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Upgrade in Virginia policy downgrades student free expression

Posted by on Oct 6, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE

High school journalists in Virginia’s Frederick County recently had their student publications policies upgraded by the school board, the Student Press Law Center reported. 

Student journalists say they don’t think much of the changes.

“The newspaper was already censored multiple times last year, and the staff has dwindled from about 30 students a year ago to just 10 this fall,” co-editor Christian Hellwig told the SPLC reporter.

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Latest podcast focuses on hate speech and student media

Posted by on Oct 4, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


by Kristin Taylor

Tripp Robbins just hosted the latest episode of Conversations at the Schoolhouse Gate (if you have subscribed to it, you already know this!).

I recommend checking it out. You can listen directly from your laptop at the podcast website or subscribe via Apple podcasts or Stitcher to download it to your phone. It’s a valuable conversation between Tripp and SPLC lawyer Mike Hiestand.

Here are the show notes.
Episode 7: Hate speech as free speech — some thoughts for student media

After giving some background about the the term “hate speech” and its legal status, Menlo School journalism adviser Tripp Robbins interviews Student Press Law Center lawyer Mike Hiestand about hate speech, the First Amendment and student media.

While offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment, Hiestand clarifies some situations where it might cross over into an unprotected speech category, such as “fighting words,” and reminds student editors that some decisions are ethical rather than legal.

If you are a student or a student media adviser with thoughts on this episode, we want to hear from you. You can reach us at with the subject line “Podcast” or tweet us at @jeapressrights. So you don’t miss out on future episodes, please subscribe to this podcast through any of the many podcast applications available for your computer or phone.

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It’s not rocket science to proactively demonstrate strong quality, integrity, ethics

Posted by on Sep 29, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


by Stan Zoller, MJE

As historic events surrounding President Donald Trump continue to unfold, it’s possible, if not likely, his ongoing disdain for and ensuing attacks on the media will reach a more feverish pitch than what has been seen so far during his first term.

While it’s likely, albeit hopeful, that student journalists will be immune from the seemingly venomous attacks, the possibility remains that there could be a trickle-down effect to the nation’s high schools.

That’s not because scholastic journalists are doing a bad job, but because in hostile times people do not delineate one soldier from another.

The unfortunate reality is while it’s a safe guess most high school journalists have not covered the White House and the Mueller hearings and reported on the Pentagon, to many people the media is the media whether it’s The Washington Post or the Washington Advocate at Washington (Missouri) High School.

The failure to differentiate student media from the pros is problematic because the focus, intensity and sheer nature of high school journalism is unlike that of professional journalism. After all, for many high school students, working on student media is little more than an activity.

If there is a bright spot, student journalists don’t have to shout to defend themselves over the din of a helicopter engine.

But what can they do to re-emphasize in the minds of their stakeholders that they are working as ethical, enterprising and passionate journalists?

While it may seem like a daunting challenge, media advisers and their students need to, obviously, work together to ensure that quality, integrity and ethics are job one.

Stan Zoller, MJE

While it may seem like a daunting challenge, media advisers and their students need to, obviously, work together to ensure that quality, integrity and ethics are job one.

This isn’t rocket science, but rather a needed new reality in the world of today’s media.

Job one is reiterating and re-emphasizing ethical practices. The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics should be front and center for student media. Make sure copies are posted in your classroom, and if you have one, “pub room.” Encourage students that if they have doubts about a story to raise them before they write it. Any ethical issues should be discussed with the EIC and, if need be, the adviser.

Sometimes student media outlets are their own worst enemy by not telling the world how they operate. Be transparent about your policies and procedures, especially those associated with fact checking. A little proactivity will lead to greater acceptability of the work your student reporters are doing.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure administrators at all levels know your media philosophy. Also, maintaining the proverbial “open-door” policy will go a long way easing anguish administrators may have about your yearbook, newspaper or website.  Conversely, it’s a good idea to encourage the opposite – make sure your administration has an open-door policy so you can foster a dialogue to ensure free and responsible journalism.

