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Five steps for a great start to the school year

Posted by on Aug 1, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


The typical to-do list of journalism teachers during the back to school season often includes setting up the newsroom, prepping lessons, attending professional development days and coordinating with editors and staffers. Whether that list lives in a mobile app, Google Doc or pretty new notebook, it’s usually a long one.

But adding these five things to the teacher to-do list will make for a great experience all year long. A little extra planning and outreach in August builds a foundation for students and colleagues that truly sets the tone for student press freedom, positive working relationships and increased awareness on campus.

Consider these for a great start:

  1. Get on the school calendar now for Constitution Day. Administrators often develop a list of upcoming events to distribute at staff in-service, for the school website, for parent communications and for posting on social media. Make sure Sept. 17 is listed, and begin the conversation with key partners on your campus about what activities you’ll plan and implement. Check out JEA’s set of Constitution Day lessons and activities here.

  2. Meet with any new teachers and staff members on your campus. Ideally, you can carve out a few minutes to introduce yourself and share about the student media program you advise. Who knows what journalism was like that their previous schools? Drop off copies of the students’ publication so your new colleagues can see what a great job students do. With just a brief conversation you can create the beginning of a positive relationship and help them understand that your students make the content decisions and take their roles as reporters seriously with a focus on truth, accuracy and integrity. If possible, invite them to stop by your room to see the media staff in full swing. 

    If possible, guide your editors as they prepare a brief introduction to new staff members, too. It’s great for new teachers to see students taking the lead, especially so they learn to contact students with story ideas or questions rather than coming to you.

  3. Incorporate the First Amendment in your welcome back activities. Make these part of any icebreakers, bootcamp sessions, editors’ planning meetings and other gatherings you have lined up for the next month. Incoming editors will follow your example; if you use law and ethics discussions as part of your first meet-up or work session together, they’ll do the same when training their new staff members.

    Even simple warm-ups like singing, rapping or reciting the First Amendment or using related T-shirts (like this one or this one) as special prizes will set the tone for a new school year. One simple activity in teams is to distribute envelopes containing the 45 words of the First Amendment on little slips of paper and having a race for each team to put the words in order correctly.
Quick warm-up activities like this one can help students learn the First Amendment while getting to know each other in small groups.

4. Add the First Amendment Press Freedom Award application to your editors’ to-do list. They’re probably in the process of determining the publication/distribution dates and deadline nights for the semester, so the timing is perfect for them to add the Dec. 15 application deadline. As we all know, what gets scheduled gets done. And having the award on their radar may lead to positive, necessary conversations from editors and staffers to educate their classmates, teachers and administrators throughout the fall.

5. Commit to teaching law and ethics. Plan lessons both for the start of the school year and to incorporate periodically all year long. Don’t rush into production with all attention on deadlines only to have students miss the significance of what they’re doing. Don’t apply a “one and done” unit in the first month and consider students’ learning complete. As you map out a scope and sequence, plan to revisit and layer important topics related to student press freedom and their rights and responsibilities.

The Law and Ethics module in the JEA Curriculum Initiative is a great place to start. You also can print the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for classroom use, or contact them to request a class set of bookmarks. The Student Press Law Center has great resources for educators, too. The key is to plan now and make it a recurring topic for discussion, reading, analysis, debate and/or practice in your journalism curriculum.

With a strong foundation and continuous practice, students make better, more informed decisions.

An adviser’s First Amendment passion is contagious, and the time invested now to accomplish these five tasks will pave the way for students and colleagues to follow your lead.

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JEA updates its Adviser Code of Ethics

Posted by on Nov 15, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoAt its board of directors meeting in Orlando Nov. 11, JEA updated its Adviser Code of Ethics by adding several new statements and updating several others.

Changes are noted in bold, below:
• Model standards of professional journalistic conduct. to students, administrators and others.
• Empower students to make decisions of style, structure and content by creating a learning atmosphere where students will actively practice critical thinking and decision-making.
• Encourage students to seek divergent points of view and to explore a variety of information sources in their decision-making.
• Support and defend a free, robust and active forum for student expression without prior review or restraint.
• Emphasize the importance of accuracy, balance and clarity in all aspects of news gathering and reporting.
• Show trust in students as they carry out their responsibilities by encouraging and supporting them in a caring, learning environment.
• Remain informed on press rights and responsibilities across media platforms.
• Advise and mentor, rather than act as censor or decision-maker.
• Display professional and personal integrity in situations that might be construed as potential conflicts of interest.
• Support free expression for others in local and larger communities.
Model traits of a life-long learner through continuous professional development in media education along with membership and involvement in professional media organizations.
• Foster cooperation and open communication with administrators and other stakeholders while students exercise their First Amendment rights.
• Encourage journalistically responsible use of social media in schools and educate students, school officials and community to its value. Educate students about the ramifications of its misuse.
• Champion inclusion so that ALL students not only see themselves and their ideas represented, but also see themselves as able to contribute to and to lead student-determined media.


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Student free speech vs. adviser job security?

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Uncategorized | 0 comments


“But what do you do if what they want to publish may cause a problem?” Rachel asked, a little furrow of a frown between her eyes.

She and the other 16 education majors in Kent State’s Teaching High School Journalism course had heard all about the value of a free press from Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism Mark Goodman. He had met with them the week before when I had to miss class. Now I was back, explaining the value of the Tinker standard and re-emphasizing their future students’ First Amendment rights.

Rachel and most of the others felt our passion and wanted to believe, but…they envisioned a lot of “what ifs” for new teachers.

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The Ides of March

Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


by Ellen Austin

What is it about March? Even Shakespeare noticed it, putting the soothsayer’s warning out to Caesar about the time span that begins this week.

