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Study others’ First Amendment climate to better your own

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


First Amendment survey

Social media post/question: What does your school’s empowerment of free expression entail? 

Topic: By localizing the survey “Gallup: Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults,” students can begin to see their students’ reactions to free expression points made in the survey.

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

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

According to the Gallup poll results concerning seeking out and listening to alternative views, “Only 16 percent of students and 24 percent of adults say Americans do a good job of this; 50 percent and 39 percent, respectively, say Americans do a poor job.”

How can education of a school culture allow for a forum for student discussion?


Top 10 High School FAQs

Summary ofTinker v. Des MoinesandHazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

The SPLC First Amendment rights diagram(for public schools)

SPLC law library





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Importance of news literacy

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


News literacy resources


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.

Social Media Post/Topic:

Your students produce news, but are they news literate? Here are some resources to teach them the basics.


Given the current controversy around fake news and concerning results from the 2016 Stanford research studyabout students’ inability to differentiate fake from real news, news literacy is a crucial skill for our students.

According to the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, “News literacy is the acquisition of 21st-century, critical-thinking skills for analyzing and judging the reliability of news and information, differentiating among facts, opinions and assertions in the media we consume, create and distribute. It can be taught most effectively in cross-curricular, inquiry-based formats at all grade levels. It is a necessary component for literacy in contemporary society.”

The foundation identifies six principlesbehind news literacy to help students evaluate their personal news consumption and their publication content.


News Media Literacy PowerPoint, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

Six principles behind news literacy, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

Evaluation Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” (executive summary of Stanford Education study)

Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds, NPR

The News Literacy Project

News, Information and Media Literacy,

News and Media Literacy, Common Sense Media

Media Literacy Now

Introducing news literacy, American Press Institute



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Student journalism is not public relations

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Scholastic reporters should not feel pressured to present relentless stream of utopia, glossing over problems to cover the ‘good stuff’

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? Yet, for some student journalists, this scenario is a reality. Administrators feeling pressure to protect the school’s image may pressure students to present a utopian version of the school, urging them to gloss over problems and only cover the “good stuff.”

But student journalism, like commercial journalism, is not the same as public relations.

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Credibility strengthened with
use of sources in opinion pieces

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


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.

Each opinion story should show sufficient research which has informed the writer’s viewpoint.

Include sources in opinion writing for credibility, verification


In opinion stories, writers should demonstrate they have done sufficient research and interviews to inform themselves of all sides of the issue for which they are writing and/or to allow for right of response from subjects who may be mentioned in the story.

Social media post/question:

Why do I need to include sources if it’s my opinion?


The writer of an exemplar opinion story should have sources including in-person responses from stakeholders, sourced quotes from other publications or sourced background information.


Students often view the opinion pages of the newspaper as an easier assignment because the incorrectly assume all they have to do is write their opinion.

To maintain credibility with their readers and/or to show balance, publication staffers must show they have made every effort to inform themselves of all sides of the issue. They also must reach out to experts or stakeholders who may add to their story and/or who may be challenged by their story. Consider adding in, as one of your guidelines, that each opinion story should show sufficient research which has informed the writer’s viewpoint.


Persuasive writing: Take a stand

How to write an op-ed or column







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Diversity is a journalistic must

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


 Diversity in cultures , sources and ideas brings stronger coverage


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

 Social media post/question: Diversity is important, but how do we accurately represent our school? Are we representing our school’s diversity in our student media?

Stance:Coverage and sources should reflect the school population and its various communities, including a wide range of sources who represent students and staff.

Not only should staffs represent the racial, economic, political, social and gender diversity of the school, they also need to examine their coverage of these groups. This coverage should be pervasive of all media areas and not just relegated to stories of conflict as noted in the Nieman Reports, Why Journalists Must Stop Segregating Stories About Race.

Reasoning/suggestions:Diversity is more than a buzzword. It needs to be a constant, honest conversation in the student media classroom. Students need to evaluate who they are covering and in what way the students are being covered.

A 2014 study by American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research “only 25 percent of African-Americans and 33 percent of Hispanics said the news media accurately portrayed their communities.”

We also must actively recruit students who reflect the student body to help counter this representation issue. However, it’s not enough to recruit these students. We must make sure the media room is a welcoming place for all students.

Students need to understand not everyone’s experience is like their own and no staffer can speak for a group of people. 


SPJ Diversity Toolbox, SPJ

4 Ways a Newsroom Can Address a Lack of Diversity, CJR

Why Newsroom Diversity Works, Nieman Reports

Why Journalists Must Stop Segregating Stories about Race, Nieman Reports

Race and Reporting, Nieman Reports

Journalism Educators Must Leap Diversity Hurdles, SPJ



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FOIA requests

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


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.

It can reveal patterns and statistics that belie the school’s reputation for better or for worse. It can help reveal positive or alarming trends in student discipline, achievement, attendance or safety.

Students often don’t think about accessing this information, but it can help frame the most telling and informative stories at your school.

Make it part of story brainstorming or beat assignments to regularly have students generating ideas for data they would like to find. For example, after a dog search, how many students were cited? How many times did they confiscate a weapon on campus last year? How many students failed a class last term? What was the breakdown of failures by race or gender? How many suspensions have there been for fighting or drugs this year compared to last year? What are the statistics at neighboring schools?

Students should first request the data they seek in a timely manner, but if the district will not release it, use the SPLC Open Records Generator to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request. The website has a template usable to create a formal legal document requesting the records..

Keep in mind, the district is legally bound to keep some information private. It cannot share the specific names of kids who failed or were punished, & etc.

The use of public  records can bring context,depth to key stories


According to the Freedom of Information Act, students can request information and records relevant to stories at their school. If records are not provided, students should submit an open records request through the SPLC letter generator.

Social media post/question:

FOIA: introduce students to the Freedom of Information act and state open records laws.


As per the Freedom of Information Act, students can request information and records relevant to stories at their school. If records are not provided, students should submit an open records request through the SPLC letter generator.


The Freedom of Information Act is a tool students can use to report on schools and for any public document. Use this to make them more familiar with it.

Government agencies keep data on many topics, and often students can legally access it. Some information must legally be reported and shared in searchable and easily accessible forms. Governments keep other records, which they are only required to release upon request.

The Freedom of Information Act and accompanying state open records laws are important tools for reporters to be familiar with. If information citizens are legally allowed to see is not made available upon request, these tools are the first step in formalizing the request process and informing others of how  to use the law.


U.S. Department of State Freedom of Information Act website, U.S. Department of Justice

State-by-State guide to Open Records Laws, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Public Records Letter Generator, SPLC



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