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Trickling down hits the news room

Posted by on Nov 26, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Stan Zoller, MJE
The Ronald Reagan presidency, if nothing else, introduced the United State to “trickle-down economics,” which was described as a method by which “… benefits for the wealthy trickle down to everyone else. These benefits are tax cuts on businesses, high-income earners, capital gains and dividends.”

It could be described that government edicts would, in the long run,  be the rule of thumb for everyone.

Some pundits still debate the effectiveness of “trickle-down economics” even though Reagan’s eight years as president ended 29 years ago.

Old political stands die hard.

Under the current administration, journalists and journalism educators may be experience “trickle down journalism” in which the condescending attacks on journalism by the Trump Administration are trickling down to the general population.

For journalism educators, especially scholastic journalism educators, the trickle down may be hitting administrators.

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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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Political attacks on media
should concern student journalists

Posted by on Apr 3, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE
The cantankerous tone and rhetoric of the 2016 presidential primary races has raised more than a few eyebrows.

That’s not breaking news.

What may be of note for journalists, and not just student journalists, are the incessant and seemingly extreme attacks on the media by candidates.

And it’s not just Donald Trump, although he tends to precipitate many of them. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) has launched his share of barbs at the fourth estate as well.

One things that raised my ire was Trump’s response to protestors during one his rallies. Feeling the need to acknowledge them, he retorted “Go home to mommy.”  Was this his way of saying that young people, as a disturbing old adage goes, “should be seen, but not heard?”  If it is, then student journalists need to be concerned because there should be serious concerns over how far this could go in a Trump administration in the White House.

Journalism educators should be concerned that continued assaults on mainstream media could filter down the collegiate and scholastic administrators, which could lead to further controls and restraint of First Amendment rights on student media outlets.

[pullquote]Journalism educators should be concerned that continued assaults on mainstream media could filter down the collegiate and scholastic administrators, which could lead to further controls and restraint of First Amendment rights on student media outlets.[/pullquote]

Trump has also chided reporters and blasted media organizations with little concern for their professionalism and expertise.  And we’re not just talking Fox News here.

During the Feb. 25 GOP debate, which included Telemundo anchor María Celeste Arrarás from as a moderator, Trump said he does not pay attention to what Telemundo says.  It wasn’t his first attack on Telemundo.  Trump has taken issue with the network for many other reports.

Trump’s campaign manager was charged with simple battery of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, according to Jupiter, Florida police.  Trump sided with his campaign manager, saying Fields made the whole thing up.

Cruz has also entered into the media-bashing arena, saying it was the “liberal media” that has catapulted Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton into the limelight.

Has the use of social media led to a new wave of attacks on mainstream media by candidates?  Probably not.  Social media has, however, made it more convenient for politicos to rapid respond and post – often without thinking – to media reports.

Concern for the mainstream media by candidates is far from unique during the 2016 campaign.  Word was that the during the 2012 presidential race the Obama Campaign wanted to prior review stories about campaign appearances by Obama.  Needless to say, that didn’t, as the saying goes, play in Peoria – or anywhere else for that matter.

Journalism educators at all levels need to re-enforce with their student journalists the need for incessant and thorough fact checking.  With questions of media credibility tossed around like snow balls, the potential for a trickle-down effect to administrators’ offices is very really.

Fact-checking sites like or are excellent resources for checking candidates’ statements.

[pullquote]Journalism educators at all levels need to re-enforce with their student journalists the need for incessant and thorough fact checking.  With questions of media credibility tossed around like snow balls, the potential for a trickle-down effect to administrators’ offices is very really.[/pullquote]

But fact checking should not be limited to political stories.  With the eyes on student media bigger than ever, student journalists and their advisers, need to be scrupulous in making sure every “t” is cross and every “i” is dotted.

Trump says he considers media coverage free advertising.  And as we’ve seen, if he doesn’t like “the ad” he goes ballistic.

When a paid ad goes awry, a media outlet can correct it and do a ‘make good’ – which is simply running the ad again.

If the ‘ad’ is a news story and it’s inaccurate, there is no change for a ‘make good.’

