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Basic lessons for teachers to use during online learning

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 1 comment

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by Lori Keekley, MJE

Several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee developed some lessons for advisers to use with their journalism students. The lessons are intended to be asynchronous basic introductions. The goal is to introduce students to the content and provide resources they then can examine further. 

The lessons include information on the First Amendment, copyright, libel, staff manual creation, how to choose a forum concept, prior review and some situational legal and ethical considerations. 

First Amendment — Freedom of Speech rights, especially when it comes to students in any sort of student publication, can be very complex, but there are some overall principles that can lead to a solid understanding of the basics. This lesson provides details and background on what rights student journalists generally possess, gives resources for understanding how any local policies affect those rights and supplies scenarios and links to promote further discussion and involvement.

Copyright — This online lesson helps students independently learn the basics of copyright law and the exceptions to it. After a brief tutorial, students will then either draw or create an online infographic explaining what they have learned. 

Libel — This online lesson guides students through the basics of libel law and the specifics of how it applies to real-world situations. It includes a brief instructional video, a quiz for understanding, and a discussion/writing prompt.

Manual — Staff manuals provide student journalists with resources and guidance during times of need. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate (and review) your current guidelines — and maybe even policies. These virtual conversations will not only help students understand what to do, but also what they may want to examine for future. 

Forum status –– This online lesson guides students through the basics of forum status for student media and the specifics of how it applies to student media. A statement of forum status is an essential part of a staff manual.

Prior review and restraint –– This online lesson guides students through the basics of prior review and prior restraint and the specifics of how it applies to student media. Almost every national journalism education group and professional journalism organization opposes prior review and restraint as having little to no educational value. A position on prior review is an essential part of a staff manual.

Legal and ethical scenarios — Teachers could do this as one scenario per day unit or sprinkle them throughout many weeks while addressing other areas as well. Topics covered include both legal and ethical concerns such as copyright, photo ethics, basic reporting, takedown requests, etc.

If you have any questions, please contact Lori Keekley

Other contributing committee members:

John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)

Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)

Matthew Smith, CJE, Fond du Lac High School (WI)

Kristin Taylor, CJE, The Archer School for Girls (CA)

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Basic libel law

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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This online lesson guides students through the basics of libel law and the specifics of how it applies to real-world situations. It includes a brief instructional video, a quiz for understanding, and a discussion/writing prompt.

Objectives

  • Students will have a basic understanding of libel law.
  •  Students will apply libel law to real-world scenarios and decision-making.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the benefits of avoiding libel.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.7Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

Length

25 minutes

Materials / resources

Basic Libel Law Presentation Video

Basic Libel Law Presentation PDF

Student Press Law Center Libel Quiz

Student Press Law Center Libel Quiz ANSWERS with Explanations

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation (10 minutes to complete) — Post a link to the “Basic Libel Law” video and/or to the PDF of the presentation for students to watch and study.

Assessment 1 (10 minutes) — Provide a link to the “Student Press Law Center Libel Quiz,” and have students provide their best answers in whatever manner is easiest (as responses to a Google Form, typed into a doc of some sort, etc.). The teacher may then score and provide feedback or (suggested) provide the “Student Press Law Center Answer Key” as a link directly to students for self-evaluation and some explanation for incorrect answers.

Assessment 2 (5 minutes) — Post the following question (or questions) for extended student response: (1.) Why is it important that journalists hold themselves to high standards in avoiding publishing libel? (2.) [This could be optional for production classes] What does our student publication do to avoid publishing libel? Responses could be submitted for the teacher only or posted in such a way as to allow for sharing and comment by others to encourage some digital dialogue. In assessing responses, look for direct reference to some of the details from the presentation as well as extension to specific, real-world harm to citizens/society of libel and benefits for journalism/society for avoiding libel.

Differentiation

The differentiation is in the video selected and assignment given.

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Prior review and prior restraint

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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This online lesson guides students through the basics of prior review and prior restraint and the specifics of how it applies to student media. Almost every national journalism education group and professional journalism organization opposes prior review and restraint as having little to no educational value. A position on prior review is an essential part of a staff manual.

Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of prior review and restraint.
  • Students will compare and contrast prior review and restraint with journalism principles, ethics and decision-making.
  • Students will develop arguments to defend or oppose the use of prior review and restraint

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Based on individual needs

Materials / resources

Prior review v. prior restraint  

Resources for teacher background

Model guidelines for policy choices

Easy access to policy models

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Suggestions for student media mission, legal, ethical and procedural language

Introducing a staff manual package to build a foundation for journalistic responsibility

Edit policy sets forum status

Ethics codes are invaluable in student journalism, but not as guide for punishment

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manuals

Model for ethical guidelines

Takedown demands

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum

Talking points on prior review and restraint

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

Prior review v. prior restraint

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

JEA defines prior review

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation – Day 1

The teacher will set up a discussion question for students about prior review and prior restraint. 

The prompt follows:

Read these definitions:

  • Prior review occurs when anyone not on the publication/media staff requires that he or she be allowed to read, view or approve student material before distribution, airing or publication.
  • Prior restraint occurs when someone not on the publication/media staff requires pre-distribution changes to or removal of student media content

Once students ponder the definitions, they should read Prior review v. prior restraint.

The teacher should post the following:

• Create two lists, one supporting prior review and the other opposed to it. Based on readings, previous class work and the definitions, list up to 10 reasons each to oppose or support prior review 

When they are satisfied, students would submit their lists to a third, blank, discussion board for use when they work to draft a prior review statement.

Presentation – Day 2 (Could be later or when working on staff manual)

Students will review their pro-con prior review statements and browse through Talking points on prior review and restraint

Using their review choices and other articles, students should each draft a prior review statement to be used with other manual statements on policy, ethics and procedure.

Assessment

Students should craft it as the focus for a short position paper:

            • In no more than 150 words, craft a position statement on how to talk with administrators about prior review..

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Quick Tips

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Use these short resources to build lessons, ethics guidelines

Forum status of student media
If you’re developing a new policy, the Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends using language something like this:

[Name of publication] is a designated public forum for student expression. Student editors make all content decisions without prior review from school officials.

Prior review v. prior restraint
In brief, the Journalism Education Association has found prior review has no educational value. Instead, JEA believes it is simply the first step toward censorship and fake news. Prior review also contributes to self-censorship and lack of trust between students, advisers and administrators. Prior review conflicts with JEA’s adviser code of ethics.

Student media policy may be the most important decision you makeStudents should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content.

What do you do in the event of student faculty death?
It’s important to have a guideline in place before a student or staff member dies. Journalists should report a student or staff death in an objective, consistent manner that has been decided when the staff manual is being revised. Choosing what to publish at the time of any tragedy is not wise and can cause staffs to make choices that create problems in the future.

Balance and objectivity are key to reporting
Balance and objectivity don’t mean isolation and a lack of care about people and their stories.

They do mean trying to report all points of view as best you can and providing background and context for the story.

Free press –– why students should make all decisions of content
For students to prepare themselves for their roles in a democracy, they must be able to practice guarantees of the First Amendment, thus knowing they can make a difference.

Avoid senior quotes; give them to senior class for publishing
The question of using senior quotes in student media came up recently on JEA’s listserv. The Scholastic Press Rights committee would urge schools not to run them, but turn them over too the senior class as part of its responsibility.

Should student media publish senior superlatives?Publishing senior superlatives, if seniors decide they are worthwhile at all, is one of those “traditions” best moved from student media to those who most clearly benefit – the senior class.

Should student media publish senior superlatives?
Publishing senior superlatives, if seniors decide they are worthwhile at all, is one of those “traditions” best moved from student media to those who most clearly benefit – the senior class.

So your student media want to do senior wills?
Because senior wills have minimal journalistic value and great potential for damage, they should not be used in school publications.

The issues with April Fools coverage
April Fool’s issues are fake news and can damage student media’s credibility.

Yes, some find them acceptable, but their negatives far outweigh their positives. The ultimate question is are they worth the risks?

