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Loyalty Day is May 1.
Let’s reaffirm OUR principles

Posted by on Apr 29, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen

Loyalty Day is Monday, May 1.

First observed in 1921 because of threats from subversive influence, it has been a legally designated holiday since 1958 and observed by every president since then, reports Esquire.

President Donald Trump said its purpose, according to Mic, was to protect against those who would do the United States harm, and according to Fox News, “to recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles” that are America’s heritage..

For journalists, groups that do harm might include:
• Those who perpetuate fake news
• Those who lie to newsmedia and to the public
• Those who interfere with the news media’s quest for truthful, accurate and thorough reporting
• Those who would censor journalists, at any level, and thus misinform or disinform citizens’ rights to know

Journalists are not enemies of the state. Not May 1 or any of 364 other days.


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Enemy of the American people?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 3 comments


Scholastic Journalism Week gives students a chance to prove the opposite

by Stan Zoller, MJE
This week is Scholastic Journalism Week – a time for scholastic journalists and their advisers and teachers to tout the excitement and passion that is, in many ways, uniquely scholastic journalism.

There will be posters, T-shirts, activities and, of course, voluminous numbers of social media posts.

This year, however, there’s something else that needs to be added to the mix.

A sense of urgency.

Never before in American history, or the history of American journalism, has the media and the First Amendment come under such ridicule and hatred by a sitting president. Instead of being dubbed “watchdogs” who protect the public’s right to know, mainstream journalists have been labeled “the enemy of the American People.”

By a sitting president.

Evita Peron would be proud.  So would Hitler.  So would Stalin.

In January 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward Carrington that “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right, and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Jefferson made this comment two years before the First Amendment was submitted for ratification and more than four years before it was ratified, that coming in December of 1791.

While Jefferson took exception to the media, as many people do, he at least seemed to realize the importance of a free press and how it, like individual Americans, have a right to their opinion.

[pullquote]Jefferson got it; Even though, historians claim, he had one thing in common with Donald Trump – a fundamental distrust of the Fourth Estate, reportedly saying in June of 1807 that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”  In the end, however, Jefferson knew the importance of a viable media.[/pullquote]

Jefferson got it; Even though, historians claim, he had one thing in common with Donald Trump – a fundamental distrust of the Fourth Estate, reportedly saying in June of 1807 that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”

In the end, however, Jefferson knew the importance of a viable media.

The theme of Scholastic Journalism Week, “The Communities We Cover,” reflects the need for a free and vibrant press. Student journalists, like any other journalists, need to be free to report on anything within their community – whether it is their school, school district or hometown –without fear of censorship, restraint or undue lambasting of their efforts by officials.

Journalists are not perfect.  Neither are school administrators, educators or politicians. The reality is, however, that the work done by journalists is an open book for anyone to see, especially in the age of social media.  Mainstream journalists are trained in press ethics and laws and have the tools to fact check in order to verify their work.  Again, it’s not always perfect.

The First Amendment clearly states that there shall be no laws “…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”, yet messages coming out of Washington, D.C. seem to be taking a counter-step to the that sentiment.

While there are cries to take the plight to social media with various hashtags, the fight against the assault on the nation’s media needs to go further.  Student journalists need to take charge of informing their news consumers that journalists, including those in student media, are not “the enemy of the American People.”

During Scholastic Journalism Week scholastic media outlets should encourage their audiences to become civically engaged and contact lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to let them know that an assault on the First Amendment is not only an attack on professional journalists, but the nation’s students as well.

This year it’s important to not just celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week.  Student journalists need to take pride in what they do and practice the craft that they and their advisers are so passionate about.

It’s that important.  In fact, it’s urgent.

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Additional WDBJ case studies available from Newseum

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


In addition to the lessons and activities already posted on this site, we would recommend the Newseum’s educational case studies for additional questions and looks at tough decisions journalists, including those on the scholastic level, sometimes face.

Our thanks to Maggie Crawford, Senior Education Manager for making information about this resource available.

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Lesson: Should media re-air a broadcast
in which two people are killed?

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



Should media re-air a broadcast in which two people are gunned down?


Students will examine how to examine ethics of re-airing this broadcast using Poynter’s 10 questions to make good ethical choices.


