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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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Focusing our efforts

Posted by on Dec 28, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission will meet Jan.5-7 at the Poynter Institute to work on and develop commission projects to  better serve members, their students and communities in terms of press rights and responsibilities.

Some of the topics commission members are considering are:

• Brainstorming and implementing a “blast outreach campaign” to students about their rights and responsibilities. Involves creating the materials and the delivery system. (Could be in parts for those involved in media and those not involved in media)

• Assembling a teaching module of questions to raise before censorship becomes an issue. (We already have ethical situations that can be worked into this)(Web/online-based)

• Seek input on 1-3 “ethical situations you wish you had answers to” using the listserv; Asking the question and compiling a way to make it available. Involves identifying the questions and creating the answers. Good resource could be Kelly McBride if she is to be there.

• A multimedia version of the wallet card concept: “Break Open in Case of Emergency” and develop and create it at Poynter.

• Create an outreach package to commercial journalists urging them to become involved with blog and/or information to scholastic journalists. Materials and package.

• Create a package to ask advisers “What questions do you ask when trying to get students to act ethically.” This could be commission produced and come from a listserv survey; compiled and prepared for distribution.

We would also like your input. What might you want us to develop that would best meet your needs?  Candace talked about sites to find lessons, activities and situations yesterday, but could we develop other projects to directly help you?

Let us know

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Start the semester out right

Posted by on Dec 27, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Just relaxing and avoiding work is a good way to spend winter break, but, with the new semester not far off, maybe a little time can go into getting lesson plans in order. Why not explore some of the wealth of online materials available?

Particularly if it’s a new group of students and a new course, starting out with legal and ethical training is vital. So…here’s a belated holiday gift: Links to some sites with a wide range of teaching materials, from discussion-starters to entire units. Browse for now and bookmark for later.

  • Of course the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission has plenty on its Web site, everything from podcasts to PowerPoints to 5-minute lessons to start a class thinking. Most of these are in the “teaching materials” link.
  • The Student Press Law Center has an amazing array of Media Law Presentations.  These cover copyright, libel and more, and each has a PowerPoint with teachers’ presentation notes.
  • If you’re not familiar with the American Society of News Editors High School Journalism Initiative site, you should be. In the archived lesson plans its summer institute teachers create are a number concerning legal and ethical issues.
  • NAA Foundation supports youth journalism in many ways, including funding vital research.  The Newspaper in Education (NIE) section of the Web site includes lesson plans for many levels and a variety of courses. “First Things First: Using the Newspaper to Teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment” is one good example.
  • The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and in Washington, D.C.,  has as part of its Web site “Education for Freedom: Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment.” These, too, work for various age levels, and all focus on the importance of those 45 words added to our Constitution.
  • Want something a little more interactive? Something students might do on their own? Try News University, part of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. With a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NewsU offers online training for newsroom journalists and classroom ones, too. Check out the large range of (mostly) free, interactive courses. For our purposes here, consider “Introduction to Ethical Decision-making,” but the course list probably has others of interest as well.

No one wants to spend the holidays focused on school. BUT no one wants to come back after vacation, scrambling to find good materials to use.  A little time browsing now can make a lot of difference later in January.

Happy New Year!

Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

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People and issues in a world of journalism

Posted by on Jan 9, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


After spending four days at the Poynter Institute In St. Petersburg, Florida, I have a number of  journalism issues on my mind:

• AEJMC Scholastic Journalism Division’s vice head David Bulla publishes a blog called The First Amendment. It presents a wide variety of issues and topics and is worthy of a visit and your time. The whole idea, Bulla says, is “to share news and ideas in a simple, easy-to-read, non-academic format among those of us who care about the First Amendment and student press rights.”

• Check out teaching issues and practices raised by University of Florida Knight Chair for Journalism Technologies and the Democratic Process  Mindy McAdams at this site. Information on McAdams’ Web site covers the use of multimedia in reporting to and how to adjust journalism curricula to effectively include it.

• For information on a conference sponsored by several groups,  go to the SPLC’s Campus Coverage Web site. The conference also produced interviews on iTunes with top reporters. Although material is aimed at collegiate reporters, it is certainly adaptable at the high school level.

Check out these links to expand your journalistic vision.

Also, watch this space in the coming months for new initiatives and information about scholastic press rights and responsibility from JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission.

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