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Limits to taking a stance
in front page design?


What are the limits to showing support/opposition of timely events or issues in design elements on news pages?

Was it OK for student newspaper to Rainbow Filter its Twitter profile pic?

Student journalists have always been taught standards of objectivity. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage led at least one publication, The Daily Evergreen of University of Washington, to make a statement in its nameplate.

How should scholastic media handle similar advocacy? What are the ethical and philosophical issues. Should student media show advocacy positions in news slots?  Can students design ethical guidelines and procedures for staff manuals concerning the issues?

Where to draw the line on advocacy journalism?

• Students will be able to examine controversial issues and reach reasoned decisions and exhibit critical thinking skills
• Students will be able to identify key points in controversial issues and effectively explain their decisions
• Students will be apply skills of critical thinking and ethical research to reach guidelines and procedures to guide their media to handle controversial issues.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

150 minutes


Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Ask students what they know about the 2015 U. S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.

In the discussion, the teacher or an appointed student should write student comments on the board.

Next, assign the reading, After Gay Marriage Ruling, Was It OK for Student Newspaper to Rainbow Filter Its Twitter Profile Pic? Direct students to follow the links and read the comments.

Students should read the article and related materials and prepare three questions about the reading for class discussion. They should also answer this question for the next day: Was It OK for Student Newspaper to Rainbow Filter Its Twitter Profile Pic?

Urge them to do additional research on their own to help provide support in preparing an answer to their question. They could search the terms journalistic objectivity, journalism ethics, advocacy journalism or follow any of the links in the reading. They can use these searches to add to their three questions.

Day 2 (would be Day 1 if using the Differentiation)

Discussion of the question and related issues can be in small groups or as a large group. Take steps to see that all participate. The question they would comes to consensus is: Would it be OK for student media to showcase a position in the design or presentation of its news format?

Student answers to the question might not be as important as looking at the process used and discussion toward reaching consensus on an answer. The philosophical question behind the exercise is Where to draw the line on advocacy journalism?

Take the time needed so all students have a chance to be heard and to ask questions in large group or smaller teams.

Once adequate time has been given to discussion, set the stage for decision making on Day 3, which will involve the group drafting ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures that would cover the question.

The product would be approved by the student media staff (if different from the class) and added to the staff manual.

Day 3

Either in a large group or in smaller groups, draft ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures on the question.

Access instructions and how to use the ethical guidelines-staff manual approaches and a model of what the concept would look like.

Discuss the drafts and reach consensus.


The activities can be carried out in large groups or small groups.

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