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Flashback: Lessons on avoiding sloppy reporting

Posted by on Oct 24, 2020 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Mission, Policy, Teaching | 0 comments

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https://jeasprc.org/sloppy-news-reporting-lessons/

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Reporting controversy, issues student journalists can tell best

Posted by on Feb 24, 2020 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by John Bowen, MJE
The above statement is a good reminder in 2020 of our social responsibility to report all aspects of teen issues – those with good, bad and impact – because our audiences  have a right to know.

These are stories student journalists can tell best.

As journalists we do not actively protest, lead walkouts or engage others We examine issues and events with diverse points of view, in context, accurate and complete that might as effectively create change.

We are mirrors to reflect events and candles to illuminate causes and issues that surround us, like the March 14 and March 24 planned protests, marches and discussions initiated by student reactions to the shooting deaths of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Our journalistic leadership should not prevent expression of our personal feelings and views. Our first obligation is to the truth as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write in The Elements of Journalism.

“A community that fails to reflect  its community deeply will not succeed,” the authors write in Elements, third edition.”But a newspaper that does not challenge its community’s values and preconceptions will lose respect for failing to provide the honesty and leadership newspapers are expected  to offer.”

In this case and others, student media can best tell that story.

We lead when we channel our insights into reporting so communities – or societies – can make intelligent and informed decisions affecting our democracy.

To assist students as they report events and issues surrounding walkouts and protests, local and national, the SPRC begins a series of blogposts focusing on protest in America, its relevance and why student media should make every effort to report on its deeper issues.

To help start the discussion, note the following links:

  • Covering controversy  Controversy is often in the eye of the beholder. The best way to prevent a subject from becoming controversial is to use verifiable information, in context, from reliable sources – truthful, accurate, thorough and complete reporting. Students should be able to show why they used some information and not other. They should be transparent about why their coverage was important.
  • Practice sensitivity in your reporting  How do we, as today’s information consumers and creators, sift through the rumors, the gossip, the failed memories, the spin to capture something as accurately as possible? How can we overcome our own limits of perception, our biases, our experience and come to an account people will see as reliable. This essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. Controversy is in the eyes of the beholder. Our job is make sure anything controversial is reported thoroughly, accurately and coherently.
  • Respecting privacy and public space important for photographers, too  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. Student journalists should check the legal and ethical parameters of public space and the latest recommendations for journalistic activity from the Student Press Law Center.
  • Student Press Law Center online guide and resources for student journalists The new resource page is just one of several major steps SPLC took to ensure student journalists can cover protests, walkouts and the growing gun control discussions freely and fairly. See its news release: http://bit.ly/2ozAW5o
  • Covering walkouts and protests   From the SPLC, this guide provides helpful information student journalists reporting protests and walk-outs.

Resources:
Introductionand Civic engagement and journalism, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

The 2017 State of the First Amendment, Newseum

High School Journalism Matters, American Press Institute

Framework for 21st Century Learning, Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Civic Implications of Secondary School Journalism, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Principals, presidents and getting along, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

Teaching grit for citizenship — why we must empower, not shield students, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

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Seems like you never know … until it’s too late

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Blog, Ethical Issues, New Voices, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by Candace Bowen, MJE Your principal is a good one who answers questions for your news staff and encourages your yearbook staff to tell what really happened this year. Even Twitter and Instagram have not been a problem for your journalism students.

Sure, you and your staff share stories with your principal when they cover sensitive topics. Yes, you’ve asked her views on quotes from other sources. So what? She’s a good administrator, and you’re just being thoughtful. What’s wrong with that?

Maybe plenty.

But let’s back up a bit. An early May discussion strand on the JEAHELP email distribution list centered around a former New Jersey adviser who is now suing her district for not allowing her to tell the real story about prior review and censorship at her school in 2017.

A junior who wore a t-shirt saying, in large letters: “TRUMP: Make American Great Again” in his yearbook photo ended up with a plain navy shirt in the published version. In the ensuing brouhaha, the district would not let adviser Susan Parsons tell the REAL story: New Jersey online said, “Parsons claims the district routinely forced her to edit yearbook photos to alter anything that could be controversial, from words on T-shirts to hand gestures to students not wearing shirts on a school trip.”

This time community members were so upset, Parsons received death threats and says she is now afraid to go out in the community – largely because she has not been allowed to defend herself and point out the true censors were administrators, or, in this case, she says, a secretary acting on the principal’s behalf.

The JEAHELP listserv posts that followed information about this incident covered a wide range of viewpoints. One said, “Prior review can be a positive thing in a friendly environment,” admitting, however, it is “a slippery slope.” 

