Pages Navigation Menu

From the SPRC vaults


They commonly make news – for better or worse – as April Fools, Senior Wills and Senior Superlatives.

Their value often agitates some, incenses others. Others roll their eyes and sigh.

Sometimes reactions are more intense and spark highly charged reactions: prior review, prior restraint and more.

Before your student media choose to publish anything of similar style, student staffers should decide purpose, value and truth of what they are about to unleash.

To do or not to do: what are the publishing pluses and minuses in April Fools, Senior Wills and Senior Superlatives?
The activity explained here is not designed to provide or summarize questions and talking points, positive or negative, over their use and how journalism law and ethics shape decisions. It will provide background through articles and journalistic principles for your students to build their own ethical guidelines and procedures. Honesty in publication is a core value for most journalists and might be a central question in their discussions.

In the activity students should offer ideas for student discussion, with the goal of enabling your students to apply legal standards for their use, or determine if proposed coverage meets ethical reasoning that can shape expand into the process of creating guidelines.

Guidelines could be pro or con and offer information for critical thinking and decision making. Should such ethical guidelines be designed for all? Should failure to live up to the ethical processes, even just once, be grounds for administrative punishment? Does ethical decision-making reflect the uniqueness and flavor of local situations? Are ethics created to be pathways to must and will decisions?

Student discussion points for this activity could explain why your staff wants to publish April Fools pieces, Senior Wills or Superlatives. Or choose not to. Talking Points empower decisions. For example, how would they reconcile April Fools issues that are untrue and unsupported by journalistic codes of ethics that honor accuracy, truth and substantiation? Or will rules of law be set aside because the students who make the final decision don’t believe false info in reporting is itself. Ignoring tools for critical decision making might itself be unethical.

Remember, to empower and enable student journalists to handle controversy and make difficult decisions, strengthens student journalists as they make all decisions of content without prior review or restraint.

That is substantial guidance for student media to operate as designated forums for student expression. And part of a school’s obligation to community and a democratic society.

The adviser role?

Urge, by raising Questions, especially of Authority, that obtain key information needed by your communities. Student journalists grow legally and ethically by making journalistically responsible choices.

In other words, the role of the adviser is to enable and empower students to take journalistic responsibility. Advisers advise. Student journalists learn by applying. School officials should empower all others.

The role of the adviser is to enable and empower students to take journalistic responsibility. Advisers advise. Student journalists learn by applying. School should officials empower. The visuals in this blog were taken ion Bruges, Belgium. The object is the question, “what is the purpose of the Andy store image.The top was a candy story display; the face was on the outer wall of a store in the public square. Photos by John Bowen

Activity Step 1
With that in mind, let’s begin the process of informed journalistic responsibility: Should student media publish April Fools issues, Senior Wills and Senior Superlatives?

What points(s) would you use to base decisions? Why? What from readings, chatting with current and past students, faculty and whomever else you wish? Is your decision on legal or ethic issues? Could you use some of the arguments from readings, other sections of your class? What questions would you ask for more depth to clarify beliefs or positions? With whom would you talk? Whose opinions would you value? Reject? Look for to add as sources? Check the attached readings, seek others and appropriate background.

Activity Step 2
•The class or staff should decide or be included in the decision process. There could be one or more decision-making roles or goals based multiple decisions based on multiple approaches.
• Students, as individuals or groups, set goal of discussions, which should include key solutions and validity of the reasoning.
• What will be the final product? Ethical statement, Legal reasoning? Something for a staff manual? Other? Be as inclusive as you can. Also as formal or creative.
• Ultimately.whatever students product should have an impact usable locally and become a part of your staff manual, Code of Ethics.

Activity Step 3
• Once students discuss possible outcomes, apply decision-making processes and identify key points. develop short position statement based on the Quick Tips structure or one your students use. Student focus should be on value of solutions of journalistic responsibility, effectiveness and quality of their work of assisting students in the future. Establish the guidelines for individuals or groups, activity, length and structure and discussions based on common procedures for your classes.

April Fools
Fools wills and quotes: credibility disastersFools wills and quotes: credibility disasters
–The issues with April Fools
Think carefully before publishing April Fools’ Day content
April Fools’ negatives outweigh positives, usually don’t fulfilll techniques of satire

Senior Wills/Superlatives
Avoid senior quotes; give them to senior class for publishing, risks
Should student media publish senior superlatives?
So your student media want to do senior wills?

One last point.

The intent of this blog or activity is not to inform students what to think. It’s far more permanent as far as beliefs go they discover that for themselves. We all have views on the three dilemmas. With these topics we’d rather focus on why they made their decision. And did they think through the quality of alternative critical thinking.

To see how some journalism teachers and advisers look at April Fools, Senior Wills and Superlatives, go to Facebook’s Journalism Teachers group.

Then, have a great April Fools activity.