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Re-examining the student media staff manual

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Staff manuals provide student journalists with resources and guidance during times of need. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate (and review) your current guidelines — and maybe even policies. These virtual conversations will not only help students understand what to do, but also what they may want to examine for future. 

Objectives

  • Students will examine their current media staff manual (if no manual exists, students should work to create one).
  • Students will discuss what might need updating or revising. 
  • Students will write and edit the current manual.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Basic level — 6 self-paced discussion board and collaborative doc activities

Materials / resources

Your current staff manual

JEA SPRC resource on staff manual

Rubric for student work

Way for students to collaborate online

Discussion board availability

Computer access

Annotation link for guideline example

Links for Activity 2

Forum status of student media

Prior review v. prior restraint

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Index of SPRC’s Quick Tips that will be beneficial for talking points for final activity.

Lesson step-by-step

Activity 1 — Mission statement discussion 

Teacher should upload the media mission statement found in the current staff manual in a discussion board. (If one doesn’t exist, students should work together to create one.) Teacher will then post the current mission statement of the student media. Ask students what they think might need to be altered.

Activity 2 — Mission statement part two 

When students have discussed, teacher could post a sample mission statement such as the one on the SPRC site:  

_____________ (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.

Ask students “what are the similarities and differences between the student media mission statement and the one posted”? What should the current mission statement be? Ask students to recraft as necessary. This could be done on a shared document if that is easier. 

Activity 3 — Policy statement 

Teacher should upload the current either board or student media level policy statement. Again through a discussion board, ask students to discuss what the strengths and weaknesses of this policy may be. 

Activity 4 — Policy statement comparative

Have the students compare the student media policy with what may be found at SPRC as well as look at the Quick Tips listed in the Resources above. Again, ask students to suggest changes to the current policy.

Activity 5 — Student choice

Students should brainstorm areas using a discussion board in which they might want to have ethical guidelines. Let them know that a great place to start is to think through any issues they had during the year. For example, what do you do when someone requests prior review of an article? Takedown request? Who can place an ad? They could also look to the current list in the manual for ideas. 

Teacher should form groups prior to Activity 6

Activity 6 — Group work (this step may be repeated if needed)

Ask students to post the current guideline and then examine its language while comparing it to the current language on SPRC. They should not only reexamine, but recraft as necessary using a shared document. This time, students should highlight the text and say why they made these choices. This will serve as a rough draft and starting point for the finalization of the manual.  

Guideline example (see annotation here):

Old:

Because student media is consumed by readers under the age of 18, we will not cover content that might be identified by our community as not adhering to common moral standards. The adviser will make the final decision in all cases.

SPRC sample:

Final content decisions and responsibility shall remain with the student editorial board. Student media will not avoid publishing a story solely on the basis of possible dissent or controversy.

New: 

The student media editorial board of (high school name here) will make all final decisions of content without prior review and restraint.

The board will not back away from covering a story because of possible controversy or arguments of readers. The goal is to provide the truth to an issue and robustly cover the students and staff of the school.  

Extension:

Teacher or editor could compile all the content suggested and rewritten by the students. Using a collaborative document, the teacher should set the share setting to “anyone with the link can comment.” Ask students to comment on one another’s work and ideas. Then, the editorial board could meet virtually to rework and rewrite as needed.

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