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Takedown requests:
when the right to preserve history
conflicts with the desire to forget it QT13

Posted by on Sep 20, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Blog by Kristin Taylor

As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests.

The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

This hypothetical student may not know it, but her request is part of a much larger conversation about honoring individual privacy versus preserving the historical record. In 2014, Europe’s highest court ruled individuals have a “right to be forgotten” that may supersede the right to preserve and share information via search engines like Google. This court ruling is controversial and would probably not happen in the United States; the First Amendment has strong protections for free speech and press that would likely prevent this kind of revisionism, but that doesn’t stop individuals from wishing they could take back the past.

Lawyer Mike Godwin, creator of the tongue-in-cheek “Godwin’s law,” has “been thinking longer than just about anyone else about why people can sometimes behave awfully on the Internet,” according to the Washington Post. He is skeptical that we have more “right to be forgotten” online than we do in everyday life:

“There’s this fantasy that these people have that they have control over what they say or do online,” Godwin writes. “But if I say ‘I love you’ to someone, I can’t take it back. I have no control over what happens to it after that. Words have effect in the real world that you can’t take back. That’s language’s eerie power.”

“What you see underlying the ‘right to be forgotten’ is the idea that somehow there’s a sense of yourself out in the world that you can draw boundaries around,” Godwin continues. “That, I think, is fantasy. I sympathize with the fantasy. I think it’s a natural human impulse. But the fact is that we’re connected in ways that require us to think profoundly about how we present ourselves. And we’re never going to achieve the kind of control over that that one might want in an ideal world.”

“What you see underlying the ‘right to be forgotten’ is the idea that somehow there’s a sense of yourself out in the world that you can draw boundaries around,” he continues. “That, I think, is fantasy. I sympathize with the fantasy. I think it’s a natural human impulse. But the fact is that we’re connected in ways that require us to think profoundly about how we present ourselves. And we’re never going to achieve the kind of control over that that one might want in an ideal world.”

On one level, I have sympathy for takedown requests. It’s true that we do a lot of growing in our high school years, and we do things we later regret. You only have to look at the growing number of articles and warnings about your “digital footprint” to realize this is a big issue in the Information Age. Unlike an op-ed published in a printed school paper, which is difficult to track down, an op-ed in an online paper is easily searchable. But so are a person’s social media posts and posts where others have tagged her. Our digital footprint isn’t going away, and part of being a successful 21st century citizen is learning to manage it.

I think we also need to help our students understand it’s all right to change our minds over time. Rather than insisting we have never held any other opinion or never made a mistake, we should embrace how our ideas and perspectives shift as we get older and have more experiences. Isn’t it healthier to acknowledge our past beliefs and mistakes rather than deny them? If a college admissions officer or future employer brings up an op-ed you wrote in high school, why not say, “Yes, I had a very different view back then than I do now. Let me tell you about how and why my viewpoint has changed since then.”

As sympathetic as I am to the impulse to “take it back,” I can’t support revisionist history. Part of the job of journalism is to provide a historical record — a true account of events and people from a point in time. Professional papers certainly won’t erase past articles, whether print or digital, and scholastic publications shouldn’t either except, perhaps, in extraordinary circumstances.​

As sympathetic as I am to the impulse to “take it back,” I can’t support revisionist history. Part of the job of journalism is to provide a historical record — a true account of events and people from a point in time. Professional papers certainly won’t erase past articles, whether print or digital, and scholastic publications shouldn’t either except, perhaps, in extraordinary circumstances.​

So how should we deal with these requests when they arise? JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee outlines ethical guidelines, staff manual processes and a list of suggestions and resources, one of which is this list of three takedown models for your staff manual. Using these guidelines, I worked with my editors at The Archer School for Girls to craft a takedown policy for our manual that errs on the side of preserving the historical record unless the potential harm to the person making the request outweighs all other factors. This is one possible model staffs could use as they begin to develop their own policies.

Staff Manual Model: Takedown Requests

The Oracle is a digital news source, but it is still part of Archer’s historical record. The Oracle’s primary purpose is to publish the truth, as best we can determine it, and be an accurate record of events and issues from students’ perspectives. Writers and editors use the 11 “Put Up” steps before publication to ensure the validity, newsworthiness and ethics of each article. For these reasons, the editorial board will not take down or edit past articles except in extraordinary circumstances.

