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Can the Elements of Journalism help replace prior review?


As we’ve tried to emphasize in the last several posts, prior review is not a valid or workable educational practice. It betrays the trust of the audience (as well as that of student journalists and their advisers) and negates any concept of students taking responsibility for what they write.

Let’s see if we can build some common ground to lessen the need for prior review, which we have seen lately undermines the whole educational process.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel call this approach the science of reporting.

Together, these points, say the authors, lead to the discipline of verification, meaning published material is accurate, truthful and in context.

Paired with responsible journalism, as defined by JEA and outlined in an earlier post, Kovach and Rosenstiel’s verification of information and science of reporting provide a framework for scholastic journalism without prior review.

Given the outrageous examples of recent prior review, isn’t it time to give student journalists a chance to prove good journalism can and will occur without review?

In their book, The Elements of Journalism, they outline five points for this concept:

• Never add anything that was not there: This requires solid reporting and a variety of credible sources.

Never deceive the audience: This requires building a framework of trust with your audiences and ties to the next point.

Be as transparent as possible about methods and motive: It allows the audience to judge the validity of the information, the process by which it was gathered and the motives and biases of the journalists providing it, the authors say.

Rely on your own original reporting: Reporters who can do their own work, with encouragement and support from school officials and advisers will produce  stronger, more complete reporting. This might even mean turning off the Internet filters so they can have unfiltered access to information and sources.

Exercise humility: Journalists should be humble about their own skills as well as what they see and hear from sources. This reinforces the need to know perspective on stories as well as being open-minded to story-changing resources.

Recent examples of prior review leading to censorship clearly show we must find a way to encourage students practice what they are taught. We hope The Elements of Journalism can help pave the way.

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