So the bad news from the early Ides of March rolls in …

I read with great surprise and shock this weekend the news that a well-known and professionally recognized colleague posted to a Listserv about losing his current position as a journalism adviser at in suburban Chicago.

It reminds me of a quote attributed variously to Saddam Hussein, Stalin, and others of that ilk whose names have become synonymous with suppression: “If you have a person, you have a problem; no person, no problem.”hazelwoodcolor

The ultimate form of censorship is eliminating a person’s ability to do or say the thing which might cause concern. It’s also the pernicious form of censorship that too many high schools and universities have used to quell and control the student voices they really wanted to affect.

That adviser is one of our very best, a leader who has devoted himself not just to his students but to the greater cause of scholastic journalism, including outside-of-school service to JEA and state journalism organizations.

If you’re reading this, know that you are also “skin in this game.” It’s not just about this colleague or others whose names flash by on the marquee of a Listserv. It’s about all of us, and the collective work we do. We work at the flash point in our schools, the place where we really get to see what kind of climate of free expression exists on our campuses. I remember being told by a mentor early on, “Be prepared: you will probably lose your advising job at some point, if you’re doing it right.”

Earlier this week, my colleague Paul Kandell and I are heading over to neighboring Mountain View High School to sit in on the board meeting in which the journ advisers are being asked to discuss their programs. Amy Beare, the adviser to the Mountain View Oracle, will be presenting to the board, with (I hope) a room full of supportive parents and students around her.

It’s Monday, and only a couple of weeks after our celebration of Scholastic Journalism Week. This is hard, but meaningful work that we do.

What am I trying to say here? Guess I don’t really know. Mostly, here’s my Monday note to say that this is a hard hard job — and one which sometimes requires us to say, “How much do I believe in this? How strongly can I stand for what I believe? How willing am I to face the cost that may come with standing?”

Good luck to all of us this week as we go through our classes and our deadlines. I will be crossing my fingers tonight across town in the hopes that a neighboring school board sees that student free expression is a scary, but wonderful thing. Love that U.S. Constitution.

Ellen Austin is Dow Jones News Fund Teacher of the Year for this year


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Advice for your administrators: Student media CAN equal solid learning

Posted by on Oct 6, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Part 2

Achieving the most positive educational experience for everyone involved – students, advisers, administrators and community – is really simple. And it does not involve control or stripping the educational value of student media. Here are some suggestions:

• Hiring the most qualified educator to teach and advise your scholastic media or helping one without solid journalism background become more knowledgeable;

Trusting and respecting those educator advisers as well as their student media editors and staff as the students make difficult decisions
 (and sometimes make mistakes);

Maintaining dialogue and offering feedback with advisers and student editors so they understand school administrator concerns, but where students understand that they have a real voice in the debate and have the freedom to excel.

Organizations that support these values, including the Journalism Education Association and others, stand ready to help administrators, advisers and student journalists with training opportunities, curricular materials and ongoing dialogue to keep them current on what’s happening in these important fields.

For more information on those groups:
• Journalism Education Association
JEA is the only independent national scholastic journalism organization for teachers and advisers. It supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, by promoting professionalism, by encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and by fostering an atmosphere that encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It offers a voluntary teacher certification program plus the Summer Adviser Institute and two national conventions a year, co-sponsored with the National Scholastic Press Association.
• Center for Scholastic Journalism
CSJ is a national clearinghouse with information for and about student journalists and their advisers, a research center on issues affecting scholastic media, an educator of journalism teachers and an advocate for student press freedom and the First Amendment.
• National Scholastic Press Association
NSPA offers two national conventions with JEA, a summer workshop, national critiques and teaching materials for teachers, advisers and students.
• JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission and
JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission offers teaching materials in law and ethics with an emphasis on free and responsible journalism and up-to-date information to enhance teacher information and leadership abilities. The links are to a website and blog.
• Student Press Law Center
The Student Law Center is an advocate for student free press rights and provides information, advice and legal assistance at no charge to students and the educators who work with them.
• Newspaper Association of America Foundation
The Newspaper Association of America Foundation strives to develop engaged and literate citizens in a diverse society. The Foundation invests in and supports programs designed to enhance student achievement through newspaper readership and appreciation of the First Amendment. NAAF also supports research and has funded the repeat of a national study by Prof. Jack Dvorak of Indiana University entitled, “High School Journalism Matters.” It provides evidence to support the value of student media work as students who have participated clearly earn better high school grades, outscore their peers on college entrance exams and earn higher grades in college writing courses than those who were not involved in student media.
• First Amendment Center
The First Amendment Center is a clearinghouse for comprehensive research coverage of key First Amendment issues and topics, daily First Amendment news, commentary and analyses by respected legal specialists. It also has a First Amendment library of legal cases and related materials.
• Five Freedoms
The Five Freedoms network is a nationwide community of educators, students and citizens who support the five freedoms of the First Amendment. Its projects and mission focus on enhancing the educational strength of the First Amendment.
• High School Journalism http://hsj.orgHigh School Journalism is offered by the American Society of News Editors and offers lessons plans, articles and advice from commercial journalists and a wide variety of educational materials. It also offers six free, two-week summer workshops for new adviser/teachers and those wishing to gain additional information. The workshops are at six universities around the country
• Quill and Scroll
Quill and Scroll is the International Honorary Society for High School Journalists and sponsors contests, scholarships and educational materials for students and advisers
• Columbia Scholastic Press Association
CSPA  offers contests and critiques, a large national spring convention and a fall workshop for advisers, teachers and students. It also has a strong adviser organization.
• Friends of the Spoke
Friends of the Spoke is a student-designed and -run website, conceived to convince a school board not to adopt prior review. It succeeded.

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