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Mission sets the path for content, decisions

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Mission statement

What is it/definition: A mission statement is a concise, philosophical statement of purpose and goals for student media. It establishes the ethical and practical concepts by which the student media should be expected to operate and why students do what they do.


Important items of note: We strongly believe mission statements should be more than “to entertain and educate” as those points do not stress guiding the whys and whats of a mission.


Guideline: A mission statement defines your student media, shows your audience what’s important to you and helps them see why you do what you do. It’s not easy to write an effective one.Our model would look like this:

_____________ (school name) student media provide complete and accurate coverage, journalistically responsible, ethically gathered, edited and reported. Student-determined expression promotes democratic citizenship through public engagement diverse in both ideas and representation.

Student best practice: You need a mission statement, and we think ours is worth consideration. We also share some points to think about as you write your own or adapt what we offered:

  • Audience engagement.Think about the importance of getting your audience to think and hopefully to act. Your mission should be to create media to get and keep them involved.
  • Journalistic responsibility.Point out the basis of solid journalism you want as the very heart of your media: truth, integrity, completeness and accuracy.
  • Additional reporting basics. Make sure your audience knows it can trust you because you also offer context to put reporting in perspective, verification that shows you double-checked, coherence that ensures it makes sense and presents all relevant information.
  • Ethical reporting and editing. To complete the reporting process, present your work ethically and to professional standards for your audiences.
  • Student-determined content. It should make a difference to your audience that students are in charge and decide all content for your student media. It definitely makes a difference to courts, too.
  • Diversity of ideas and representation.It’s not just one clique that runs your student media. All voices contribute ideas and have representation in your media.
  • Platform consistency. It’s not a newspaper policy and a separate wbroadcasteb, yearbook or TV station policy. As all media providers realize they are connected and each telling a story in the best way possible, it’s important the school’s media share the same policies and ethical approaches.
  • School mission statement connection.It shouldn’t be surprising that school mission statements often mention the same points student media do: building thinking citizens, preparing students for democracy, etc. Tie parts of your media mission statement to those as well


Quick Tip:This information  is part of a four-part series designed to help students build mission states and shape them into workable parts of the Foundation concept.:

Part 1: Build a strong foundation

Part 2: Careful preparation creates strong mission statements

Part 3: Points to avoid in mission statements

Part 4: Fitting the pieces into a strong Foundation


Responsibility in scholastic media starts with ethics, accuracy, complete story:Administrators may want student media to depict the school in a positive light, that promotes good news and overlooks the negative.

Is this responsible journalism?
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 theJEA Adviser Code of Ethicsas guides for advisers.That role means letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

Quick Tips index   A list of nearly 70 journalism processes showing the interaction between every day journalistic processes and actions and ethical principles.




SPRC blogs

Policy and ethics sitemap:Learn what goes together ln a law and ethics Handbook. We think the policy section should come right after the mission statement since it sets the stage for all other areas. That choice remains yours.

Careful preparation creates strong mission statements: A mission statement defines your student media, shows your audience what’s important to you and helps them see why you do what you do.

Points to avoid in mission statementsAs with any guiding statement, unclear, undefinable or imprecise wording can lead to misinterpretation of intended principles. We suggest mission statements do not include these terms: 

Revisit your mission to empower scholastic journalists:Hopefully your publication has a mission statement as a key part of the editorial policies in your staff handbook. Even better, this mission statement is revisited and, if needed, revised at the start of each year.

Journalistic integrity guides scholastic media: As scholastic media advisers and students develop policies and guidelines to guide them with journalism standards, they should note these words: The only thing students have to lose as journalists is their credibility.

Free press––why students should make all decisions of content: For students to prepare themselves for their roles in a democracy, they must be able to practice guarantees of the First Amendment, knowing they can make a difference.

Second day concerns   It’s not the first day of school that has me worried. It’s the second.

St. Louis Park’s first day involves some get-to-know-you activity, but we start content on the second. And this is why I’m worried. With the summer of fake news and recent news of the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, I want my students to understand why what they do is so important. So, on the second day, we will revisit our mission statement.

SPLC resources:

Other resources:

JEA law/ethics curriculum:

Creating a Mission Statement for Student Media  Everyone has seen mission statements that contain “educate and entertain” as key goals for scholastic media. The purpose of this lesson is to create mission statements that go beyond generic wording. Instead, mission statements should help establish who student journalists are, their role, and their purpose. Establishing this framework will also shape audience understanding about media roles, purposes and identity, including the social responsibility role that even student journalists must uphold. This lesson works best when used before the Creating an Editorial Policy lesson and after the Mission Planning lessons.