If someone requests a takedown, the board will consider the following questions and actions:

  1. Does the content contain libel, inaccurate information, unwarranted invasion of privacy, obscenity or copyright infringement? If so, the editor-in-chief will remove this unprotected speech and add a corrections statement at the end of the article, as per the “Regarding Errors” policy. If, after careful investigation and discussion, the editorial board determines that the article is too heavily saturated with this unprotected speech to maintain, the board may decide to take the article down entirely. The board must come to consensus to make this decision.
  2. Does the content harm the requester so significantly that it outweighs all other factors? The editorial board will investigate this claim and weigh it against the value of an unaltered historical record. The board must come to consensus before taking down an article for this reason.
  3. If the content does not meet either of these extraordinary circumstances, it will remain posted.

Regardless of the outcome, the Editor-in-Chief will respond in writing to the request explaining the board’s action(s) and rationale for the final decision.

 

Guideline: Journalists may be asked to remove online content for any number of reasons. Just because content is unpopular or controversial does not mean a media staff should comply with such requests. When journalists meet their goal of producing consistent, responsible journalism, they likely will choose to leave the content in question online even in the face of criticism.

All media – including student media – provide a historical record of issues, events and comments. As such, content should not be changed unless there are unusual circumstances.

Another alternative to takedown demands would be to create publishing standards we would call Put Up criteria. Train student editors and staffers in why and how something should be published so takedown requests are avoided.

Key point: Source’s remorse, writer’s second-thoughts or other rethinking of existing information accessible to employers, colleges or simply to friends sometimes causes uncomfortable questions for student staffs.

What guidelines should student media staffers adapt or create that fulfills the role of historical-record, forum and source of information?

Stance: We feel there are no quick and easy answers, but plenty of ethical room for discussion and implementation of workable guidelines (not policy) that can withstand the test of time.

Reasoning/suggestions

  • In some cases, student editors may take down a story because they determine the content warrants a one-time exception (such as fabrication or to protect a source).
  • Reporters may elect to do a follow-up story.
  • If student editors choose to remove content, they should publish a note on the site explaining when and why the content was removed.
  • Takedown criteria should be outlined and explained in the staff manual.
  • Create guidelines and procedures to ensure students only post information and images they feel meet standards of responsible journalism: Put Up guidelines.

ResourcesTakedown demands? A roadmap of choices Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Respond to Takedown Demands, Student Press Law Center

Setting Criteria Before the Requests Come, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

10 Steps to a Put-Up Policy, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

Audio: Takedown Requests, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute

5 Ways News Organizations Respond to ‘Unpublishing’ Requests, The Poynter Institute

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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Fake or Fact? seminar available
via live-streaming, archived video

Posted by on Sep 17, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Lessons, News, Teaching | 0 comments

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Looking for additional materials for Constitution Day and lessons about fake news  in addition to what’s available from JEA and the SPRC?

The 13th annual Poynter-Kent State University Media Ethics Workshop is Thursday, Sept. 21, and focuses on fake news. The theme is “Fake or Fact?”

Details about the workshop, including speaker bios and a tentative schedule, are here.

A lesson plan for scholastic students, created by Candace Bowen, is available on the site.

The event is on the record, live streamed and archived. Show your students panel discussions as the happen or return to them by accessing the archives.

The keynote speaker will be NPR’s David Folkenflik, NPR media correspondent who is now featured in Netflix’s documentary “Nobody Speak.”

Other sessions will address fake news and journalism credibility, fake news and the 2016 election, how to identify and combat fake news, and fake news and public relations. Kelly McBride, Poynter’s VP, will be present, along with Indira Lakshmanan, who is Poynter’s new ethics chair.

You may recognize Indira as the Boston Globe’s Washington columnist who is frequently on PBS’s Washington Week and other political news shows.

 

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The role of the adviser is multifold,
but ethically, practically not a doer QT20

Posted by on Sep 3, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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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 letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

One way advisers can help this process is by having a staff manual inclusive of the student media mission statement, policies, guidelines and procedures. The mission statement outlines the overall aim of the student media. Policies are either the board-level or media-level and state the functionality of the student press. Guidelines are the ethical components the student media will work with. The procedures and resources for students to learn how to do something

 

Guidelines

As per the board-level or media-level policy, students should be empowered to make all content decisions for student media.

Key points/action

If the term “student media” is to have meaning, then the role of the adviser should be just what it says: advise.

The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer.

That role means letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

Stance

Students learn best when they are empowered to make their own decisions with support from the adviser on the sideline. A clear understanding of the adviser’s role helps students take ownership of their work and the program overall.

Reasoning/suggestions:
To help teachers and advisers understand this role more completely, we recommend the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as a starting point. We also recommend inclusion of a statement on the role of the adviser by noting the adviser code and a statement that students make all decisions of content. Advisers should advise and ask questions to help the students examine the issue from multiple perspectives and concerns.