Others argued the chilling effect of prior review almost makes it unnecessary to have true censorship – prior restraint – because students either are afraid to publish something they think might upset their administrators or worry that what they do will negatively impact their favorite teacher. 

Then one said exactly what I was thinking at the time: When has prior review ever been good from an educational standpoint? When has it taught good critical thinking skills? When did it help students become better media consumers or understand media’s role as the Fourth Estate, the very necessary check on governmental power? When did it lay down the foundation for future journalists, for those in student media who wish to have this as a career?

Then one said exactly what I was thinking at the time: When has prior review ever been good from an educational standpoint? When has it taught good critical thinking skills? When did it help students become better media consumers or understand media’s role as the Fourth Estate, the very necessary check on governmental power? When did it lay down the foundation for future journalists, for those in student media who wish to have this as a career?

But some kept arguing they had good relationships with their administrators and gave examples of times a really thorough discussion with the principal or others helped students understand a problem.

Fine. But that principal may not be at your school next fall. 

According to the National Education Policy Center,“Only about one-half of newly hired middle school principals remained at the same school for three years, while only 30 percent remained at the high school level for three years. After five years, less than one-half of newly hired middle school principals remained, and only 27 percent of high school principals.”

In other words, that understanding man or woman behind the principal’s desk may be replaced before you know it by someone whose legal training isn’t as First Amendment-based and whose biggest concern is the school’s image, not how much its students learn. 

Having a policy of prior review with that administrator won’t be a chance to discuss and learn more. It will be the very opposite of good education, but you’ll have little chance to change things then. After all, the prior review policy would have already been in effect.

Having a policy of prior review with that administrator won’t be a chance to discuss and learn more. It will be the very opposite of good education, but you’ll have little chance to change things then.

So don’t even give any administrator an idea to start down that slope.  It could lead to a law suit like Susan Parsons has filed. And, definitely, it wouldn’t be the best way for your students to learn.

A good resource to use:
What to tell your principal about prior review?

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Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Words and ideas often become scrambled with prior review


by John Bowen, MJE
Unbelievably, prior review seems to be spreading.

It occurred recently in Illinois, California, Ohio, Texas and numerous additional states. It shows no signs of slowing, despite efforts to pass state legislation to protect student expression.

To read about California review and restraint demands, go here. To read the articles in question go here.

Every scholastic journalism organization has opposed prior review and, hopefully, will continue to do so.

Legally, though, prior review is not unconstitutional although prior restraint – censorship – is in some states, Thus, the best way to fight it is with educational principles and the need for stronger civic engagement.

Arguable points against prior review include:

• It limits student intellectual and societal growth

• It delays or even extinguishes the development of journalistic responsibility

• It shackles critical thinking

• It leads historically to prior restraint which leads to mis- and disinformation

• It has no educational value

Yet, it still continues and spreads.

As journalism teachers we know our students learn more when they make content choices. 

Prior review and restraint do not teach students to produce higher quality journalism or to become more journalistically responsible.

As journalism teachers we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to train them for that responsibility.

As journalism teachers we know democracy depends on students who understand all voices have a right to be heard and have a voice in their school and community.

It is our responsibility to find and publicize ways to convince those who support prior review why the practice has no place in scholastic journalism.

For our democracy, our educational system and our individual abilities to separate credible information untruths.

To gain traction against prior review, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will focus its efforts to provide educational and civic support for advisers, students, parents and administrators so they can best educate their communities.

The resources below represent our initial steps to extend the discussion about the dangers of a practice that historically only led to censorship.

Resources

Prior review
What to tell your principal about prior review?

Why avoiding prior review is educationally sound

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics

Definitions of prior review, prior restraint

Prior review vs prior restraint

Questions advisers should ask those who want to implement prior review
Why we keep harping about prior review

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Talking points blog and talking points to counter prior review

And much, much more at Scholastic Press Rights Committee

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Contests should stress how to be journalists as much as they do winning

Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by Stan Zoller, MJE
The late sports writer Jerome Holtzman penned a book, “No Cheering in the Press,” which is a collection of fascinating tales by some legendary sports scribes.

In the book, the scribes describe the ascent to the top of the craft to cover some of the nation’s most famous, if not infamous, sports legends.

To no surprise, the ride to the top was accentuated by talent, luck and, of course, hard work.

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When is free speech not so free?

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Just because legislation or mandates say they protect and promote student voices and student thought, doesn’t necessarily mean they do.


by Candace Bowen, MJE
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

That may be a cliché, but it’s often spot on. And no more so than news lately of various orders and state legislation and school policies seeming to promote free speech. That’s a great idea, right?

Well, maybe not.

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