, sports, clubs…..)
    • Some really top students have not had grammar and punctuation training the editors might expect.
    • Some really top students have not had the government and history background the editors might expect.
  • And then there’s the “long arm” of the school. As reported in Part 1 of this blog, not all editors would know students have First Amendment rights. “If students are going to be engaging in a total third-party activity in reference to the school district, if it is off campus, not using any sort of campus equipment, not during school hours,” as SPLC lawyer Jonathan Gaston-Falk said, the school can’t censor or regulate their speech.

This may be the biggest a-HA moment those just starting to work with teens should know. No matter if the principal makes the school look bad, no matter if he or she finds an article awkward or embarrassing.

Bottom line: Is it true?

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News deserts 2/4

Posted by on Oct 2, 2023 in Blog, Law and Ethics | Comments Off on News deserts 2/4

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My original blog idea started as a simple little suggestion to encourage high school student journalists to cover school board meetings and educational topics in communities without commercial media – those rural and urban areas considered news deserts. But it’s grown much bigger than that. These will be the weekly installments to follow the story.

Student journalists’ role in reporting on education grows where there are News Deserts  

Part 1: We’ll explore what happened when a student reporter offered a story about her school to a local “news and digital marketing platform.” It was posted – and then….

Part 2: What do those involved with student media legal issues say about this? We’ll talk to the Student Press Law Center about what rights such young journalists have.

Part 3: How do the hyperlocal web outlets see their role when working with students – or do they see that as a possibility at all? 

Part 4:  Are there ways we – advisers and journalism teachers – can help students and communities get vital information, especially about local education? How can we educate those who might be working with student journalists but have no background in scholastic media and student rights and responsibilities?

Part 2 blog

How far off campus does censorship’s impact reach

by Candace Bowen, MJE

The idea of having high school journalists fill the void in communities that have lost their local media sounds simple and fairly logical. This is especially true when it comes to covering school board meetings and issues like building safety. 

If a community has no local media to do this – if the area is what is considered a “news desert” — citizens would have a hard time making informed choices when they vote about local issues. Perhaps publishing more about school curriculum and district policies in area student media and disseminating it to the community would be a good idea. 

Also, in more and more places, hyperlocal often grant-funded news sites are appearing, and they sometimes look for student journalists who are on the “inside” to help with this reporting. Often that’s college students they recruit, but, more recently, it’s also high school journalists. This is a great idea but often has some challenges, as Part 1 of this blog showed.

When a media outlet agrees to print a student article, the long arm of the school might try and even succeed in preventing that from happening. What if the article “makes the school look bad”? What if administrators think they can censor work like that? 

Thus, the question to explore in this week’s blog: Can a school legally censor such student-written stories when they are published by news sites that have nothing to do with the school?

white and black typewriter on white table

“If students are going to be engaging in a total third-party activity in reference to the school district, if it is off campus, not using any sort of campus equipment, not during school hours,” Gaston-Falk said, … these things typically separate the activity from the school district. “The school has less of an expectation, less ability to regulate speech off campus,” he said.

The good news, in a word, is NO, they can’t, according to Jonathan Gaston-Falk, staff attorney with the Student Press Law Center. Even if a student has written about the school district, some things typically separate him or her from being under the school’s control.

“If students are going to be engaging in a total third-party activity in reference to the school district, if it is off campus, not using any sort of campus equipment, not during school hours,” Gaston-Falk said, … these things typically separate the activity from the school district. “The school has less of an expectation, less ability to regulate speech off campus,” he said.

A Supreme Court case from June 2021, B.L. v. Mahanoy, addressed this. According to the Student Press Law Center website, “Of particular concern — particularly since the arrival of social media and other online speech — has been the debate over how much, if any, authority school officials should have over a student’s speech when they are outside of school. This case is about where to draw the line.”

The Court ruled that the Mahanoy school district violated Levy’s First Amendment rights because her SnapChat post, repeatedly using an expletive about not making varsity cheerleading, did not appear to have created a disruption and was created off campus and outside school hours.

Thus, could a school communications officer or other administrator have any legal right to demand a professionally run community news site remove such student work?

That seems pretty unlikely, Gaston-Falk said.

