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One year ends. The next day, journalism Fall ’24, begs for attention. Your reaction?


Vault 3: Possibilities to help journalism students prepare for Fall, 2024, Day 1. The question? How will they react – jump right in? Ask for several weeks off first? Say ‘what’s the rush, bosssh?’ Any can work. Which works best for your student team? And, what issues do you face? Photo illustration by John Bowen.

by John Bowen, MJE

When one year of student media ends, the opportunity to update your student media before the next comes when students decide to report controversial issues or set up ethical guidelines on the use of artificial intelligence.

A sometimes crucial ending task for this year is to make the most time to brainstorm the best student decisions before time is short and needs immense.

Our year-end Vault series can provide students with access to lessons, articles and journalistically that can revitalize and create stronger guidance and reporting practices.

For example, before student journalists take to the streets to cover protests, a myriad of information exists to help students produce thorough, accurate and contextual reporting. Other information and guidance can help keep reporters be safe. Information about do’s and dont’s of the biggest story of the year –– covering protests

Our packages focus on several areas. Adapt, but feel free to adopt SPRC information instead of just copying it. Adaption enables information to best fit your needs and issues.

Among SPRC information available from this site:
• More on the journalism core (mission, policy, ethics, process)
Empowering student decision-making: The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate.

But not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers. That role means trusting students to make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

Quick Tips are a 50-item series that provides information on legal issues surrounding controversial topics.

• Journalistic integrity
guides student media:
Transparency: In order to maintain credibility, student reporters and editors should strive to be transparent in all aspects of their reporting. This includes revealing within the text of a story how interviews were obtained (if anything other than an in-person interview is used), giving proper attribution to direct quotes, as well as using indirect quotes to give attribution to ideas and details that come from sources. Reporters should also be transparent in how secondary source information was obtained.

Bringing light to relevant issues, past and present, defines journalistic leadership:

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
“Blowing in the Wind
“Find the Cost of Freedom
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone

How do these lyrics and titles relate to scholastic journalism?

  • They all came at a time when people questioned the media, its role and its leadership.
  • They all came at a time when citizens and journalists complained of government mis-, dis and censored information.
  • They all came at a time when activism and protest – from multiple viewpoints – clouded not only the truth on timely issues but also many people’s minds.

Sound familiar?

How to verify – and when to publish – news accounts posted on social media: A July 4 fireworks show in downtown Philadelphia was marred by a shooting that sent crowds scattering, according to hundreds of tweets sent that night. But when reporters at the Philadelphia Daily News followed up with police, wrote staffer Daniel Victor, they were told there had been no such shooting.

Unnamed sources should be used sparingly: Journalism is based on truth and accuracy. Using unnamed sources risks both of those standards. For that reason, students should seek sources willing to speak on the record. Unnamed sources should be used sparingly and only after students evaluate how the value of the information balances with the problems such sources create. 

Ethics are invaluable in student journalism, but not as a guide for punishment: There appears to be no disagreement – in our school communities or nationwide – that a journalist’s role is to report accurate, fair and objective news.  Journalism courses at the college level, in high school, and even middle schools teach a variety of research and reporting techniques to address accuracy —but in order to teach concepts such as “fairness” and “objectivity,” journalism lessons must naturally address issues of ethical decision-making.

•Seeking journalistic truth (reporting, information gathering)

–SPLC reporting, Covering Protests: From covering schools walkouts to protections if a student journalist assault and arrested while working.

Seeking journalistic truth: What does it mean to be truthful? Is truthfulness accurate numbers and statistics? Multiple points of view? Context to help the reader understand the time and place and other circumstances? All of the above? Journalistic truth “means much more than mere accuracy,” according the seminal text “The Elements of Journalism” by Kovach and Rosenstiel. “It is a sorting-out process that takes place between the initial story and the interaction among the public, newsmakers and journalists.”

Tools of Truth: In the era of the fight against fake news, we believe journalists must be aware of the social climate surrounding the work they do. The attacks and delegitimization of the news media on a national scale shouldn’t make us question the work we do. We’ve created this set of tools for educators to promote discussion about truth and credibility in the media we access as makers, sharers, consumers and evaluators.

Our lessons are in four different areas to help meet this goal:

• Sloppy reporting

• Censorship

• Satire

• Deceptive reporting

Other needs might change your planning: to remove prior review, create Quick Tips that establish guidelines to verify key information or plan to your students to take responsibility for news reporting of essential community information and issues.