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The issues with April Fools coverage QT 11

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


April Fool’s issues are fake news and can damage student media’s credibility.

Yes, some find them acceptable, but their negatives far outweigh their positives. The ultimate question is are they worth the risks?

As a publication that strives for authentic, storytelling journalism for your community, breaking that convention for a satirical, or even mean, publication is counter to the principles good journalists should strive for. When you break the conventions and principles for which you are known to produce satire, you may be opening yourself up to charges of libel, obscenity, or even disruption. Satire is incredibly hard to do consistently well and correctly, and it is best left to the professionals who have far more protection.


Guidelines: April Fools issues have little to no journalistic value and do not advance the brand of student media. As a result, students should not publish an April Fool’s issue.

Question: Are April Fool’s issues and satire worth the risk? What is the journalistic value of publishing April Fools materials?

Key points/action: If your goal is to publish factual stories with impact and significance, then publishing April Fools material and other fake news may not be your priority. To publish information you know is false might lead to other legal and ethical issues, but if your media are designated public forums, that would be your choice and your responsibility.

Students publishing information they know is not true would be well advised to have a good grasp of legal and ethical journalistic standards.

Professionals have mastered the art of satire and comedy as a form of news reporting, but does that mean we should be trying to teach it in high school? Publications like The Onion have shown us satire can tell stories at the same time that they entertain, but can we effectively teach students to master the same skill

Stance: There are no quick and easy absolutes. Students need to balance their free expression rights with their mission and social responsibility to truth, accuracy and verified reporting. School publications put themselves at great risk when they publish April Fool’s issues and/or satire.

Reasoning/suggestions: Publishing something knowingly false raises significant legal issues of libel and malice and the newly concerning fake news plague. Decisions to choose a path that brings your student media into conflict with serious legal and ethical issues would have to fulfill essential media missions and goals.

Professional publications engaging in satire do so with a clear brand. Most of the public clearly recognizes the convention of the medium, and that gives it much more protection. Your student publication does not have the same brand.

As a publication that strives for authentic, storytelling journalism from your community, breaking that convention for a satirical publication is counter to the principles good journalists should strive for. When you break the conventions and principles for which you are known to produce satire, you may open yourselves to charges of libel, obscenity or even disruption. Satire is incredibly hard to do consistently well and correctly, and it is best left to the professionals who have far more protection.

April Fools’ negatives outweigh positives, usually don’t fulfill techniques of satire

And now for something…untrue

Publishing satire

SPLC article: The joke is on these college editors — offensive April Fools humor can backfire badly

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

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2015 Constitution Day lessons

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



In preparation for Constitution Day 2015, several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee (SPRC), a committee of the Journalism Education Association, created lesson plans specific for the event. We suggest celebrating the day Sept. 17.
We created these lessons to help celebrate the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as mandated by Congress. Legislation requires schools to offer lessons on the Constitution and how it affects all Americans. Our lesson plans emphasize the First Amendment and particularly the freedoms of speech and the press.

Please contact me  if you have any questions or feedback about the lessons or how to implement them. For a video about the lessons, go to

The SPRC works to provide information and resources on legal and ethical issues to journalism students, teachers and administrators. SPRC members also work to promote the First Amendment rights of students across the nation.

The lessons
Celebrating Constitution Dayby Lori Keekley.This activity encourages the English, social studies and journalism teachers to engage students in exploring the Constitution’s relevance to their daily lives, facts about the Constitution and understanding the amendments to the Constitution
Crossword Puzzle, by Lori Keekley. For fun activities to celebrate Constitution Day in a number of curricular areas.
• Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint, by Jeff Kocur. Click here for the activity. For additional resources and model ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures for this, go here and here.
Listening with a skeptical ear: checking source accuracy and credibility by John Bowen. 
With candidates jostling for positions in the 2016 presidential election and numerous state, local races taking shape and issues developing readers and viewers face an onslaught of information not limited to politics. Student journalists must able to separate valid from questionable information and know how to determine if sources and their messages are credible.
Where should journalists draw the line? by John Bowen. By examining The Huffington Post’s announcement it would only report Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination for president on the entertainment pages, students can further explore ethical issues pertaining to the decision while again examining the role of media.
Should there be limits to taking a stance in front page design? by John Bowen. This lesson examines the ethical and philosophical issues as to whether it is OK for a student newspaper to Rainbow Filter its Twitter profile picture or show any unlabeled viewpoint.
• Censorship and broadcast video by Chris Waugaman. This lesson would be intended to be a lesson used with producers in a broadcasting class or even anonline editors who often use video and stream events. Students will learn terms that familiarize them with censorship in video and radio. Students will also learn how to make critical decisions regarding their press rights by applying the case outcomes they learn in this lesson.

To see past years’ lessons, go here.

Please send any feedback to I’d love to hear from you!

Lori Keekley
For JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee and the Constitution Day Committee

Constitution Day Committee
John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)
Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)
Jeff Kocur, CJE, Hopkins High School (MN)

Chris Waugaman, Prince George High School (VA)

Content list


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Be disaster aware, be prepared, take action

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Glenn Morehouse Olson
Throughout September, I find my classes cut short time and time again as the school works to squeeze in the required fire, lockdown and tornado drills. I’ve never really given it any thought. It’s an important part of preparing students in case of an emergency.

However, on Sept. 19 an email appeared in my in-box from the U.S. Department of Education, and it turns out, September is National Preparedness Month.

The headline read:

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action During National Preparedness Month

I have a number of friends and colleagues throughout the country who have faced their worst nightmares in these situations and who understand the importance of being prepared in time of great stress. Although nothing can truly prepare us for disaster, having a plan ahead of time helps.

“Safety and effective learning go hand in hand. So, although September is a very busy time of year for the education community, it’s also a good time for students, school staff, and families to make sure they are up-to-date in their knowledge of school emergency plans, policies and procedures,” the Homeroom Blog stated.

Just as our schools take time to prepare for physical disasters, September is also a good time for journalism teachers to make sure students are up-to-date in their knowledge of legal and ethical policies and procedures that can help prevent prior review and first amendment disasters from happening or, at least help them navigate the storm should disaster strike.

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Looking for your suggestions

Posted by on Dec 30, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


JEA’s Press Rights Commission will meet at the Poynter Institute Jan. 5-7 to focus on important future legal and ethical issues to address.

We always look for your suggestions and advice. Leave a comment or contact a commission member.

Have a great new year.

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