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Reporting controversy, issues student journalists can tell best

Posted by on Feb 24, 2020 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE
The above statement is a good reminder in 2020 of our social responsibility to report all aspects of teen issues – those with good, bad and impact – because our audiences  have a right to know.

These are stories student journalists can tell best.

As journalists we do not actively protest, lead walkouts or engage others We examine issues and events with diverse points of view, in context, accurate and complete that might as effectively create change.

We are mirrors to reflect events and candles to illuminate causes and issues that surround us, like the March 14 and March 24 planned protests, marches and discussions initiated by student reactions to the shooting deaths of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Our journalistic leadership should not prevent expression of our personal feelings and views. Our first obligation is to the truth as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write in The Elements of Journalism.

“A community that fails to reflect  its community deeply will not succeed,” the authors write in Elements, third edition.”But a newspaper that does not challenge its community’s values and preconceptions will lose respect for failing to provide the honesty and leadership newspapers are expected  to offer.”

In this case and others, student media can best tell that story.

We lead when we channel our insights into reporting so communities – or societies – can make intelligent and informed decisions affecting our democracy.

To assist students as they report events and issues surrounding walkouts and protests, local and national, the SPRC begins a series of blogposts focusing on protest in America, its relevance and why student media should make every effort to report on its deeper issues.

To help start the discussion, note the following links:

  • Covering controversy  Controversy is often in the eye of the beholder. The best way to prevent a subject from becoming controversial is to use verifiable information, in context, from reliable sources – truthful, accurate, thorough and complete reporting. Students should be able to show why they used some information and not other. They should be transparent about why their coverage was important.
  • Practice sensitivity in your reporting  How do we, as today’s information consumers and creators, sift through the rumors, the gossip, the failed memories, the spin to capture something as accurately as possible? How can we overcome our own limits of perception, our biases, our experience and come to an account people will see as reliable. This essence of journalism is a discipline of verification. Controversy is in the eyes of the beholder. Our job is make sure anything controversial is reported thoroughly, accurately and coherently.
  • Respecting privacy and public space important for photographers, too  Student journalists should never invade the privacy of others while accessing information or photos for a story.However. it is their journalistic duty to know what constitutes invasion of privacy or what spaces they are legally allowed to access and what spaces they are not legally allowed to access. Student journalists should check the legal and ethical parameters of public space and the latest recommendations for journalistic activity from the Student Press Law Center.
  • Student Press Law Center online guide and resources for student journalists The new resource page is just one of several major steps SPLC took to ensure student journalists can cover protests, walkouts and the growing gun control discussions freely and fairly. See its news release:
  • Covering walkouts and protests   From the SPLC, this guide provides helpful information student journalists reporting protests and walk-outs.

Introductionand Civic engagement and journalism, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

The 2017 State of the First Amendment, Newseum

High School Journalism Matters, American Press Institute

Framework for 21st Century Learning, Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Civic Implications of Secondary School Journalism, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Principals, presidents and getting along, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

Teaching grit for citizenship — why we must empower, not shield students, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

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When students decide what’s newsworthy

Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


by Susan McNulty, CJE The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

Yesterday, my newspaper staff distributed the February issue of The Hoofbeat to the 2000+ students at our school.

According to the staff, the issue was well received by the student body, based on the most reliable measure of teenage interest: mentions in classmates’ Snapchat stories.

The staff packed the issue with stories geared to today’s teens: advice on dating, ways to talk to a crush, tips for being single and pick-up lines. In addition to the Valentine’s Day themed stories they included hard news about our new bus loop, the HOSA and band accomplishments, electives available on campus, sports teams, fundraisers, and ways to avoid student loan debt.

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Yes Virginia, journalism still exists

Posted by on Feb 10, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


by Stan Zoller, MJE

More than a few years ago, I saw a sign on a colleague’s desk that read: “Tact:  Being able to tell someone where to go in such a way that they actually look forward to the trip.”

Heeding that advice, I’ve become a hell of a travel agent. 

Case in point. I was recently chatting with an acquaintance who wanted to know if I was still teaching journalism.

Of course, I said.

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Silently, heavily, even if optional, prior review and restraint contribute to a crumbling democracy

Posted by on Feb 2, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


by Lindsay Coppens The Harbinger adviser, Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass.

A few weeks ago there was widespread reaction when news broke that the National Archives in Washington D.C. had blurred anti-Trump protest signs in a photograph from the 2017 Women’s March.

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported a similar mural-sized image had been removed from a Library of Congress exhibit days before the exhibit opened last year.

According to a Jan. 17 Post article, a National Archives spokesperson said they blurred critical references to the president’s name “so as not to engage in current political controversy.” A later statement from the National Archives acknowledged “they were wrong to alter the image.” 

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Building on Student Press Freedom Day

Posted by on Jan 29, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


A time for reflection on and commitment to journalistically responsible student media

Jan. 29, Student Press Freedom Day, is a good time to reflect on the importance of a unfettered student media, especially given the country’s claimed mistrust of and attacks on the media.

Commit to informing your various communities now, and throughout the next several months, about why they should support student journalists and learn ways to evaluate information from any source.

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