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Advocacy and journalism:
coexistence or natural conflict?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE
Initially came the mass shooting of 17 students and school staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

Students and scholastic media reported the issues surrounding the shootings and the followed student protests, trying to make sense of it all.

Then came discussion among journalism educators about student advocacy and journalism. Should the two travel together? Can they coexist in the same newsroom?

Now is the time to assess those questions, and more.

In a chapter titled “What we need from the ‘Next Journalism'” in their book, Blur, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel  look how questions like these might identify purpose, roles and focus of media in the future.

“Strip away platform. Strip away technique. Strip away culture,” they write. “What function does a newsroom serve in its community? What is its essential purpose, apart from generating revenue?”

Student journalists raised the essence of that question when they reported social issues and events surrounding the shootings at their school. Thousands of other teens, some student journalists, joined in, bringing praise as well as anger, ultimately participation innational marches and protests.

Journalism educators  prepared their students not only to report the events and the issues, fulfilling their social role  responsibility. They also embraced the leadership aspects of journalism by guiding students as they made coverage and action decisions.

Mix the leadership and growth of student voice with the concept of journalism as advocacy and we create debate on the essential purpose and role of scholastic journalism.

After all, muckrakers like Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell rerouted the scope of journalism.

Perhaps this present confluence of two major points – change in journalism and a regrowth of advocacy – can fuel the expansion of New Voices and propel scholastic journalism into examining issues and potential solutions.

“Telling stories is not the answer. Neither is delivering the news, or even monitoring government. All those have been a part of it historically,” Kovach and Rosenstiel state in Blur. “But we think the essential function is something broader and more conceptual, and the future of journalism depends in part on embracing the broader notion.”

The authors specifically mention verification, synthesis and making sense of information presented as parts of that larger notion of essential journalism.

It is time to expand the discussion to include the broader notion of scholastic journalism’s future roles and whether advocacy is among them..

In the next month or so we will develop and discuss what these potential changes might mean to scholastic journalism, provide background and perspective and share activities and lessons, grow discussion and spread possibilities.


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Our tasks for the future:
Building a Tool Kit of Trust, integrity

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



Trust in sources, information, journalists. Trust in audiences. Trust in education.

Ways to help student journalists and their audience fight fake news and bad journalism begin in middle and high school, and especially in journalism programs.

Helping journalism students and their audiences fight fake news and sloppy reporting should include understanding what type of journalism is involved. Bill Kovach and Tom Riosenstiel identified the four types in the book Blur.

Each type provides its own journalistic function and each can play roles in fake news:
• Journalism of Verification: “a traditional model that puts the highest value on accuracy and context.”
• Journalism of Assertion: “a newer model that puts the highest value on immediacy and volume and in so doing tends to become a passive conduit of information.”
• Journalism of Affirmation: “a new political media that builds loyalty less on accuracy, completeness, or verification than on affirming the beliefs of its audiences, and so tends to cherry-pick information that serves that purpose.”
• Interest-Group Journalism: “targeted Web sites or pieces of work, often investigative, that are usually funded by special interests rather than media institutions and designed to look like news.”

In the third deditiion of their book Elements of Journalism, Kovach and Rosestiel changed the last category to Journalism of Aggregation.

Studying the four types can help scholastic journalism prepare for a Tool Kit of Trust, preferably without censorship and prior review.

Our Toolkit of Trust would provide materials and journalism resources in at least these six areas:
• Fighting bad journalism
• Uncovering and educating about, then limiting the spread of fake news
• Preventing charges of fake journalism aimed at our student media
• Limiting impact of censored student media
• Uncovering sponsored news
• Building trust in journalistic values through gatekeeping that stresses journalistic responsibility

We feel these areas can be the focus for the war agains fake news and bad journalism.

Because of new-found attention directed toward critical news thinking and news literacy, including proposed California legislation, we hope to, by next fall, share educational materials that:
• Focus on answering the “why” news question to make the “what” meaningful.
• Help your communities understand the need for communications/sense making responsibilities as they question authorities.
• Once journalists have questioned authorities, question them about the quality, motive and detail of their information. Remain skeptical until all questions are answered.
• Double down and stress what speech is protected and why and its importance to the well-being of a democracy.
• Show diversity in all its meaning as a guiding light for scholastic journalism. Let all people and ideas be represented.
• Remember objectivity as a process remains the core of scholastic journalism. It’s a process rooted in truth, credibility and coherence as essential, even as reporters are skeptical and challenging of sources.
• Strive to focus on solutions (journalism) to the issues and problems coverage raises.
• Protect and empower the whole process of fighting fake and misleading news by supporting and becoming involved in states’ New Voices legislation.
• Stress journalists’ social responsibility in a factionalized media/political environment.
• Fight the spread and use of fake news in all its forms and assist student journalists and their communities understand, respond to and counter it.

If you or your students have other areas you feel would help your program and/or scholastic journalism, please use the comment form and let us know.

In a recent Student Press Law Center Ball of Rights promotion, the words “censorship is deplorable” appear. We would add to that “prior review is insidiously deplorable.” Both lead to misinformation and distortion. Both limit journalistic integrity.

Both are at the core of fake news we need to change.

When it comes to legal issues, journalism schools leave students unprepared, a new study argues
Six skills every journalist should possess
• Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post truth” world
Fake news? Bias? How colleges teach students not to be duped

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Sifting through the sources: how to really know which source has the ‘truth’

Posted by on Sep 22, 2013 in Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen
In their book, “Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel speak of a news process they call “skeptical knowing.” Applying this process, they say, will help journalists and audiences better evaluate information they receive – and pass on. The process involves not only evaluating news but also applying ethical values.

This lesson will explore the basics of that process in trying to determine whether facts and sources used lead to reliable, credible and complete storytelling.

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