Allowing sources to preview content is ethically questionable
The newest reporter on staff chooses to cover the story about the Science Department’s new policy on studying animal life. To do so, she must interview the head about a new policy on studying animal life. It’s fairly controversial because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is strongly opposed to dissection and the new curriculum for advanced biology includes that.

What to do if sources, including the expert, want to see the story ahead of time?

Takedown requests: When the right to preserve history conflicts with the desire to forget it
As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests.

The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

Publishing memes also means knowing copyright rules
Entertainment. Political statements. A way to comment on issues, events, people

And, if not done correctly, says Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, a way to violate the owner’s copyright. A violation several owners pursued.

Who should be on student media editorial boards, make decisions?
Because student media are productions of student work, only students should be on editorial boards of student media. That would include the general manager and producers of broadcast media.

The importance of staff editorials
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Covering controversy
Although some administrators would like for students to only publish “positive” stories, a journalist’s job is to watch and report on the school. This may involve students including stories that might make the school “look bad.”

Disturbing images: public’s right to know v. invasion of privacy
A 9-year-old girl, burning from napalm, runs naked down a Vietnam road. A vulture watches a Sudanese child, emaciated from famine, crawl across the ground. Two yellow-clad health workers carry a limp 8-year-old boy who might be infected with Ebola to a treatment facility.

Determine who owns student work before publication beginsAbsent a written agreement indicating otherwise, student journalists own the copyright to the works they create. Each media outlet should ensure it has clear policies in place for staff members and the publication that spell out ownership and the right of the publication to use student work

Determine who owns student work before publication begins
Absent a written agreement indicating otherwise, student journalists own the copyright to the works they create. Each media outlet should ensure it has clear policies in place for staff members and the publication that spell out ownership and the right of the publication to use student work

The role of the adviser is multifold, but ethically, practically not a doer
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers.

That role means letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

How can my school get involved in the New Voices campaign?
Almost a quarter of all states have now passed legislation protecting voice in student media, and instilling the virtues of the First Amendment as state statute for student media. North Dakota’s success in 2015 seemed to spark the latest fire that has seen legislative recognition of student speech in Illinois, Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Empowering student decision-making
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers

Responsibility in scholastic media starts with ethics, accuracy, complete story

Responsibility in scholastic media starts with ethics, accuracy, complete story
Administrators may want student media that depicts the school in a positive light, that promotes good news and overlooks the negative.

Is this responsible journalism?

Advisers may want student media that reflects students’ technical proficiency such as mechanics, grammar and style. Little else matters.

Is this responsible journalism?

Decision-making for most student broadcasts protected same as print, online
As more schools expand their journalism programs to include broadcast and radio, it should be clear how Tinker and Hazelwood positively or negatively affect broadcast programs

The answer is: it depends.

If they go out over the broadcast airways, Federal Communications Commission regulations apply.

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum
Forum concept reinforced by Dean v. Utica Community schools decision

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?
JEA historically has opposed prior review of student media by school officials.

That opposition continues.

Prior review leads only to control, active censorship and iis the first step toward the spread of fake news and less than complete disinformation.

What, students have rights?  Since 1943
Before the Barnette decision, when students came into conflict with public schools, the courts decided their cases—often against the students—without mentioning students’ right. They considered if the punishment was excessive (beating with a rawhide strap was okay in 1859). They also debated if it was the parents’ right or the schools’ right to discipline the students. The First Amendment was never mentioned.

Journalism integrity guides student media
As scholastic media advisers and students develop policies and guidelines to guide them with journalism standards, they should note these words: The only thing students have to lose as journalists is their credibility.

Ethical guidelines for monitoring yearbook coverage
Arguably, the two biggest complaints most yearbook staffs hear are that a wide cross section of the school is not covered adequately, and quotes are not represented accurately. These are tough criticisms to hear, but staffs must consider the potential criticism while they create the book.

Equipment purchase does not mean content control
It has long been understood that school purchase of equipment or provision of a room that is not the only factor in who controls the content.

There other factors, including a guiding court decision.

Ethical photo editing, visuals
Student media should avoid electronic manipulation that alters the truth of a photograph unless it is used as art. In that case it should be clearly labeled as a photo illustration.

