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Essential to find accurate information is … context

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by John Bowen, MJE

The 2020 election looms less than two months away, and conflicting, sensational and hateful information force themselves into the news, the rallies and, sadly, people’s fears. Looking for information to help protect your reporters and audience alike from mis- and dis- information? We have some suggestions:

First, lessons and activities that already reside on SPRC’s site but for whatever reason have slipped off the top levels of our site. They offer a myriad of ways to offer some clarity to this whole year of political obfuscation and outrageous claims:

• The SPRC’s Tools of Truth package offers nearly 50 lessons, activities and viewpoints on a number of lessons that offer ways to sift through what’s out there. They provide short ethical suggestions for handling situation or dilemma.

• Nearly 80 Quick Tips, brief statements of ethical approaches to handing issues and dilemmas, can provide background suggestions for solving, and preventing, ethical issues. Each Quick Tip comes with resources to help explain issues and create solutions.

Panic Button

Panic Button for JEA SPRC Assistance with First Amendment and ethical issues.

If you are a journalism teacher, student media adviser or scholastic media/journalism student who needs assistance concerning censorship issues, use the panic button above to generate an online form to explain your situation. This will go to a Student Press Rights Commission member who will assist you quickly and notify others in your state so they can offer assistance. This outreach capability is a direct result of JEA’s Adviser Assistance Program and is designed to combat censorship issues advisers and students might face.

• Other resources that give teachers story ideas or lesson materials that are increasingly important for discussion. These materials that can create important lessons and coverage opportunities to improve journalism:

Fighting for access to public information in the age of COVID Many schools are withholding what should be public information, reports the Student Press Law Center, about the coronavirus by claiming those records are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA protects the privacy of student records, but does not require schools to withhold numerical information about cases on campus or other information that does not identify (and therefore violate the privacy of) individual students.

Clear information about the coronavirus, including but not limited to, the number of positive cases on campus is vitally important for the campus community. Here’s how you can fight for access to information…

It’s time for journalism educators to rethink ‘objectivity’ and explore more about context Objectivity and journalism — over the last century, these two words have become inextricably linked. But striving for objectivity has actually hindered us from adequately covering truth, giving context and achieving equity, begins author Gina Baleria

As educators, it is our role and responsibility to teach a journalistic approach based not on objectivity,  but on seeking truth, providing context, and including voices and perspectives left behind by the adherence to objectivity.

No matter what point of view you have on this topic, discussion and thought processes are important for the future of journalism. Is it only a matter of yes or no, or is there important middle ground to be created?

What I learned from fact-checking a list of Trump accomplishments
Says the author: “One by one, I researched the claims, reaching out to people and institutions for a better understanding. At times, I wondered why I was even bothering. Studies suggest that fact-checks only matter on the margins, changing minds between 10 and 20 percent of the time. That’s because we live in such a polarized era that political party affiliation is as strong as religious identity.”

Facts are vital, she says, but they are not sufficient.

What is sufficient, context, offers an opportunity for journalism to regain trust, not make it easier for misinformation, deception and deception to grow converts.

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