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Illinois civics law reinforces
value of journalism education

Posted by on Sep 18, 2015 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE
The successful passage and subsequent signing by Illinois governor Bruce Rauner of legislation that mandates a one-semester civic education course for high school students provides more than ‘just another’ social science course.

It re-enforces the importance of journalism education.

Throughout the process, The Illinois Task Force on Civic Education cited the need for citizens to be civic literate. One way to achieve that? News literacy.

The task force noted that:

“Responsible citizens include individuals who are informed and thoughtful. They have a grasp and an appreciation of history and the fundamental processes of American democracy; have and understand the importance of news literacy; have an understanding and awareness of issues impacting their communities; have a capacity to think critically; and have a willingness to enter into dialogue with others about different points of view and to respect diverse perspectives.”

[pullquote]Quite simply, the skill that is paramount is the ability to critically think the contents of news reports no matter how they are delivered.[/pullquote]

The impact on journalism educators is simple: informed and engaged news consumers need to receive news reports that are independent, free of bias and provide information that is not only accurate, but also verifiable and transparent. The task force noted that a civics education course needs to offer students more than content; its needs to include skills, especially those related to news literacy.

Quite simply, the skill that is paramount is the ability to critically think the contents of news reports no matter how they are delivered.

Does this validate the need for a journalism course? Not solely, but it is a message that administrators need to hear. Ethically produced journalism that embellishes the basic fundamentals of news literacy has a new goal – at least in Illinois – to provide news consumers, as Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach note in “The Elements of Journalism” information that people need to live their lives and to also understand the world. They also write that it needs to be “meaningful, relevant and engaging.”

To achieve this, the need for student reporting to be ethical and adhere to media laws is at a new high. That’s because students, like other news consumers, are no longer just looking to be entertained, but informed so they can become not only active at school, but also in the civic process as well.

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Practical application the best way
to learn civic involvement, not tests

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


And that involvement should include journalism


An April 21 Education Week article  notes that a dozen state legislators want to require graduating students to take — and pass — a test similar to one given those who want to become U. S. citizens.

While the legislation might have some merit, it is not a solution for the best way prepare students to be contributors in a democracy.

That solution requires hands-on application of principles taught, practiced and learned in civics, history, and, we would argue, journalism classes.

“We need young citizens who are committed to helping make their communities better and who can assess policy proposals, not merely youths who know how many voting members of the U.S. House of Representatives there are,” Education Week author Joseph Kahne said in his article. ” Google provides the answer to any question on the naturalization test in seconds.”

We agree.

And, we would add, legislators need to look at successful journalism programs, free of review and restraint, where students make all final decisions of content. These represent real civic engagement and learning.

Such programs are models for civic engagement and citizenship.

Journalism, news literacy and civic literacy programs would do a far better job of preparing students for the rigors of an effective democracy than a multiple choice exam or almost any non-application test.

“Democracy,” Kahne says, “thrives when citizens think critically and deeply about civic and political issues, when they consider the needs and priorities of others, and when they engage in informed action—not when they memorize a few facts.”

Again, we agree. More testing of facts and figure about the government might not hurt, but it won’t really help, either.

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Linking news literacy and scholastic journalism

Posted by on Sep 16, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Megan Fromm
This weekend, JEA President Mark Newton, board member Stan Zoller and I all participated in the “Because News Matters” summit on news literacy in Chicago. Hosted by the McCormick Foundation, the Poynter Institute, and other partners, the summit was an opportunity to bring together key stakeholders interested in news literacy education.

As teachers, and as JEA board members, we wore some distinctive hats during the two-day summit. To begin, we wanted to represent the hundreds of high school journalism teachers who know that first-hand experience in media production is a tremendous way to teach important values of news literacy (assessing credible sources, fact-checking, and understanding bias). We also wanted to encourage those advocating for curricular and policy changes in our k-12 schools to recognize the unique role of scholastic media in developing engaged, critical thinkers.

While these issues admittedly go beyond how we teach law and ethics to our students, I want to share some ideas and themes that emerged:

First, a number of “best practice” demonstrations in teaching news literacy used BOTH news media content and social media content. This is a lesson we can take to heart with anything we teach—sometimes reaching students where they, whether we’re teaching libel, copyright, or ethical sources, means first using content that is highly relatable and relevant to them. For example, one teacher used a rap artist’s Twitter feed to help students begin to differentiate between news, opinion, and advertising content.