Academic dishonesty lessens media effectiveness
Dishonesty compromises the integrity and credibility of the student publication. The editorial board and/or adviser should address any instance of academic misconduct immediately

Social media that works in high school classrooms
Social media has had such a profound effect on journalism that it’s sometimes hard to remember how traditional news functioned before it. Reading this 2009 MediaShift article is a powerful reminder that Twitter wasn’t always the source of breaking news. In fact, as author Julie Posetti wrote just eight years ago, “Some employers are either so afraid of the platform or so disdainful about its journalistic potential that they’ve tried to bar their reporters from even accessing Twitter in the workplace.”

Handling online commentsDeciding whether to accept online comments can be a tough decision they can carry a lot of baggage. How to review and verify them? How does refusing to run them affect your forum status?

Handling online comments
Deciding whether to accept online comments can be a tough decision they can carry a lot of baggage. How to review and verify them? How does refusing to run them affect your forum status?

And that’s only the first decision.

When sources don’t respond
The publication staff will provide every reasonable opportunity for sources to respond to a request for an interview. Students must first attempt to contact the source in person or through an administrative assistant. If the person is not available, they should attempt calling and leaving a message with a request for an in-person interview. If, after 24 hours, the source does not respond to the telephone call, staffers should send an email requesting an in-person interview with a clear deadline by which the staffer will include the line “the source did not respond to an interview request.”

The perks of being a wallflower: How a school district escaped a lawsuit by fostering an independent student press
Because Lexington High School students made all the editorial, business and staffing decisions for both the LHS Yearbook and the school paper, a suit against the district failed. The school’s superintendent, principal, the two publication advisers and the five school members of the school committee escaped unharmed from the suit that alleged they were violating the First and Fourteenth amendments when the school publications refused two ads.

Choosing topics for editorials
The best and most effective staff editorials are those that tackle an important topic and then give audiences a reason and a way to address it.

The importance of staff edits: critical thinking, leadership
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Given all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to see why writing an unsigned staff editorial might seem a lower priority than getting the next edition to print or finishing that great feature on the new student body president.

What is the process if someone wants to submit a guest commentary
Accepting guest commentaries, offered randomly, reinforces student media’s role as a public forum for student expression.

Letters or commentary can enhance public forum role
Publishing letters to the editor is another way of fulfilling student media’s forum obligations to engage audiences through journalistic responsibility.

That said, students should establish clear criteria for identifying the authors, receiving and verifying the information. Such viewpoint neutral guidelines do not violate the author’s free expression rights.

The process of deciding staff editorials
Keys to effective editorials include focused positions, credible sources and meaningful topics. If the topic is focused on issues and problems, strong editorials include a call to action or possible solutions.

“I wrote that just to get a grade:” Students should write what they believe
To ensure credibility, students should only write opinion stories that represent their beliefs. If, during the research phase, the student changes his or her mind, then the story should be reassigned or the content of the story be altered to reflect the change in view.

Interviewing ‘people on the street’
Four categories of sources exist: experts, authorities, knowledgeable and reactors (sometimes called bozos). The first three should be credible. The last not so much.

Why ask “what do you think about the tax levy?” if the person has no knowledge at all?

Students should ask permission to record before interviews begin and ethical reminders about interviewing
One of those areas easily overlooked is asking for permission to record interviews. Ethically — and in some states legally — students should always ask permission to record an interview.

Make it matter: Scholastic journalism must do more than give facts
How can student journalists keep their publications relevant when information spreads faster than they can report it?

Professional journalists have struggled with this problem for years. Before the advent of the internet and social media, news producers — whether newspaper, radio or broadcast — were citizens’ primary source of information. News consumers found out about terrorist attacks and new government policies when they opened the morning paper or turned on the evening news

Make it matter: Verification essential as journalists seek truth
One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. Given that Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” their 2016 word of the year and the president has called venerable traditional news sources “fake news,” getting the facts right is more crucial than ever.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process.

Respecting privacy and public space  important for photographers
Student journalists should never invade the privacy of others while accessing information or photos for a story.

