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Build a strong foundation by locking in
pieces of the puzzle called journalism

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



Part 1 of a series  on fitting the pieces of the journalism puzzle:
Knowing where to start

by Candace and John Bowen
Preparing student media for a new year often begins with design- and theme-planning. For a good number this includes summer workshops for training in reporting platforms, visual reporting approaches and the latest in apps and across-platform developments.

We hope such training also includes the basics of law and ethics. Often, we fear it does not.

Because we believe a basic understanding of legal and ethical issues is key to the puzzle of a successful year of sound journalistic media, we’d recommend the solid foundation of journalism basics to support the 2015-16 year and beyond.

Ensure students understand their legal rights and responsibilities before publication and provide them with activities and resources to prepare them for the rigors of publishing and decision-making.

Our training list to start the year and continue through it would be organized something like this:
• Outline the goals and mission of your student media
Like a road map, a goals and mission statement frames direction for student media. A mission statement presents the underlying principles student media adhere to. Goals suggest specific accomplishments used in following the mission. Both establish the how and why for students and communities alike. Like a road map, students may choose different paths from year to year but the outcome stays fixed: thorough, accurate and credible journalism.
– New values (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
April Fool’s Editions, “Don’t be a fool” (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
Balance and objectivity (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)
The role of student media (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
The role of the adviser (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
–  Mission statement development  (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

– JEA Model Mission statement (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

• Train staff and editors in legal principles across platforms
Even though students might embrace online media, legal and ethical basics provide a framework for digital media now and what is yet to come. While there might be some changes, the basics of unprotected speech and the importance of knowing legal background won’t change in the foreseeable future.
– Law of Student Press, book from the Student Press Law Center, also available on Kindle
Student Press Law Center
– JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Public forum overview (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
 Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism (Quill & Scroll and JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
– Legal Guides (Student Press Law Center)

• Ensure board- and/or publication-level policies are in place
Strong board of education level and publication editorial policies reinforce principles student media use to reach their mission. Strong and effective editorial policies, carefully worded, protect not only student media but also school systems if legal issues arise. Lack of careful wording is worse than no policy at all. Policies reflect the publication’s values and commitments. Ideally, the most effective policies establish student media as designated public forums, without prior review and where students make all content decisions.
The Foundations of Journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Board of education- and publication level- models (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Board media policies (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
Why avoiding prior review is educationally sound (Quill & Scroll Principal’s Guide) 
Eliminating prior review (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)

• Train staff and editors in ethical principles across platforms
Even though students might embrace online media, ethical basics provide a compass for print and digital media now and for what is yet to come. Practice in and knowledge of ethical critical thinking provides principles for journalistically responsible reporting. Reinforcement of ethical practices builds student publications steeped in ethical fitness.

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Online ethics guidelines for student media (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
Questions student staffs should discuss before entering the social media environment (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
SPJ Code of ethics (Society of Professional Journalists) 
Critical thinking, ethics and knowledge-based practice in visual media (Journalist’s Resource)

• Establish, for online or print, a content verification process
While this might have been part of skills-oriented summer workshop training and practice, its importance goes without question. Verification, credibility, context and accuracy are the reporting cornerstones of journalism. Each is rooted in establishing a rigorous ethical process.
Planning and gathering information/producing content (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Getting it right (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)
Journalism as a discipline of verification (American Press Institute) 
Verification (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

• Clarify who owns content
To avoid issues if someone tries to sell your yearbook content online or you want to sell photos, determine ahead of time who owns the content of student work. It’s important to plan this ahead of incidents.

– Who Owns Student Content? (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Back to School: Who Owns What? (Student Press Law Center) 
– Contribution to Collective Work U.S. Copyright Office

• Develop guidelines for handing takedown demands if online
Fielding requests for takedown demands is increasingly a decision student media have to make, either from reporters after they have left school or from sources because they do not like the story. Choices are limited, and involve ethical thinking.

