Pages Navigation Menu

Responsibility in scholastic media starts with
ethics, accuracy, complete story QT23

Posted by on Oct 23, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Administrators may want student media that depicts the school in a positive light, that promotes good news and overlooks the negative.

Is this responsible journalism?

Advisers may want student media that reflects students’ technical proficiency such as mechanics, grammar and style. Little else matters.

Is this responsible journalism?

Students may want to preserve tradition, give students the content they want, focusing on predictable content sure to avoid administrative displeasure.

Is this responsible journalism?

The goal of responsible, ethical journalism is not met by simply deciding stories cannot be published or media practices that produce no educational value. Journalistic responsibility is a layered, textured process.

Resolution of content issues will not come from a series of “don’ts” framed for the students.

Resolution will come through thorough, accurate and credible journalism shaped by a strong mission statement, empowering policies and a staff manual rooted in ethical guidelines that enable student growth, critical thinking and decision-making.

Resolution is not created  by publishing fake news forged by censorship and fear of censorship.

Strong journalism is rooted in ethics, empowered by trust and enabled by policies and guidelines that demand responsibility.

Journalistic responsibility.


Quick Tips: Journalistic responsibility

Question: What we speak of responsible journalism, what do we mean?

Key points/action: Responsible journalism is ethical journalism. Administrators demand responsibility but the trouble is groups define it differently.

Responsible and ethical journalism is accurate, complete and cohesive. It’s credible and has integrity.

These elements combined create a path to ethical journalism. The path is much more difficult, if not impossible, censorship, prior review or self-censorship because students are intimidated from carrying out responsible journalism, exist

Journalism that is censored, incomplete and lacks context is not responsible. It’s fake news.

Stance: Journalistic responsibility begins with empowering student media to practice the little things:

  • Access to accurate, complete and truthful information
  • Ability to present information in context
  • Access to credible and trustworthy sources through interviewing, observation and research
  • Leadership through their content, decisions and actions
  • Opportunities to decide all content for student media, to apply the principles, skills and practices they are taught and learn from their successes

As student journalists take these steps, they will maintain the idea of free expression as democracy’s cornerstone,


Common threads of responsible journalism connect school officials, student journalists and news-media professionals. Guidelines expressed here reflect the belief student journalists and school officials share a commitment to the schools’ educational mission and practices, and that commitment focuses on building stronger and engaged citizens.

Responsible student journalists accept ethical guidelines and practices to best serve their communities. Responsible administrators embrace and enhance journalistic practices that carry out the mission of scholastic media and of the school in fortifying information their communities need to make informed decisions and action in a working democracy.

To that end, we build goals for journalistic responsibility by:

  • Establishing policies and practices that enable thorough, accurate, complete and cohesive reporting of student-decided content.
  • Applying critical thinking and decision-making skills and practices to assist students as they become productive citizens in a democracy.
  • Empowering advisers’ development and use of substantive journalism curricula and application experiences.
  • Maintaining open lines of communication between students, faculty and staff, administrators and communities designed to build trust create a maximum environment for truthful and complete sharing of information.
  • Reporting accurately, thoroughly, credibly and cohesively so process and product model integrity.
  • Operating student media that publish information in verbal and visual context that enhances comprehension for the greater good of all communities.

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.


Read More

Build a strong foundation by locking in
pieces of the puzzle called journalism

Posted by on Sep 27, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



Part 1 of a series  on fitting the pieces of the journalism puzzle:
Knowing where to start

by Candace and John Bowen
Preparing student media for a new year often begins with design- and theme-planning. For a good number this includes summer workshops for training in reporting platforms, visual reporting approaches and the latest in apps and across-platform developments.

We hope such training also includes the basics of law and ethics. Often, we fear it does not.

Because we believe a basic understanding of legal and ethical issues is key to the puzzle of a successful year of sound journalistic media, we’d recommend the solid foundation of journalism basics to support the 2015-16 year and beyond.

Ensure students understand their legal rights and responsibilities before publication and provide them with activities and resources to prepare them for the rigors of publishing and decision-making.