The result is a slam to the media outlet’s credibility.

As they used to say at the old Chicago City News Bureau: “If your mother says she loves you, check it.”

It’s an old adage; but one that is so important today.

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Don’t shoot (just) the messenger
in Williams’ fall from grace

Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


By Megan Fromm, CJE

When Brian Williams apologized on air for misremembering his involvement in a direct-fire incident during the Iraq war, critics and media pundits alike were quick to toss him off his pedestal. We may never know whether Williams intentionally misled his audience or truly suffered from a lapse in memory (and judgment), but we would be remiss to blame only Williams for the gross journalistic error.

What happened behind the scenes? Where were the producers? The writers? The fact checkers? Where was the team of journalistic watchdogs looking out not only for the viewers but also for the reputation of one of their own? Williams’ fall from grace was as much their misstep as his own, and we must reconcile that or face repeating our mistakes in the future.

And while we’re making a list of those responsible for this mess, let’s be sure to leave a few blank spaces for us, the average news consumer. The media have been so quick to crucify Williams, but so far as I can tell,  they are missing another crucial point: we, the audience, led him to this moment. We pushed him to the edge of his journalistic sensibilities, and we dared him to look over the abyss. As the Washington Post reports, Williams “wanted to both report and entertain, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Today’s news audience demands this duplicity, and in fact, it is the only kind of “journalism” we reward with our attention, our money, and our clicks. We really just want our headline news from Jon Stewart, but we settle for Williams because in some ways it makes us feel better about our news consumption. So, we don’t mind when a journalist gets too personal, or when he or she becomes too much a part of the story. We keep moving the line in the sand about how close is too close. And in those moments, the audience becomes complicit in the choices news media make to vie for our attention.

Striving to meet the expectations of an increasingly fractured and disinterested news audience—while simultaneously aiming for unrealistic profit margins—has encouraged the largest news organizations to dangle precipitously close to the edge of their journalistic morality.  It almost comes as no surprise, then, that some lose their footing.

So while it’s easy to criticize Williams for his mistakes (and yes, we should), let’s not forget the part we, as news consumers, have played in this debacle. Sometimes, news is boring. Sometimes, after countless RPGs have been fired on American troops, one more becomes “just another news day.” But that reality exists because too many citizens have abdicated their responsibility to know what’s happening in the world around them regardless of whether it’s inherently sexy, interesting, or tabloid-worthy.

In the case of Brian Williams, it turns out no one really shot the messenger, so perhaps we shouldn’t, either. At least not without looking in the mirror first.

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Fighting FERPA with facts

Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Projects, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Mark Goodman
As noted in the JEA SPRC blog in September, the Student Press Law Center is taking on schools that misuse FERPA in a new and powerful way.  Scholastic journalists can get in on the action.

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.  It’s the federal law enacted in 1974 to regulate the release by educational institutions of student “education records.”  FERPA sought to put an end to schools releasing student grades and other academic records without the student’s permission  (or the permission of parents if the student is a minor).  It also sought to ensure that students (and parents) had a right to see their own records maintained by the school. The penalty for non-compliance with FERPA is the risk of loss of federal funding.

But as many student journalists and advisers know, FERPA has become a monster, something much bigger than what its legislative sponsors ever intended. Over the years, schools have learned they can use the law as justification for refusing to provide all sorts of information they might rather not reach the media or the public.

From crime reports about college athletes to the signers of petitions submitted to a public school board, schools across the nation have used FERPA as the perfect excuse for denying information to the public.

The SPLC and advocates for open government are now saying, “no more.  Their FERPA Fact website chronicles the growing number of misuses of FERPA made by schools and exposes those that are inaccurate interpretations of the law.  The site is a great source of story ideas for scholastic journalists.

It also is a good reminder to high school reporters and editors not to presume every time FERPA gets thrown in their face, the justification is a valid one.

If FERPA has been used as a justification for denying your staff records maintained by your school, submit your story for a FERPA Fact “fact checking.”  You might get the arguments you need to counter your school’s denial.



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