Keeping an administration happy can be a challenge.

Just ask the scribes in Washington, D.C.

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Attending a national convention reaps rewards

Posted by on Sep 26, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


by Susan McNulty, CJE The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

On Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, a group of 20 journalism teachers, and advisers met with Kelly Glasscock of the Journalism Education Association and Laura Widmer of the National Scholastic Press Association at the site of the Fall 2020 JEA/NSPA conference.

Planning must begin more than a year in advance because a lot goes into providing a conference for 6000+ students and nearly 1000 advisers.

On a tour of the facility, Orlando World Center Marriott, the group entered vast conference rooms intended for exhibit halls and awards ceremonies; smaller rooms for breakout sessions; and a pool area outfitted with a game lawn, three big screen televisions and a waterfall slide.

We imagined the area crowded with JEA/NSPA members enjoying the Florida sun a year from this November. After the tour, the team got down to business, discussing everything from convention logo and theme to keynote speaker, media tours, student entertainment and registration.  

Of the hundreds of break-out sessions offered at national conventions, several speakers cover topics on law and ethics, including First Amendment, libel, court cases important to student media, copyright, plagiarism, reporter’s privilege, ethics, privacy, rights and responsibilities and staff policies.

These topics don’t always receive their due in our busy newsrooms, yet understanding them is vital to responsible journalism. Conferences provide students with a chance to delve deeper into the freedoms and protections afforded to student journalists and to hear from the Student Press Law Center.

In addition to all the work that the local planning committee puts into the conference, advisers who bring students spend hours in planning. I have taken students from Tampa, Florida to JEA/NSPA conferences in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.

Each experience provided me and my students with experiences that could not be duplicated in the classroom back home. Students met other journalism experts from around the country, heard from keynote speakers with diverse points-of-view, entered contests at the national level, made friends with students from around the country and visited with vendors in the exhibit hall.

Although taking students out of town or even out of state requires planning, organization and a great deal of fund-raising, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. JEA/NSPA created a PDF for schools outlining why conventions matter. It can be found here:

There are two JEA/NSPA Conferences scheduled between now and Orlando, the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention from Nov. 21-24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. and the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention April 16-18, 2020, in Nashville.

It’s not too late to register for the Fall 2019 conference in Washington, D.C. Early bird registration ends Oct. 30. Visit the convention page for more information or to register.

And if you can’t make it there, plan on Nashville or Orlando in 2020. 

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Apply now for 21st annual FAPFA recognition

Posted by on Sep 23, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


It’s again time to apply for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award. You can access the form here. All first round applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Dec. 15.

In its 21st year, the recognition is designed to identify and recognize high schools that actively support and protect First Amendment rights of their students and teachers. 

Schools will be recognized at the 2020 Spring National JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention in Nashville.

To be recognized by JEA, NSPA and Quill and Scroll, schools must successfully complete two rounds of questions about the degree of First Amendment Freedoms student journalists have and how the school recognizes and supports the First Amendment.

Entries will be evaluated by members of these organizations.

Round 1 consists of a student editor and adviser or administrator answering questions. Those who advance to the next level will be asked to provide responses from the principal and advisers and at least two student editors.

In Round 2, semifinalists will also submit samples of the publications and their printed editorial policies in addition to the students, advisers and principals outlined above.

If you have questions, please contact Lori Keekley.

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Ask, don’t assume, to build trust

Posted by on Sep 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


by Lindsay Coppens, The Harbinger Adviser Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass.

Building trust between student editors and school administrators goes a long way toward having a good year and a publication where students are empowered. 

Yes, part of scholastic journalists’ role is to question those in power and the decisions they make, and it’s essential reporters and editors are skeptical. However, it’s also helpful for student editors and administrators to have a good working relationship. I’ve found that the better the working relationship the more the students feel empowered.

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