Takedown demands (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Responding to takedown demands (Student Press Law Center) 
Takedown requests (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)

Without an understanding of rights and responsibilities – the “could we?” and “should we?” of producing media, staffs can have the most attractive layouts imaginable and captivating story-telling, but they could still make legal and ethical mistakes that would ruin their chance to produce anything else for their audience.

Part 1: Build a strong foundation
Part 2: Careful preparation creates strong mission statements
Part 3: Points to avoid

Part 4: Fitting the pieces into a strong Foundation


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Join us Aug. 31 to learn more about Constitution Day

Posted by on Aug 29, 2015 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoNeed Constitution Day celebration ideas? Join us Aug. 31 at 7 CDT as we highlight several ways to celebrate.

Here’s where it will take place:

Members of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will lead the session.  So far, we have Lori Keekley, Jeff Kocur, Chris Waugaman and John Bowen.

That’s 7 p.m. CDT, Aug. 31, at

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CJE test-takers need not fear
law & ethics questions

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


“But the law and ethics questions worry me,” said a slightly frazzled journalism teacher as she slid into the last row of seats for one of the Denver convention’s Getting Certified sessions. She was going to take the test later that day in hopes of becoming a Certified Journalism Educator, and she knew she HAD to pass that part of the test.

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The rules of the journalistic road
start with law and ethics

Posted by on Apr 30, 2015 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE
Once a week I find myself at the local police station.

It’s a routine I have gotten into as part of the coverage I do for my local blog. Every week I check the police reports to see what sort of dastardly things local residents have called the police for.

It runs the gamut from attempted break-ins to settling a dispute over wedding photos.

Yes, there may be eight million stories in the naked city, but they’re not all riveting.

What is riveting in its own way to me is the number of reports where the responding officer notes that the offender was “not aware of the ordinance.” Some of the ordinances are mundane – like the hours you can put your garbage out, while others stipulate what constitutes a dangerous dog

It’s the heavy-weight stuff that rocks suburbia.

However, it seems to be commonplace for some folks to go about their daily business seemingly oblivious to rules and laws that are there for their own protection.

Can you imagine teaching and advising a scholastic journalism program without putting the rules of the road first?

While students are infatuated and seemingly obsessed with online and social media, the essential fundamentals of journalism – including laws and ethics – need to, as “boring” as they may be, need to a dominant part of any education curriculum.

This isn’t breaking news; nor is it to open to debate.

Teaching press laws and ethics is a no-brainer. If you are stuck on how to teach it, you need to go no further than JEA.ORG where you’ll find curricula for a variety of topics including, to no surprise, Law and Ethics. There are extensive three- five- and nine week instructional plans. There’s no stone left unturned.

Where a debate may emerge, however, is not which module to use, but when.

I know some teachers who start their J class with it while others do it later in the first quarter, other teachers who wait until later in the first semester and yes, some who wait until second semester.

The reasons run the gamut. But let’s face it, laws and ethics just don’t have the sex appeal as doing a great spread in the yearbook, posting videos on a web site or sending out tweets.

I have always equated teaching press law and ethics to teaching, of all things, driver’s education. You don’t get behind the wheel until you know the rules of the road.

I know. Boring.

I’d rather have students know press law and ethics at the start of the year so they know the expectations of ethical reporting within the parameters of the law, than start installing the smoke alarm after the fire has started.

But I’d rather have students know press law and ethics at the start of the year so they know the expectations of ethical reporting within the parameters of the law, than start installing the smoke alarm after the fire has started.

The Scholastic Press Law Center and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission offer a plethora of resources for educators and students to augment JEA’s curriculum. These include not only blogs, but Scholastic Press Rights minutes – one-minute audio tips about press law and ethics – but also sample policies, tips on public access and freedom of information to name a few.

Start your trip at and you’ll find the road will be a lot smoother.

And if you should find yourself in a bind, it won’t be because you “were not aware of the ordinance.”


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Contests can help promote
students making decisions

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments


“You mean my students’ newspaper can’t win the top award? Just because I read their publication before it goes to press?” an irate principal asked when he called his state’s scholastic press association a few years ago. Well, not exactly, but in a way – yes.

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