If the adults running those news sites don’t know about students’ First Amendment rights, and the students themselves don’t know their rights, unlawful censorship could easily happen.

Gaston-Falk encourages students, even those working for news outlets beyond their high schools, to contact the Student Press Law Center with their legal concerns.

Adults at the news outlets are also encouraged to contact SPLC lawyers and find out when an administrator’s authority ends inside the schoolhouse gates.

person walking on sand dune

If the adults running those news sites don’t know about students’ First Amendment rights, and the students themselves don’t know their rights, unlawful censorship could easily happen.

Part 3 of the series will explore the knowledge and views of some of the adults who run these websites and how they see their role when working with student journalists.

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A four-part blog:

Posted by on Sep 25, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on A four-part blog:

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Emma’s story Part 1 of 4
One student journalist attempts to reach a larger audience

person foot prints on sands photo
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

One student journalist attempts to reach a larger audience

by Candace Bowen, MJE

My original blog idea started as a simple little suggestion to encourage high school student journalists to cover school board meetings and educational topics in communities without commercial media – those rural and urban areas considered news deserts. But it’s grown much bigger than that. These will be the weekly installments to – follow the story

Student journalists’ role in reporting on education grows where there are News Deserts  

Part 1: We’ll explore what happened when a student reporter offered a story about her school to a local “news and digital marketing platform.” It was posted – and then….

Part 2: What do those involved with student media legal issues say about aa597this? We’ll talk to the Student Press Law Center about what rights such young journalists have.

Part 3: How do the hyperlocal web outlets see their role when working with students – or do they see that as a possibility at all? 

Part 4:  Are there ways we – advisers and journalism teachers – can help students and communities get vital information, especially about local education? How can we educate those who might be working with student journalists but have no background in scholastic media and student rights and responsibilities?

by Candace Bowen, MJE

She reached out to TAPinto, “a network of local news and digital marketing platforms,” opening in towns that have no local newspaper or news website. The franchise currently has nearly 100 such outlets across the nation, many in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. 

It was spring 2023, right after yet another school shooting, when junior Emma Levine decided those in her New Jersey community needed to hear local student voices about this issue. 

a person walking in the middle of the hot desert
Photo by Amine M’siouri on Pexels.com

Emma didn’t work on her student newspaper, though she had taken journalism and hopes to have that as her college major in another year.

“The whole idea behind what I wanted to write was to reach more people, to be a student voice.”  She said she hoped to show how her school was reacting to school shootings. To do that, she interviewed a student, a teacher and the school’s principal at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey. 

All three of her interviewees knew her purpose and her plan to have this published in TAPinto so community members would know what the school was doing.  She carefully double checked her facts with all three. “I wanted to be sure it was correct,” she said, and she did make one minor change. 

The article was posted on a Wednesday, and, by Friday, Emma heard from her editor.  She said “it had to be taken down.” According to Levine, “The school’s communications officer insisted the three interviewed had no idea this was to be published.” So the TAPinto editor removed the story.

The editor wanted to know “what else I could write” because Emma was considered an unpaid intern. But Levine said she was “super determined to get it back up, even if that meant making some changes.” She tried talking to the superintendent, communications officer and principal, but none of that happened until June.

“I thought it was important to get the piece out there,” Levine said, but the communications officer said the superintendent had “grave concerns” about what was posted in the article. Because Levine was working for “an outside entity,” she should have gone through the communications officer to get to talk to the principal. And, no, even taking things out wasn’t a solution.

Levine said she “took that hit and moved on,” writing two more articles for TAPinto during the summer. The principal later approached her about being “the student voice as part of an internship for credit through the school.” She said she told him that was “great idea” but she didn’t want credit for this. She never heard more about that proposal.

Levine does encourage other students to try to write for their local news outlets. She said she learned a lot about how the (news) process works.

Emma said, overall, she learned some “big takeaways,” including that “education is about putting out fires.” She was not being supported as an opportunity-seeking student. Her hardest takeaway, however, was that a lot of education is about “putting out fires.”

“My principal wasn’t going to bat for me – but my journalism teacher was,” Levine said.

person walking on sand dune
Photo by mostafa meraji on Pexels.com

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