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Temper social media rights
with journalistic responsibility

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


By Tom Gayda
I am a First Amendment fighter. I have long stood by supporting people’s rights to say and do what they want. But then came social media.SJW-2014

There is a fine line between what is right and what is wrong sometimes. Sadly, with the never-ending onslaught of posts, likes and tweets, the notion of acting responsibly has at times taken a backseat.

It isn’t my intent to curtail one’s First Amendment rights. However, I think we must all do a better job showing future adults that not everything in life is post-worthy and what one posts can follow a person for life.

There are responsibilities that come with one’s rights. And while one can basically say anything he or she wants on social media, that isn’t always the smartest thing to do. I warn my own students to think about the image they are projecting by their social media use. Dropping “f-bombs” like nothing might make one hip with their social circle, however others who see such warfare might think twice about interacting with the offender.

I also ask my students to tell me how it’s going to be when their kids are old enough to take advantage of the latest Internet craze and can see everything their mom or dad posted when they were teenagers. Ouch! (Never mind the dancing!) Life went on for millions of years without people sharing with the world their every innermost secret. Somehow we can survive with fewer posts.

Schools patrolling their students Internet activities hardly seems like a good use of time, however it is important kids know there can be consequences to what they post, be it legally or not. Many folks tend to get extra courage behind the safety of their smartphone. We can support free speech and teach how to use it responsibly.

Times are changing and so do the ways we communicate. Think first, and remember, everything you say today will be out there forever.


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10 ways to nurture scholastic journalism

Posted by on Feb 28, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Randy Swikle

Retired Student Newspaper Adviser
Johnsburg High School, Johnsburg, Ill.

In 2002, my principal at Johnsburg High School, Chuck Dill, was JEA’s Administrator of the Year. He was an exemplary facilitator who involved local stakeholders of scholastic journalism in a partnership that guarded student autonomy, that balanced student press rights with ethics and pedagogical responsibilities and that nurtured First Amendment education, appreciation and application.

Students were empowered but not emancipated; educators were authoritative but not authoritarian; and the school culture was collaborative and not autocratic. It was an ideal balance of responsibilities that cultivated democratic learning and inspired engaged citizenship.

One Labor Day weekend, our principal was arrested and charged with operating a motorboat while under the influence. He put the school mission above his personal vulnerability and supported the right of student reporters to cover the story on Page 1 of their Johnsburg Weekly News publication. The principal contested the charge, and a judge later exonerated him. That story was covered on Page 1, too.

In the 25 years I advised the JWN, no administrator ever threatened censorship or required prior review of the paper. Controversy was a staple, as it is in any authentic American newspaper. Rather than fear contention, the Johnsburg school community embraced diverse perspectives as an innate feature of a free society. And when journalistic mistakes were made, stakeholders did not point fingers but rather joined hands to problem-solve and inspire remedies.

Principal Dill was a proponent of partnership. I once asked him to list his expectations for the partner who advises the newspaper staff — me! His response serves as a model for nurturing scholastic journalism and the school mission:

No. 10: Understand the peripheral aspects of your job. It is more than teaching journalism. It’s also being an advocate, a problem-solver, a diplomat, a counselor, a personal mentor, a friend, a businessman, a facilitator, a spokesman and a hundred other things.

No. 9: Communicate effectively and ethically. Use strategies of dissemination and persuasion to make a profound difference on the side of what’s right. Focus on issues and maintain the courage to prioritize principle above personal vulnerability.

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