Our training list to start the year and continue through it would be organized something like this:
• Outline the goals and mission of your student media
Like a road map, a goals and mission statement frames direction for student media. A mission statement presents the underlying principles student media adhere to. Goals suggest specific accomplishments used in following the mission. Both establish the how and why for students and communities alike. Like a road map, students may choose different paths from year to year but the outcome stays fixed: thorough, accurate and credible journalism.
– New values (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
April Fool’s Editions, “Don’t be a fool” (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
Balance and objectivity (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)
The role of student media (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
The role of the adviser (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
–  Mission statement development  (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

– JEA Model Mission statement (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

• Train staff and editors in legal principles across platforms
Even though students might embrace online media, legal and ethical basics provide a framework for digital media now and what is yet to come. While there might be some changes, the basics of unprotected speech and the importance of knowing legal background won’t change in the foreseeable future.
– Law of Student Press, book from the Student Press Law Center, also available on Kindle
Student Press Law Center
– JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Public forum overview (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
 Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism (Quill & Scroll and JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
– Legal Guides (Student Press Law Center)

• Ensure board- and/or publication-level policies are in place
Strong board of education level and publication editorial policies reinforce principles student media use to reach their mission. Strong and effective editorial policies, carefully worded, protect not only student media but also school systems if legal issues arise. Lack of careful wording is worse than no policy at all. Policies reflect the publication’s values and commitments. Ideally, the most effective policies establish student media as designated public forums, without prior review and where students make all content decisions.
The Foundations of Journalism: policies, ethics and staff manuals (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Board of education- and publication level- models (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Board media policies (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute) 
Why avoiding prior review is educationally sound (Quill & Scroll Principal’s Guide) 
Eliminating prior review (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)

• Train staff and editors in ethical principles across platforms
Even though students might embrace online media, ethical basics provide a compass for print and digital media now and for what is yet to come. Practice in and knowledge of ethical critical thinking provides principles for journalistically responsible reporting. Reinforcement of ethical practices builds student publications steeped in ethical fitness.

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Online ethics guidelines for student media (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
Questions student staffs should discuss before entering the social media environment (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)
SPJ Code of ethics (Society of Professional Journalists) 
Critical thinking, ethics and knowledge-based practice in visual media (Journalist’s Resource)

• Establish, for online or print, a content verification process
While this might have been part of skills-oriented summer workshop training and practice, its importance goes without question. Verification, credibility, context and accuracy are the reporting cornerstones of journalism. Each is rooted in establishing a rigorous ethical process.
Planning and gathering information/producing content (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Getting it right (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)
Journalism as a discipline of verification (American Press Institute) 
Verification (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee)

• Clarify who owns content
To avoid issues if someone tries to sell your yearbook content online or you want to sell photos, determine ahead of time who owns the content of student work. It’s important to plan this ahead of incidents.

– Who Owns Student Content? (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Back to School: Who Owns What? (Student Press Law Center) 
– Contribution to Collective Work U.S. Copyright Office

• Develop guidelines for handing takedown demands if online
Fielding requests for takedown demands is increasingly a decision student media have to make, either from reporters after they have left school or from sources because they do not like the story. Choices are limited, and involve ethical thinking.

Takedown demands (JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee) 
Responding to takedown demands (Student Press Law Center) 
Takedown requests (JEA SPRC Press Rights Minute)

Without an understanding of rights and responsibilities – the “could we?” and “should we?” of producing media, staffs can have the most attractive layouts imaginable and captivating story-telling, but they could still make legal and ethical mistakes that would ruin their chance to produce anything else for their audience.

Part 1: Build a strong foundation
Part 2: Careful preparation creates strong mission statements
Part 3: Points to avoid

Part 4: Fitting the pieces into a strong Foundation


Read More

So say we all…

Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



“Free the press – all of it.”

Pass it on.

Read More

Foundations for Scholastic Journalism

Posted by on Feb 25, 2011 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Projects, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Visual Reporting | 0 comments


Late last year, the Scholastic Press Rights Commission asked JEA members and others what clear statements about legal and ethical issues they would like to see compiled in one easy-to-access place.

From their responses the Commission created these 11 Foundations for Scholastic Journalism, in downloadable PDF form below, the first installment of our series. Foundations run from the general, including curriculum standards for law and ethics, to the precise, such as how and when to get consent when publishing articles. It’s a start, and the Commission welcomes suggestions for others we can add in the future.

Some of these incorporate and expand on JEA policies and statements the Board has passed and are available elsewhere on the Web, but here you will find them all in one place. They also offer links to resources that support each concept and can serve as handouts or posters.

1. Journalism as 21st Century skills

2. A Free and Responsible Student Press

3. Administrators Should Support Scholastic Journalism

4. Why advisers should oppose censorship

5. The Importance of Getting Consent

6. The Use of Anonymous Sources

7. Verification is important

8. Handling controversy

9. Foundations to meet Common Core standards for law and ethics

10. A road map: Getting to know the SPLC

11. Who owns the copyright?

We welcome your feedback and recommendations.

Read More