Related Content: Foundation/ Staff Guidelines |Policy | Ethics | Staff Manual | Prior Review | Restraint | Censorship




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Join the SPRC for sessions in Chicago

Posted by on Oct 20, 2018 in Law and Ethics | 0 comments


The Scholastic Press Rights Committee is presenting a number of sessions at the Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Chicago. We hope to see you at one or more of them.

More sessions are available on law and ethics – check out the convention program.

New Voices Summit
2- 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31
Randolph 1A-B, Concourse Level

Law and ethics press freedom in independent schools
9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1
Randolph 2, Concourse Level

Open forum for addressing censorship issues (1 of 2)
11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1
Roosevelt 3B, Concourse Level

State laws protecting student press freedom
1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
Columbian, Concourse Level

No New Voices law? You still have rights!
2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
San Francisco, Ballroom Level

Scholastic Press Rights Committee meeting
7:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2
Roosevelt 3A, Concourse Level

Discussion of scholastic press rights
9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2
Roosevelt 3B, Concourse Level

Open forum for addressing censorship issues (2 of 2)
11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2
Roosevelt 3B, Concourse Level

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‘Stupid teen stuff’ in student media
can alter history, shape future

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE

Private jokes, misleading and fabricated information have no place in yearbook journalism. In any journalism.

To simplify, in a Sept. 27 hearing about whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh should become a justice on the U. S. Supreme Court, a yearbook sparked controversy years later about the meaning and truthfulness of some content.

People and events around that yearbook and some people noted in it led to an expanded FBI investigation and the attention of millions of people across the country.

In an email to JEA’s listserv, Steve O’Donoghue of California called what happened “an object lesson to every yearbook adviser.

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Brett Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook provides teachable moments

Posted by on Sep 27, 2018 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Yearbook | 1 comment


Yearbooks are forever.

We wear this statement on matching T-shirts, mail it home on marketing postcards and proudly display it on homemade posters created by dedicated publications staffs nationwide.

But less than one week before National Yearbook Week 2018, the phrase takes on new significance during the hearings surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Earlier this week, Kavanaugh’s 1983 Georgetown Prep yearbook page made the news for its references to drinking and partying along with coded mentions of a female classmate that appear to be demeaning inside jokes.

Seeing a yearbook page in the news is always a teachable moment, of course. Journalism teachers can show students — and other stakeholders — the value of yearbooks as historical record, as memory keepers and, depending on one’s perspective, possibly as a sort of character reference. The way people hold on to yearbooks, as Heather Schwedel describes in this Slate article, draws attention to a student publication 35 years later as a form of historical evidence.

What complicates the larger discourse is the social media noise, which quickly shifted to placing blame on the yearbook adviser and others responsible for producing the publication. A tweet by Soledad O’Brien questioned the adviser, and the comments that followed illustrate the wide range of uninformed public opinions about what should and shouldn’t find its way into a yearbook — and who plays a hand in that decision.

What can yearbook staff members learn from the 1983 Cupola?

Recent H.L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year winners share their perspectives to help add context and offer guidance for students and teachers discussing this in their journalism classes.


What is the role of the adviser?

“Advisers are responsible for helping guide staff members in understanding their responsibilities and through challenges they face. They are not there to censor or to dictate content. They are there to provide support, advice and direction. Advisers are not there to serve as editors of student publications. They are there to help students establish the standards and guide them.”

— Brenda Field, MJE; Glenbrook South High School (Glenbrook, Ill.)

“First and foremost, the role of the yearbook adviser is to teach responsible journalism. If we’re doing our jobs, then students will be equipped to make responsible decisions regarding content. And this is what happens every single day in yearbook journalism classrooms across the country. Yes, I read every word that went into the books I advised, as that was the expectation in my school and community. But it was the editors and staff who ultimately determined content.”

— Cindy Todd; retired from Westlake High School (Austin, Texas)


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A new school year, a new staff – make sure your staff is well informed

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Cyndi Hyatt
By now we all have fallen into the rhythm of another academic year.  With the advent of new staffs, new ideas and maybe new procedures it’s also good to pause and reflect.

What have you done to make sure your staff, especially the rookies, is trained in more than how to write copy, conduct an interview or edit a package?

Student journalists are eager to cover what’s news but they need to be armed with the necessary tools, skills and knowledge BEFORE the story is filed.

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