  • Students will collaboratively work through questions to help them make a decision involving journalism ethics.
  • Students will decide what they would do in relation to this real-world ethical dilemma.
  • Students will note the difference in decisions between public officials and on-air reporters and camera operators.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.1.b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


40 minutes

Materials / resources

Ethical questions from Poynter Institute: Ask these 10 questions to make good ethical decisions

Access to JEA’s SPRC Foundations Package: Covering controversy

Lesson step-by-step
Before the lesson delivery:

Because of the sensitivity of the topic, the teacher should tell the students they will be discussing the rebroadcast of the reporter and cameraman who died. They will not be viewing the video, but will discuss the ethical considerations concerning its availability. (Note: Students who have experienced trauma may need to leave the room, some might need to pace. If your community has experienced trauma, it would be advisable to have a counselor ready if needed.)

Step 1 — initial question (5 minutes)
Teacher should ask students if they believe the broadcast of the reporter and cameraman who died should be rebroadcast? Why or why not?

You may even ask students if anyone would like to share that they watched the video and why. (This should be dependent on your class.)

Teacher should tell the students they will make the decision using 10 questions from the Poynter Institute.

Step 2 — small groups (15 minutes)

Separate students into groups. Project (or hand out if no projector is available) Poynter’s 10 questions. Ask each group to discuss and make notes on each of the questions.

Step 3 — decision (5 minutes)

Ask students to come to a consensus as to whether they would re-air the video.

Step 4 — large group debrief (10 minutes)

Ask groups to share their decision and rationale based on the 10 questions provided.

Step 5 — Another questions (5 minutes)
Have you ever seen footage of JFK’s assassination (or another high ranking official)? What are the differences in this instance and that of JFK’s?

(Answers will vary, but many will cite the newsworthiness of the president being assassinated versus a lesser public figure.)

Ask students (in their groups) to outline several approaches for covering controversial issues. They should use the Scholastic Press Rights Committee resource: Covering controversy as a starting point. Also, see this link. Teacher may want to start with slide 17 (the last slide) for Day 2 of this lesson.

Lesson by Lori Keekley

For more materials on this topic, go here.

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Virginia shooting aired live,
coverage offers timely discussions

Posted by on Aug 26, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoThe shooting deaths of two journalists today and the wounding of a third person in Virginia creates possible lessons for scholastic media classrooms.

  • Ethics: Should other media repeat the video of the actual shooting? The shooting was broadcast live. Students could discuss the reasons for and against repeating the shooting and develop ethical guidelines for their publishing of controversial situations.
  • Newsworthiness: What should the lead be? What additional information should be included in stories like this? What is the best way to update them? Once the breaking news angle has passed, how should media report additional events? How much background should be included?
  • Social media: The video and related personal information went viral immediately after the shooting. How much of what hit social media should play a role in news coverage? What should journalists’ social media include? Should social media mix factual information with viewpoints?
  • Storify assignment: For students just learning how to use Storify, you could create a lesson with the various approaches digital and social media used about the shooting. Discussion points could include purpose of the Storify, credibility of the sources, verification of information and ethical considerations and in making those decisions. Grading and/or discussions could work around this rubric.

Exploration of these and additional questions and examples can help scholastic journalists place their coverage in perspective and improve their coverage.

Links for use (among many):
• Deadly shooting of reporters in Virginia
• Virginia TV murders: Reporter shot while running away; camerman’s finance watched him die
• Gunman murders two Virginia reporters in attack broadcast on live TV
• Manhunt on for killer of two employees in SW Virginia
• 2 journalists shot dead during TV broadcast in Virginia
• Deadly shooting during live TV news report in Va.
• Image shows the gunman
• Va. shooter posted tweets, video of shooting on Twitter, manhunt underway for former      disgruntled employee

These links were all early in the day. Seek additional updates for additional information and discussion points.

Updated links from later Aug. 26:
• Should you use the video and the fax from the WDBJ shooting? That depends
• Suspect in killing of Virginia TV crew said he was ‘just waiting to go BOOM’
• The Virginia shooting and the dark side of the social media age
• How should news organizations he treating the manifesto from the WDBJ shooting?

For more materials on this topic, go here.

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