One way advisers can help this process is by having a staff manual inclusive of the student media mission statement, policies, guidelines and procedures. The mission statement outlines the overall aim of the student media. Policies are either the board-level or media-level and state the functionality of the student press. Guidelines are the ethical components the student media will work with. The procedures and resources for students to learn how to do something.

If students know (or can look at what to do) what By already establishing these prior to a problem happening, it’s easier to see what to do when something does happen. (And, it will.) These policies, guidelines and procedures should function as a reference and be complete (preferably) prior to the problem happening. This helps the students (and adviser) work through issues if they do happen.
ResourcesAdviser responsibility

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

Teaching grit for citizenship — why we must empower, not shield students (related SPRC blog).

 

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Student media policy may be
the most important decision you make QT4

Posted by on Aug 31, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Guideline

Students should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

Key thoughts/Action:  Possible guidelines (three options)

This reality does not preclude students from exercising their best ethical judgment. Rather, it is an incentive for them to advocate for their role and for district-level policy that protects student journalists.

Possible policy 1:

[NAME OF SCHOOL] student media are designated public forums in which students make all decisions of content without prior review by school officials.

Comment: This contains only the basic statement of journalistic responsibility. It is usable at the board level to outline the basic principles of external oversight, leaving the process to other internal packages, like ethics guidelines and staff manuals. This removes from consideration the possibility of board attempts to change process-oriented direction.

A short statement like this clearly establishes the principles and responsibilities that guide all other statements. With no prior review added to it, it has the three crucial points in a policy: (1) designated public forum status in which (2) students make all final decisions regarding content and (3) do so without prior review. Decisions on matters such as letters, bylines, staff disciplinary actions, coverage of death and more are best detailed in ethical guidelines and staff manuals.

Possible policy 2:

[NAME OF SCHOOL] student media are designated public forums in which students make all decisions of content without prior review from school officials.

Freedom of expression and press freedom are fundamental values in a democratic society.

The mission of any institution committed to preparing productive citizens must include teaching these values and providing a venue for students to practice these values, both by lesson and by example.

As preservers of democracy, our schools shall protect, encourage and enhance free speech and the exchange of ideas as a means of protecting our American way of life.

[NAME OF MEDIA] and its staff are protected by and bound to the principles of the First Amendment and other protections and limitations afforded by the Constitution and the various laws and court decisions implementing those principles.

Comment: Again, this board-level model policy removes process details from being points of board action or meddling. It also introduces educational and philosophical language to give administrators insight into and understanding of why student media do what they do. It can aid in community understanding and support of the forum process.

This policy is slightly longer because it adds philosophical wording to support the decision-making without review. This policy could be effective at the board level because it allows others points to be explained in the ethics guidelines and staff manuals.

Possible policy 3:

Freedom of expression and press freedom are fundamental values in a democratic society.

The mission of any institution committed to preparing productive citizens must include teaching students these values, both by lesson and by example.

For these purposes, as well as to teach students responsibility by empowering them to make and defend their own decisions, school-sponsored student news media, print or online, at

[NAME OF SCHOOL] are established as designated public forums for student expression in which students make all final decisions of content.

Such news media will not be reviewed by school officials outside the adviser in his/her coaching role or restrained by school officials prior to, during, or after publication or distribution.

Therefore, material published in school-sponsored news media may not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the [NAME OF SCHOOL] District, and neither school officials nor the school are legally responsible for their content.

Students are protected by and bound to the principles of the First Amendment and other protections and limitations afforded by the U.S. Constitution and the various court decisions reaffirming those principles.

Comment: This is the same as model two but also includes a statement that student media do not intend to reflect the opinions of school authorities. Like model two, this model addresses the educational value of student media and attaches these issues to legal language. The three essential points made in earlier models appear here as well.

For any free expression policy:

Designated forum: This language (designated forum in policy or practice) should be included in policies at board or publication level because all public forums are designated either by action or inaction (unless the board clearly says otherwise). Being silent as students operate as a forum is really permitting a designated forum.

Social media post/question: Student media policy may be the most important decision you make. What should your student media policy contain?

Stance

The staff manual may include copies of the school board media policy along with publication-level media policy. Furthermore, the staff manual may provide procedures for students to address school administration in the case of a disagreement or policy issue. Students should consider including in the staff manual guidelines for proposing policy changes to the school board or petitioning the district (e.g., How does a student request to be put on the agenda for a school board meeting?).

