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Establish public trust. Take the Pledge. Carry the Seal



A lesson plan for Wednesday of Scholastic Journalism Week. You can download the lesson here.


by Kathy Schrier

Scholastic Journalism Week is the perfect time for student media staffs to renew their commitment to practice ethical journalism that is Transparent, Accountable and Open (TAO.) One way to do that is to take the “TAO of Journalism Pledge” on Wednesday, Feb. 22.  A year ago, more than 1,000 student journalists around the country took the TAO Pledge and those student media groups now carry the TAO of Journalism Seal in their mastheads or on their websites.

The TAO of Journalism, endorsed by JEA, is an idea launched by the Washington News Council as a way for professional and student journalists, who care about building public trust in their work, to make a promise to practice ethical journalism. Since its launch three years ago, journalists around the world have signed on and now carry the TAO of Journalism Seal. Go to to learn more or to take The Pledge.

Student groups who take or renew the TAO of Journalism Pledge will receive a poster of the TAO of Journalism Pledge, temporary tattoos of the TAO Seal for all staff members.

Here are some ideas for a successful TAO of Journalism Pledge day in class:

First: Present the following questions for discussion:

1. Are we a trusted source of news and information for our school? If yes, what makes us trustworthy? If no, why not?

2. Are we trusted by our administrators? If we must submit material to administrators for prior review, what can we do to reestablish their trust?

3. If student journalists make all content decisions without prior review,  how do we show our audience, including our administrators, that we are committed to being a trusted information source?

(Suggestion: Show short Powerpoint: “Transparent, Accountable, Open; Basic Media Ethics for Student Journalists.” Contact for PPT copy.)

Visual:  Project the TAO of Journalism Pledge from

• Read through The Pledge as a group.
• Decide if taking the TAO Pledge would fit with the mission of your staff.
• If so, take the TAO Pledge.
• Have your staff photographer take a picture of your staff taking The Pledge.
• Have an editor fill out the Student TAO Pledge registration form on “The Pledge” page.
• Email your photo to along with a caption and photo credit to be posted on a Student TAO Pledge Pics page.

What will you get:

  1. Temporary tattoos of the TAO of Journalism Seal for all staff members.
  2. Poster of the TAO Pledge for your staff room.
  3. Listing on the TAO of Journalism site, with a link to your homepage.
  4. Photo of your staff taking The Pledge posted on the TAO Pledge Pics page.
  5. Bonus for advisers whose students take The Pledge before the end of February: a TAO of Journalism thermal travel  cup.


Taking the TAO of Journalism reminds student journalists to be conscious of the role of ethics in the work they do; and to think about the importance of earning the trust of the public they serve.  There is something powerful in making such a public promise, then posting the TAO Seal as a reminder to live up to that promise.


Next, look for five “bell ringers —  short discussions or activities to use right when class starts.

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