However. it is their journalistic duty to know what constitutes invasion of privacy or what spaces they are legally allowed to access and what spaces they are not legally allowed to access.

Seeking visual truth is just as important as written truth
A reporter working on a story pauses from her transcription. “Hm,” she thinks. “This is a good quote, but my source could have said it so much better. I’ll just change it around and add a bit …”

By this point, responsible student journalists and their advisers are horrified. Of course you can’t change a source’s quote! Our job is to seek truth and report it, not to create fiction.

Consider emotional impact as well as news values when choosing images
When the editors of the Panther Prowler, the student-run school newspaper for Newbury Park High School, decided to write a feature article about teenagers having sex in 2015, they knew it was going to be controversial. The controversy wasn’t just about the content of the article, however — it was also about the image they paired with it, which appeared on the cover of their special edition magazine.

Since the article’s focus was the impact of limited sex education in and out of the classroom, the editors decided to use an iconic sex ed image: a condom on a banana.

Keeping ads and content separate
Student journalists should maintain a wall between promotional/paid content and journalistic content.

That historical wall should remain intact to help reassure audiences the content they receive is as thorough and complete as possible.

As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in The Elements of Journalism, journalists’ first loyalty is to the truth while maintaining an independence from those they report.

Handling controversial ads/content
Student media should not discriminate against advertising based on students’ personal beliefs.

For example, students should attempt to include advertisers from multiple perspectives. According to the federal court decision in Yeo v. Lexington, student editors have the right to reject advertisements and school administrators are not legally responsible for advertising decisions students make.

Handling sponsored content, native ads
Although it is quite possible scholastic media will never face making a decision to run material known as sponsored content or native ads, students and advisers should prepare guidelines just in case.

Sponsored content and native advertising, two media terms for paid materials, are becoming a fact of life for media and consumers. That said, student media, when faced with publishing them, should act carefully and with the best interests of the audience/consumer first.

Ad placement 
Newspapers used to keep in-depth, front page and opinion pages completely separated from advertising.

The thinking was the advertising and promotion of products should not appear to influence a newspaper’s editorial choices. They wanted to keep their most important pages dedicated to the content they deemed most important.

Political ads: Who can place an advertisement
Students make all content decisions, including those related to advertising, and maintain the right to reject any ads.

Student media do not necessarily endorse the products or services offered in advertisements. Students should strive to retain as much control of funds or services obtained from the sale of advertising, subscriptions or other student fundraisers as possible. All businesses should have a street address

Accepting ads from competing organizations
Students who sell ads sometimes hesitate to solicit advertising from competing companies. They sometimes have a loyalty to one of their clients or they believe their clients will be frustrated if their competitor is also advertising in the same publication.

This is a good problem to have. Too many advertisers want to support your publication, and you should encourage a forum for advertising that is as robust as your editorial content

We have the responsibility to ensure administrators see journalism’s values
Educating administrators about the value of journalism at the high school level is a crucial step towards empowering student journalists and building a future with more engaged democratic citizens.

Seeking journalistic truth 

Journalistic truth “means much more than mere accuracy,” according the seminal text “The Elements of Journalism” by Kovach and Rosenstiel. “It is a sorting-out process that takes place between the initial story and the interaction among the public, newsmakers and journalists.”

Solutions Journalism

Solutions Journalism doesn’t offer its solution to issues. It does report on what others haveworked and what has not.

Handling sponsored content

Student media, when faced with publishing sponsored content, should act carefully and with the best interests of the audience/consumer first.

The importance of linking to reporting

Links in online reporting provides context, credibility and transparency for coverage.

Promote online coverage with facts, without hype

Staffs should have clear guidelines for the tone of information published in social media. Although tweets are often used to promote people or events, that’s not the job of news media — student-run or otherwise. Remember to be a journalist all the time and provide facts, not opinion and hype.

Public or independent schools: Whose expression is protected is complex

If public school student journalists face censorship, they can turn to the First Amendment. Because public schools are funded by the government, school officials are government agents. Private (also known as “independent”) schools are not funded by the government, so those school officials are not government agents — the First Amendment does not apply.