Reasoning/Suggestions

  • Obtain a copy of the school district’s media or student expression policy.
  • Compare district policy to your publication-level policy and identify potential areas for misunderstanding or conflict (e.g., the district policy is more restrictive of student speech/press).
  • Make a plan to advocate change in the district’s policy that would align it more closely with how the staff actually operates, and why.
  • Student editors should recognize that they, not the adviser, are best suited to advocate their role. Advisers must navigate a difficult line as employee and should not be put in a position to defend student work.
  • Consider advocating for a state law that would protect student free expression rights.

Resources

Lesson: Developing a Presentation for Your School Board, Journalism Education Association

The Foundation of journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals JEA SPRC

Rethinking Your Forum Status, JEA SPRC

What Do I Do When I’m Censored?, Student Press Law Center

Model Guidelines for High School Student Media, Student Press Law Center

Model Legislation to Protect Student Free Expression Rights, Student Press Law Center

 

 

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Resources

Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 in Blog, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Resources for sponsored content/native advertising

• 12 examples of native ads (and why they work)

http://www.copyblogger.com/examples-of-native-ads/


•3 examples of branded content marketing done really, really well

http://oursocialtimes.com/3-examples-of-branded-content-marketing-done-really-really-well/


• 7 great examples of branded content

http://www.creativebloq.com/branding/7-great-examples-branded-content-61620674


• An ethical framework for sponsored content

http://www.wnyc.org/story/307741-ethical-framework-sponsored-content/


* Article or ad? When it comes to native advertising, no one knows

https://contently.com/strategist/2015/09/08/article-or-ad-when-it-comes-to-native-no-one-knows/


• Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning

https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf


• How ‘deceptive’ sponsored news articles could be tricking readers – even with a disclosure message

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-deceptive-sponsored-news-articles-could-be-undermining-trusted-news-brands-even-with-a-disclosure-message-2016-3


• How news organizations can sell sponsored content without lowering their standards

https://www.poynter.org/2013/how-news-organizations-can-sell-sponsored-content-without-lowering-their-editorial-standards/201045/


• Knowing what is what: Is it editorial content or is it advertising?

http://jeasprc.org/knowing-what-is-what-is-it-editorial-content-or-is-it-advertising/


• Making sense of the news: Distinguishing news from sponsored content

http://billmoyers.com/story/making-sense-news-distinguishing-news-sponsored-content/

• Media ethics and society

http://scrippsmediaethics.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-ethics-of-sponsored-content.html


• Most students cannot tell the difference between sponsored content and real news

https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/22/13712996/fake-news-facebook-google-sponsored-content-study


• Most students don’t know when news is fake, Stanford study finds

https://www.wsj.com/articles/most-students-dont-know-when-news-is-fake-stanford-study-finds-1479752576?reflink=e2twsc


• Native advertising

http://www.outbrain.com/native-advertising


• Native advertising examples: 5 of the best (and worst)

http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/07/07/native-advertising-examples

 

• Native advertising: Last week tonight with John Oliver

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_F5GxCwizc

 

• Of 17 editorial ethics challenges, sponsored content is most vexing to Ethics Chat attendees

http://www.asbpe.org/blog/2017/05/06/of-17-editorial-ethics-challenges-sponsored-content-is-most-vexing-to-ethics-chat-attendees/

 

• Sponsored content/native advertising

http://jeasprc.org/sponsored-contentnative-advertising/

 

• Sponsored content presents opportunities, ethical concerns for newsrooms

https://ijnet.org/en/blog/sponsored-content-presents-opportunities-ethical-concerns-newsrooms

 

• South Park sponsored content segment

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5113842/

 

• The best branded content of June: Heavy on the content, light on the brand

https://contently.com/strategist/2016/07/05/best-branded-content-june-heavy-on-content-light-on-brand/

 

• The definition of ‘sponsored content’

https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/white-papers/the-definition-of-sponsored-content/

 

• The ethics of using paid content in journalism

https://hbr.org/2013/07/the-ethics-of-using-paid-content-in-journalism


• The slippery slope of sponsored news

https://medium.com/@amdbeattie/the-slippery-slope-of-sponsored-news-9d8aac2a24f3


• Understanding the rise of sponsored content

https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/white-papers/understanding-rise-sponsored-content/


• What is the difference between sponsored content and native advertising?

https://blog.vimarketingandbranding.com/what-is-the-difference-between-sponsored-content-and-native-advertising


• What journalists need to know about ‘content marketing’

https://www.poynter.org/2012/what-journalists-need-to-know-about-content-marketing/187229/

 

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