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Bringing light to relevant issues, past and present, defines journalistic leadership

Posted by on Jan 2, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE
“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
“Blowing in the Wind
“Find the Cost of Freedom
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone

How do these lyrics and titles relate to scholastic journalism?

  • They all came at a time when people questioned the media, its role and its leadership.
  • They all came at a time when citizens and journalists complained of government mis-, dis and censored information.
  • They all came at a time when activism and protest – from multiple viewpoints – clouded not only the truth on timely issues but also many people’s minds.

Sound familiar?

Fifty years ago, The U. S. Supreme Court upheld students wearing of black armbands as protected speech during the Vietnam war. That war also spawned events and issues that continued to bring activists, protestors and media together.

The war brought new levels of violence against expression some called unAmerican. “America, love it or leave it” was a forerunner of today’s “Enemy of the State.”

Such verbiage frustrated citizens who sought the truth about issues: The Pentagon Papers. MyLai 4. Lt. William Calley. May 4, 1970. The impact of drugs.

2018 and 2019 highlight a tumultuous new era with key similarities to the past.

Distrust of government and news media. Who tells the truth? Whom can citizens believe? Who lies?

And the current issues: Availability of guns, health, drugs, the environment, misinformation and lying. Growing amounts of stress in student lives.

Sound familiar?

We began to learn from Mary Beth and John Tinker and others who opened the schoolhouse gates to free expression, social awareness and creation of change. Free speech and press are important.

If we truly believe the social responsibility role of the news media is an essential partner with freedom – at all levels – we will empower student journalists to seek the truth, to dig for the whole story and to always question authority. They then question what authority tells society as the Tinkers and others modeled 50 years ago.

Reporting will add new meaning to journalistic leadership, advocacy and solutions.

Consider, as a New Year’s resolution, expanding your journalistic studies to include current issues as well as their historical perspectives. Content choices include:

And, as we move into 2019, the hammers, not the nails, will bring clearer insight and exert stronger leadership in today’s societal issues.

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Student journalists should heal and transform the world

Posted by on Nov 11, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


JEA president Sarah Nichols, MJE, gives Rachel Simpson, principal of the Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco, her JEA Administrator of the Year award Nov. 3 at the JEA/NSPA convention in Chicago. Here are her comments. Photo by Mike Simons.

JEA Administrator
of the Year, Rachel Simpson

Thanks to the JEA for this award. It is an honor to be here and an extraordinary privilege — and a wonderful surprise, frankly — to be recognized in this way.

Gratitude to everyone in this room for your work motivating student’ voice and student publication. Specifically, in relation to my own school — Convent of the Sacred Heart High School which is a division of Schools of the Sacred Heart  San Francisco — I would like to highlight the excellence of our student journalists and Tracy Sena’s role as their trusted adviser.

I don’t believe the concept of scholastic press freedom would be possible without the trinity of dedicated and ethically minded students, supported by a deeply committed and responsible advisor within a school culture that upholds the empowerment of student voice and agency as a core value.

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New Quick Tips listing can help provide
solutions, guides to media issues

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Working on a sensitive story? Looking to add new ethical  guidelines to help students deal with new technology? Want to finalize the process to use if students wish to run political ads or endorsements?

Quick Tips can help with ethical guidelines supported by reasoning and staff manual procedures to reach outcomes you desire.

If you or your students have suggestions to add to our list, please contact SPRC Director Lori Keekley.

This is our latest Quick Tips list. We hope you find its points useful.

Each newly posted QT  has a short annotation and a link to the materials. Each addition also has links for more depth and related content.

To see a list of already posted Quick Tips, please go here.

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Solutions Journalism

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


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

by Kristin Taylor
David Bornstein co-authors the “Fixes” column in the New York Times, a column focused on solutions journalism. In his 2012 TED talk, Bornstein explains why he has pursued solutions in his investigative journalism rather than simply focusing on the problem.

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Becoming a public forum for student expression

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The importance of public forums in student media


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.


What is a “public forum for student expression?” Why is it important for student media outlets to be designated as such?

Key points/action:

  • A “public forum” implies that the publication is set up as an open forum for expression. This ultimately means any person with an opinion can be published/broadcasted in the media outlet (through letters to the editor, call ins, etc.). This “openness” to the public is important because the publication is then elevated from a closed student publication to a place where community discussion and debate can occur,
  • and those democratic ideals hold more legal protection.
  • A “public forum for student expression” is a forum where student editors have been given the right to make final content decisions.
  • Public forum = a forum where anyone has a right to add to the discussion


All student media outlets should declare themselves “open forums for student expression” in their editorial policy and should open expression rights to the public (by allowing letters to the editor, etc.). Students should also truly make all final content decisions, thus transferring the legal responsibility of the publication, in theory, to the students.


What does this mean for student journalists? 1.) they should publish any letter to the editor they receive, as long as it does not classify as unprotected speech and follows established publication guidelines, in order to establish the publication as truly an “open forum”; and 2.) somewhere within their editorial pages, a condensed editorial policy should be published with each issue establishing the publication as a “public forum for student expression where students make all decisions of content.”

Directions for how readers can submit letters to the editor should also be published, as well as clarifying statement that student editors make all final content decisions.

Bottom line: Forum status matters, especially for schools not protected by state free press laws (like New Voices). It may be the only legal protection students have in a court of law.


Related: Tinker Standard, Tinker v. Hazelwood, Unprotected Speech



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Public or independent schools:
Whose expression is protected is complex

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


School type, court decisions state laws and how student media are established  can all have a role

by Kristin Taylor
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.

This might make one assume that public school students have full speech protection and private school students do not, but it’s not that simple.

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