Becoming a public forum for student expression

All student media publications should strive to be a “public forum for student expression” in order to be granted more protection under current free press laws.

Fighting self-censorship

Advisers and students should oppose attempts at both internal and external censorship.

Unnamed sources should be used sparingly

Journalism is based on truth and accuracy. Using unnamed sources risks both of those standards. For that reason, students should seek sources willing to speak on the record.

Transparency

In order to maintain credibility, student reporters and editors should strive to be transparent in all aspects of their reporting. This includes 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.

Standards for accepting non-staff content

Example: Student media will not accept advertising content that includes profanity, obscenity or nudity (with the exception of baby pictures for the personal ads). The editors reserve the right to edit all copy for style or to refuse an ad on the basis of its content.

s. Study others’ First Amendment climate to better your own

Free expression isn’t always a friendly venture. Oftentimes, the values of free expression can be tested by speech that may make another uncomfortable.

By examining their school’s current free expression climate, students can evaluate what type of community education is needed and act accordingly.

Importance of news literacy

Informed citizens are a crucial part of a democracy. As both producers and consumers of news, student journalists must understand the principles of news literacy.

Student journalism is not public relations

Imagine the American press was only allowed to report on good news. No mention of problems in society, no opportunity to speak out against injustice or corruption — just a relentless stream of positivity with the government overseeing every piece of content. Chilling, right?

Credibility strengthened with use of sources in opinion pieces

Writers should show they have done research and interviews in opinion pieces just as they do in objective reporting.

Doing this provides credibility and authority to their views. It also shows audiences the students are informed on the issue.

FOIA requests

Data your school district keeps for its own information or to report out to the state or federal government is an important resource for journalists.

Diversity is a journalistic must

Student media staffs should reflect the racial, economic, social issue and gender diversity of the schools they represent.

We have the responsibility to ensure administrators see journalism’s value

School administrators can feel tremendous pressure to protect their schools’ reputations, so it’s understandable that they may be wary of supporting a scholastic press where students have final say over all content.

Educating administrators about the value of journalism at the high school level is a crucial step towards empowering student journalists and building a future with more engaged democratic citizens.

Mistakes happen. What matters is how
student journalists handle those mistakes

Students should know when to make corrections and when (if ever) to remove online stories entirely. Minor proofreading errors that don’t impact the meaning of the content don’t require corrections. Once students are aware of a mistake that should be corrected and have fact-checked to be sure it is indeed erroneous, they need to act quickly to help restore their credibility. 

Censorship leads to fake news

JEA strongly rejects both prior review and restraint as tools in the education process and agrees with other national journalism education groups that no valid educational justification exists for prior review of scholastic media.

Prior review and prior restraint of student media content by school officials are weapons in the arsenal of censorship. Not only do they limit student learning and application, but they also restrict student critical thinking and analysis.

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Ethical scenarios

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Scenario 1:

Several in the sophomore class have asked the photo editors to remove their braces in their yearbook photo. The photo editor has asked the editor for advice. 

What are some of the consideration points to consider as journalists? What should the editor’s advice be? Is this a legal or ethical consideration?

Directions for next step for each scenario: (Please note, under each of the next scenarios, the links to post are after the scenario description.)

After a discussion, the teacher could post the following link and ask students to now look at one of these and then repost to their original points to figure out if they were correct in their reasoning and idea.

Scenario 2:

As the sports editor, you want to include a screenshot of your local professional women’s basketball team from the local newspaper’s website to accompany a story on the stoppage of sports. Is this legal use of a photo? If it’s not, what might be a better option?

SPRC link for teachers to post.

Scenario 3:

A student who used to be on staff wrote a letter to the editor questioning the purpose of student media. Should you include the letter? Would it be different if it were an online comment only?

SPRC links for teachers to post:

letters and commentary

online comments.

Scenario 4:

Two students passed when the car was hit by a drunken driver. Should you cover the fatality? How might you do this?

SPRC link for teachers to post.

Scenario 5

Next year, you have plans to make some changes to increase readership. The editorial board is deciding whether to add senior quotes, senior superlatives and senior wills. What are the pros and cons to these? Should they be included in student media?

