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Freedom for the world’s press must include scholastic media, too

Posted by on Apr 12, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


May 3. Washington, D. C.

World Press Freedom Day.

The first time since UNESCO started the event 18 years ago the United States will host it.

And the perfect time to call for its tenets to be extended to scholastic media in a country that promotes freedom – and responsibility – for every other nation’s media.

We join the SPLC and 38 other journalism and free-speech organizations in an “open letter” to President Obama and Secretary Clinton urging them to use this occasion to declare their support for freeing “the other half” of America’s press.

On the eve of the JEA/NSPA scholastic media convention, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission urges you to do the same. Write an editorial. Create a community forum. Discuss the review and censorship of student media – if it occurs – in your school’s communities and show how it limits education and twarts critical thinking.

Step up and join these 38 organizations in fighting to extend press freedom to a significant group of Americans – you.


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It’s time to stand up

Posted by on Sep 9, 2009 in News | 0 comments


So with all of this recent hubbub surrounding President Obama’s speech about education, I’ve come to a conclusion: it has never been more important for teachers, journalism teachers in particular, to be adamant in making sure their voices are heard alongside and in opposition to those calling for speeches like the President – any President – made yesterday to be taboo in our classrooms.

In fact, if we don’t push back at this with just as much furor and vigor as those parents do, I’d say it is tantamount to an abdication of our First Amendment rights. In my classroom, I teach the First Amendment and sing its glories as often as I can. If I fail to tell my administrators my beliefs as a teacher about what has happened and fail to push back against these type of crusades, then am I not failing my students as a role model, as someone who is a vigorous protector of First Amendment rights?

Since the day our guidelines for dealing with the President’s speech came out, I’ve been incensed, and it is not because of my political leanings. It is because I am a teacher. I was hired to teach the curriculum of my courses because I have the proper certification and experience and because I am a professional. That means I have been entrusted with taking the district approved curriculum and teaching it to the best of my abilities and how it best suits me and my students. While I am happy to have input from parents about their child’s education, it is my belief as an educator, I am well-suited to determine whether or not a speech by the President of the country in which their child lives in is appropriate material for my classroom.

As teachers who run publications grounded in the First Amendment, we have all dealt with someone who has been unhappy with something the newspaper, website or yearbook has published, or that the podcast, news show or radio station has broadcast. We have heard opposing viewpoints from all sides of an issue and it makes our publications stronger for this feedback.

I’m happy to know the parents of students in my district are aware of what’s going on and feel so moved to contact our administrators and voice their opinions. Debate and dissent are essential to the functioning of a democracy. However, I’m well beyond dismayed that our administrators are so lacking in backbone when it comes to standing up to the slightest whiff of criticism. Criticism is the crucible that makes our schools better. As the President said on Tuesday, “Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures.”

Our nation’s best schools will be the ones who stand up and try new things and let their teachers, administrators, students and parents discover, together with input from the whole community, what works best, not just the voices of an overly motivated and loud few.

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Digging for our credibility

Posted by on Sep 7, 2009 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


In the ongoing discussion on the Obama education speech, one JEA member suggested the press provided too much of a platform for fringe opinions instead of balanced reporting.

While that may be, I’d like to suggest something H. L. Hall always stresses as important: digging.

All too often, in commercial media and in scholastic media we see too much surface reporting and not enough digging for background and perspective. Digging would add substantial answers to the why and the how elements of news.

Frankly, there has been just too little of this type of reporting lately – in commercial and scholastic media.

So, let’s see what scholastic media can show everyone: how to really report the Obama speech story like no one else can.

Let’s see some digging:

• Why would schools back off running the President’s speech?

• Why would parents oppose (or support) their children hearing it?

• Who (if anyone) has used the Internet and other communication to spread lies/truth about the speech’s purpose? How can the audience tell?

• What does this say (if anything) about schools’ willingness to provide a chance for students to ask questions? Has this been an ongoing process? What is the historical perspective?

• What does the furor around this speech say about a school’s willingness to trust its students to think critically? Do school officials even see this as a factor? If not a factor, what drove their decision, one way or another?

• What does a school’s reaction (or a community’s reaction) in this instance say about their willingness to confront challenges from any future viewpoint?

Can scholastic media reporters find sources —  and maybe even answers — for these questions?

You betcha.

If they dig.

Which brings up another point H.L. likes to raise: Credibility. If we – commercial or scholastic media – do not show people we still can dig for answers, verify information and synthesize it into meaningful reporting, we cannot complain when people challenge our credibility.

We have it damaged it ourselves.

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