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SJW: Celebrate & rejuvenate


by John Bowen, MJE

Let the fireworks – figuratively or real – begin

For now is the time of JEA’s Student Journalism Week and all it can do to further democratic ideals.

For 100 years, JEA’s mission has been to support free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities for students and advisers across the country. Although numerous things have changed since 1924, the goal remains.

Celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week. Photo by Anthony Roberts on Unsplash

On Meet the Press Feb. 18, host Kristen Welker showed a clip of Senator John McCain of Arizona talking about the absolute necessity of a free and, at times, aggressive press.

That point can be made about the importance of free and journalistically press in the nation’s schools. If students don’t see the working of free, student run student news media in schools, they won’t understand or practice journalism’s key roles.

As we can clearly see in events today, a society whose press, at any level, is not understood or trusted, often withers away into News Deserts, disinformation machines and stealthful liars, instead of centers of journalistic and social responsibility.

As we celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week and Scholastic Press Freedom Day, cheer and promote journalism as a life-changing education in democratic engagement. But also take time to look at issues and events that will require accurate, contextual and thorough reporting. And sometimes aggressive reporting.

Student journalists and communities can benefit from examining four key cornerstones that nurture, challenge and broaden journalism’s leadership for the future.

Professional Standards Packages
Composed of mission statements, editorial policies, ethical guidelines and applications to make them effective, these principles establish student-guided direction. who your student media are, what they stand for, why they believe in and practice in terms of journalism responsibility and obligations . These statements and guidelines can inform community and students alike on the roles and standards, legal and ethical directions of the student media. The clarify your publication standards and why students need to adhere to journalism based on student free expression and student decision making.

How do communities tell if students follow journalistically responsible standards? Talk to them daily as they go about their work. This means both groups are savvy in principles and practices of journalism.

Points for discussion on professional standards:
• Should journalists alter ethical standards to accommodate AI?
• What “legitimate pedological/educational value” is there in prior review of student media?
• Do your current mission statements reflect your student media? Are they too limiting? Do they need to be more focused?
• Who should make all final decisions of student media content?

Take time to really explore The Elements of Journalism
Identify and clarify what the Elements of Journalism are, and why journalists and their community audiences should also know its principles. Written by journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, Elements examines journalism standards of the past and discusses their impact in the future. Knowing how and why journalism’s environment is changing can help student and anticipate more effectively.

Understanding Elements is no longer optional for journalists at any level. or for those community members who consume and create their own journalism endeavors

It has become essential information.

With the spread of mis- and disinformation, the public needs to understand, engage and practice, if they wish, essential journalism skills. Analyzing issues enables students to knowingly share the Elements so communities recognize and understand journalism’s core values in a democracy.

Key Elements for discussion/reading:
• Skeptical knowing of information reporters gather
• Making sense of the news more than breaking it
• The importance of context/content
• The lost meaning of “objectivity”
• The journalist as “committed observer”
• What is transparency and how is it a change in reporting?
• What is the discipline of verification and why is it crucial in this age of digital news?
• What is this watchdog role?
• Citizens also have rights and responsibilities with news*
* These and many more points for discussion and Elements can be found here.

Importance of communicating Best Practices
Challenge student staffs to identify and develop principles into practices, noting journalism’s future Best Practices. Fulfilling this obligation will mean students should expect to demonstrate to communities the procedures they use are the best accurate, thorough and credible ways to gather information students and communities use to make informed decisions. Best Practices are taught, revised and explained routinely and people need and deserve to why.

For instance, what skill levels and procedures would be used to publish a sports story on the increasing number of concussions in sports, and elsewhere, in communities?How would students report the story? Just what is a Solutions (SoJo) story and how does it differ from other features? Would story approach and sourcing also change with story type?

Other points to discuss:
• Solutions Journalism
• Advocacy Journalism
• Objectivity: time to rethink its use, meaning?
• News Deserts and student options?
• Journalism’s social responsibility?
• What is meant by journalistic leadership?

Completing the circle
• The question above, “what is meant by journalistic leadership,” needs more for use here, “and how do we achieve it” does the job”

To empower today’s young journalists today to become tomorrow’s journalistic leaders and visionaries builds leadership through action, teamwork and experience. It exemplifies the concept of the circle. Students strengthen their ethical leadership by testing guidelines. They apply that knowledge to improve journalistic practices. As their experiences grow, involvement increases as do expectations. teamwork and innovation.

This process can serve to build teamwork and innovation outside the publication. Those students who did not choose a formal journalistic path could become involved as citizen journalists or work as part of community media. They could strive to correct News Desert issues by founding a startup news team of adults and students with focused local content. Maybe student journalists would be the teachers. Critical and innovative thinking can shift problems into successes.

Another role could be to create model AI ethical statements specific for scholastic media. Perhaps that team could enlist other student groups to form a teams of student programs to share articles and tackle teen issues. Perhaps we can have the first real formal teen-run, national student-led involvement. This group would make decisions and share stories between participating schools.

The possibilities go on and on, many dependent on the journalistic responsibilities these students learned in schools, especially those where they were free to make all final decisions of content.

Maybe their initial spark of involvement came during Scholastic Journalism Day and Week.

Maybe ,,,

Scholastic Journalism Week information
• ScholasticJournalism Week, Here to Stay
Feb, 19-23, 2024
Student Press Freedom Day, Feb. 22, 2024