Second, participants at the summit recognized that what teachers really need (regardless of content) is twofold: time and resources. To that end, one of the next “projects” in the news literacy world will likely be continued compilation and promotion of materials and resources that you can use “off the shelf” with your students.

And finally, there was much debate regarding how news literacy fits in with other related literacies, including information, digital, and media literacy. To be frank, there was also significant conversation on whether journalism production and news literacy can (and/or should) be taught in tandem. Of course, as a former high school publications adviser, JEA news literacy curriculum leader and a board member, my answer was a resounding “YES!”

Is journalism and media production the only logical way to teach news literacy? No, but based on my eight-plus years of experience in the field, I believe it is the best way, and often the most engaging for our students. Incorporating news literacy in a journalism classroom takes concepts like “accuracy, fairness, bias, credibility, etc.,” and places them squarely in a project-based, student-led process. So much of what news literacy advocates is based on the basics of solid reporting, so why teach it in a bubble? Why not encourage our students to report while they fact-check, and then to publish information based on what they find? Why not teach our students the value of information in a democracy by also letting them see the effects of the printed word?

Given that a significant outcome for news literacy instruction is to implore students to engage in the democratic and civic process, creating published content is a natural fit. In doing so, students who are free to make creative and editorial decisions without administrative censorship will also learn the heavy responsibility that comes with exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

To this end, news literacy and journalism education are the different sides of the same coin, and we can empower our students by letting them explore the role of journalism from all angles—both as producers and consumers.

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Ethical coverage is contextual and relevant

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Megan Fromm
A recent discussion on the JEAHELP  listserv focused on whether students can, and should, write about international news. With the crisis in Syria escalating, and the potential for an American strike more real than ever, high school journalists want to flex their international reporting muscles by covering the conflict in their scholastic media.

Students enjoy reporting on international affairs because in many ways, it makes them feel connected to events from which they would otherwise be totally disassociated. As their world perspectives widen, involvement in foreign politics helps them to develop their dispositions as global citizens.

Click here to learn more

The post on news literacy is the second in a series of blogs that will run each Wednesday. Topics discussed, in order, will include FOIA, news literacy, journalism education, positive relationships with administrators, prior review, Making a Difference and private school journalism. We hope you will enjoy them. If you have other topics you feel we should address, please let us know.

In this way, engaging in media coverage of international affairs is a fantastic way to build students’ news and media literacy. The more they read and watch of the world beyond their school walls, the more they are likely to maintain this curiosity for information as they mature.

However, there are ways to cover international affairs in your scholastic publications that demonstrate both news literacy and relevancy for your school community. After all, the best and most ethical coverage is both contextual and relevant

With tremendous thanks to JEA’s fantastic membership, here are some tips from JEAHELP listserv members on how to encourage your students to cover international news in the most ethical, appropriate way:

1. Localize, localize, localize. Ask students: how can we connect something happening so far away to our own community? Who here, in this school, has a clear, immediate stake in what’s happening?
2.  Report, report, report. Covering international politics requires interviews and research just like any other story. Remind students that writing about the media is not news. What local experts could they interview? Who in their community has perspective and experience to offer?
3.  Consider secondary coverage. How can your students use infographics or other visual coverage to put international news in a local context? When information isn’t especially timely or local, alternative copy can help to humanize and localize.
4.  Don’t regurgitate Google. If students could find the information elsewhere, your publication becomes irrelevant. Tell the stories students can’t find anywhere else. 

Finally, advisers should remember that ethically and legally, content decisions in student publications that are designated public forums should ultimately be left in the hands of student editors. Encourage them to demonstrate the best reporting and news writing practices, and grade them accordingly if they fail to adhere to the standards for your publication. But telling students what to report, or not to report, facilitates neither good journalism nor news literacy.

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Noteworthy information 4

Posted by on Aug 15, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


For a lighter way to emphasize  a serious topic – attribution and news credibility – check out Warning Labels by Tom Scott.

Scott lists himself as a “geek comedian” but his warning labels speak eloquently to a serious issue: how to get journalism students – and even more importantly – their audiences to recognize sloppy and inadequate reporting.

With a little adaptation, creative thought and news literacy modification, his project could lead to some serious learning done in a fun way.

Now to figure out how to place labels on student websites, broadcast and social media reporting as well as on print.

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