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Thoughts on the future of scholastic journalism

Posted by on Sep 25, 2009 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


What skills will citizens need in a future that requires deciphering information and communicating effectively? How can schools and their attitude towards the use of new and social media make a difference?

As the journalism concepts we teach expand to include new and social media, will our “fourth estate” guidelines maintain a foothold in the new communications “fifth estate”?

Can we trust new media to keep democracy vibrant and vital?

“What Values,” a live and online conference sponsored recently at Kent State University by several groups including The Poynter Institute and Online News Association, raised these and other questions about commercial media.

In one session, Poynter ethics group leader Kelly McBride highlighted recent findings of their Sense-Makers Project: Media credibility is at an all-time low; people feel that bias exists throughout the media and that media fairness and accuracy are at an all-time low. The study also noted trust in the media improves with important stories.

Questions this study raise apply also to scholastic journalism because new and social media are starting to appear in classrooms. Meanwhile, school officials are attempting more than ever to control student expression in new and social media they use outside the schoolhouse gate.

Questions for those of us in scholastic media, based on issues McBride raised, include:

• Do schools fail if they do not help teach students how to evaluate what they hear and see – before they repeat it using newly found social media? Can new and social media help educate students and increase their understanding of media and the communications process?

• How can we help schools embrace the strengths and weaknesses of new media to educate students? Can we avoid shutting down these venues as administrators often do with filters and Internet use?

• Can it be said student journalism/media involve life skills? How can we, as educators, help students effectively disseminate reliable information and question that which is not? Should life skills include “media literacy or crap detecting” as well as information verification?

• Can teaching students to make thoughtful use of social media help define the role journalism plays in a democracy? Will better educated students mean more questioning and aware citizens?

• Should we continue to place value in”objective-based” reporting or re-build the historical model of point-of-view media so readers choose what they want to hear? What does this do to our concept of democracy? Will relying on information people want to hear rebuild trust in media or begin the fracturing of democracy?  Will it re-energize civility? Or…will no one notice?

• What does a lack of trust in the media mean for the role of journalism at the scholastic level? If there is a lack of trust in scholastic media, why does it exist and how can it be fixed?

• How can schools best provide new skill sets for students to better participate in a democracy?

We need to quickly develop answers and approaches to these and other questions to best help our students in a changing media world.

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What Values? We ask again, and point to ethics lesson plans that could lead to answers

Posted by on Sep 19, 2009 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


We continue to raise  the question, borrowed partially from a recent ethics workshop at Kent State University: What Values?

What value is there in prior review by anyone outside the student media staff? Even if administrators can claim some sort of legal allowance stating they can, what are the ethical and educational  values indicating they should? Who gains? Who is harmed? What elements of the school mission are fulfilled? How does the action serve truth and accuracy?

Along this line is a relatively new upshot on prior review (maybe not new, but certainly new to this timeframe): The superintendent as publisher; the principal as editor and the adviser as assistant adviser.

The students: certainly not getting a journalism education.

We would again ask: What is the educational value? How does this address the greater good? Who benefits? Who is harmed? What are students learning about the values of a school system that removes them from the process of critical thinking and decision making –  and also puts their teacher and principal in legal harm’s way?

What values – educational or otherwise – are at play?

Speaking of What Values, those teachers interested in lesson plans to address journalism ethics and discussions on online ethics have a free source.

The plans are available for high schools to supplement Kent State-Poynter What Values? workshop Sept. 17. Download materials at the workshop site by scrolling down to the lesson plan button. You can also follow the discussions on online journalism ethics from the workshop.

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