SPRC links for teachers to post:

senior quotes

senior superlatives

senior wills

Scenario 6:

The students would like to publish an April Fool’s edition of the news media. Given what you know about the role of the student press, should this be done?

SPRC link for teachers to post.

Scenario 7:

You receive the following request:

“I was a student two years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

SPRC link for teachers to post.

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Forum status of student media

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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This online lesson guides students through the basics of forum status for student media and the specifics of how it applies to student media. A statement of forum status is an essential part of a staff manual.

Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of forum theories for student media.
  • Students will compare and contrast the forum theory concepts with journalism principles, ethics and mission.
  • Students will discuss and select a forum theory statement to pair with their mission, editorial policy and ethics statements.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Based on individual needs

Materials / resources

When your publication is a public forum and when it is not

Choosing your forum status is like choosing the best medicine

Forum status of student media

Resources for teacher background

Model guidelines for policy choices

Easy access to policy models

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Suggestions for student media mission, legal, ethical and procedural language

Introducing a staff manual package to build a foundation for journalistic responsibility

Edit policy sets forum status

Ethics codes are invaluable in student journalism, but not as guide for punishment

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manuals

Model for ethical guidelines

Takedown demands

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum

Talking points on prior review and restraint

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

Prior review v. prior restraint

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

JEA defines prior review

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation – Day 1

The teacher will share this link with students. Students will have read this before class time. The teacher will also share this information:

• In the post-Hazelwood world, it is more important than ever for student journalists and their advisers to know what policies their school has adopted relating to student publications or student expression. 

The language of those policies (whether they give editorial control to students or keep it in the hands of school officials) and the amount of freedom that students have traditionally operated under at the school can determine whether Hazelwood or Tinker sets the standard for what school officials will be allowed to censor.

Three types of forums are open public, limited public and closed.

• A closed forum: An example of closed is a PTA newsletter. The owner of the forum can control its content. Censorship is allowed. Little learning about the role of a free press in a democracy would take place. Little learning about the various roles of journalism would take place.

• Students have no expectation of freedom of expression.

  • Students should have no expectation of learning news or objective journalism.
  • Students should have no expectation of creating original pieces.
  • Students should have no expectation of decision-making.
  •   Hazelwood applies

• A limited public forum: A limited forum can be limited to whatever the establisher of the forum wants it to be: a forum for sports coverage, for example. It can be reviewed, or not reviewed, by the originator’s designation. If reviewed, the owner of the forum has all the legal responsibility and control. If not reviewed, the students, for example, could be designated as being in charge and enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibility. A good many student media fall into this category where school districts trust their students, their advisers and their curriculum. Students learn about the media’s role in a democracy, and about their own civic responsibility. If education about the media’s role in a democracy and learning critical-thinking and responsibility are the school’s mission, then the second type of limited forum is used.

Limited-closed:

• Students have no expectation of freedom of expression

• Students should have no expectation of learning news or objective journalism.

• Students should have no expectation of creating original pieces.

• Students should have no expectation of decision-making.

• Hazelwood applies.

Limited-open: 

• Students have an expectation of freedom of expression.

• Students should expect to learn news or objective journalism.

 •Students should expect to create original material

• Students should expect to make decision

 • Tinker applies if no prior review.

• An open public (designated) forum:  The third category is an open forum, much like speakers’ corner in the United Kingdom. Anyone can speak, and the school (government) bears no legal responsibility. Schools can designate student media as open forums by policy or practice. This is noted within the Hazelwood decision, as is a limited open forum with student decision-making control.

Open forums:

 • Students have an expectation of freedom of expression.

 • Students should expect to learn news or objective journalism

  • Students should expect to create original material.

 • Students should expect to make decisions.

 • Tinker applies if no prior review.

 Activity 1

Students will decide which of the following statements they would prefer for their student run media (keeping in mind the various platforms of print, broadcast, yearbook and digital should be under the same policies and their staff manual reflect that), and why they made that choice. 

Students will write their choice on the discussion board Student Media Forum Statement the teacher created. Students should choose the forum carefully and refer to it in the policy section of your staff manual. It might also play a role in development of Mission statement.

Statement 1: All school-sponsored student publications and productions are XXXXXXX forums.  While students may address matters of interest or concern to their readers/viewers, as XXXXXXX forums, the style and content of the student publications and productions can be regulated for legitimate pedagogical, school-related reasons.  School officials shall routinely and systematically review and, if necessary, restrict the style and/or content of all school-sponsored student publications and productions prior to publication/performance in a reasonable manner that is neutral as to the viewpoint of the speaker.  Legitimate pedagogical concerns are not confined to academic issues but include the teaching by example of the shared values of a civilized social order, which consists of not only independence of thought and frankness of expression but also discipline, courtesy/civility, and respect for authority.  School officials may further prohibit speech that is grammatically incorrect, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences.

Statement 2: [NAME OF SCHOOL] student media are designated public forums in which students make all decisions of content without prior review by school officials.

Freedom of expression and press freedom are fundamental values in a democratic society. The mission of any institution committed to preparing productive citizens must include teaching these values and providing a venue for students to practice these values, both by lesson and by example.

As preservers of democracy, our schools shall protect, encourage and enhance free speech and the exchange of ideas as a means of protecting our American way of life. (This choice can be supported with other students that enhance or explain the position)

Statement 3: The Board designates all school-sponsored student media, with the exception of those originating from classrooms or educational settings not otherwise directly associated with student publications and productions, as XXXXXXX forums whereby students can address matters of concern and/or interest to their readers/viewers. (Under this policy student journalists, content-creators and/or performers involved in these publications/productions have the right/or do not have the right to determine the content of the student media. Social media could be blocked/not blocked, depending on board decision) 

Activity 2

After students have chosen and sent their statements to the teacher, the teacher can distribute this information to students Or, save it for another lesson, say on what goes into a policy statement and what does not:

Importance of designated forum status

  1. There is no requirement that any government agency establish a forum of any kind.
  2. But once a government does establish a forum, it cannot dictate the content of that forum.
  3. Jurisprudence sees three types of forums: open, limited, closed.
  4. The closed forum is a place that traditionally has not been open to public expression. Examples, in schools, could be newsletters or other means of communication not open to public use. So long as restrictions are reasonable and not based on a desire to suppress certain viewpoints, the government may close public access to them.
  5. The open or traditional public forum is a place with a long history of expression, such as a public park or street corner. The government can only impose content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions on speech in this forum. To override the open, public forum status, the government would have to show a compelling interest.
  6. The limited forum has the most problematic history. It is a place with a limited history of expressive activity, usually only for certain topics or groups. A meeting hall or public-owned theater are examples. The government may limit access when setting up a forum but may still not restrict expression unless there is a compelling interest. Schools, as government institutions, may, by “policy or practice,” open student media for indiscriminate use by the public or some segment of the public.
  7. A designated public forum enables students to make decisions of content, thus empowering them to practice critical thinking and civic engagement roles.
  8. Educational value of the designated open forum is mirrored by the fact most schools have mission statements identifying these as essential life skills for students to learn while in school.
  9. Prior review and a lack of trust in the product (students) schools are expected to produce undermines the very missions school officials say are among their most important.
  10. Studies have clearly shown that students, and communities in general, do not understand the importance of the First Amendment. One reason may be that students are not allowed to practice what they are taught while in schools and thus do not believe the theories of the democratic system.

These definitions should help you understand public forums:

  • Forums by policy: An official school policy exists that designates student editors as the ultimate authority regarding content. School officials actually practice this policy by exercising a “hands-off” role and empowering student editors to lead. Advisers teach and offer students advice, but they neither control nor make final decisions regarding content.
  • Forums by practice: A school policy may or may not exist regarding student media, but administrators have a “hands-off” approach and have empowered students to control content decisions. Advisers teach and offer students advice, but they neither control nor make final decisions regarding content.

Assessment

Students should use their answer as the focus for a short position paper:

            • In no more than 150 words, craft a position statement why their choice would be best for all their audiences. Submit to the teacher for comment and further use.

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