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Start 2022 with a scholastic press rights refresh

Posted by on Jan 8, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Start 2022 with a scholastic press rights refresh

Photo by Felipe Furtado via Unsplash

by Sarah Nichols, JEA president, MJE

The first few weeks of a new semester provide an important reset or blank slate. After a challenging fall for advisers, your goal may be to revisit scholastic press rights topics and do more with law and ethics training, especially if the past few months of reteaching and rebuilding called for massive shifts in your curriculum.*

Or maybe January marks the start of a new journalism course entirely, so you’re set to meet a new crop of students and want to begin on building awareness of First Amendment issues and support for student press freedom from the beginning. 

In any case, it’s always a good time to include more law and ethics in your journalism program. Here are some ideas for how to start 2022 with attention toward scholastic press rights education.

  1. Follow the news. Begin with the wonderful news of New Jersey becoming the 15th state to enact specific press rights legislation. The passage of S108 hit right as many schools adjourned for winter break, so this is a great time to discuss it in class. If students haven’t learned about New Voices yet, now is the perfect time.

Key questions: Do students know what press rights protection they have based on where you live? Are you in a state working toward New Voices legislation? Are there ways your students can participate? 

For balance, take a look next at this (possibly still-unfolding) not-wonderful news in Colorado.

Key questions: How do you feel after reading the student’s op-ed and the news article about what happened? Why? When it comes to student press freedom, do your students know the differences between public and private schools? If your program operates in a state with legal protection, do your students know what to do if they feel their rights have been violated? Do they know about the JEA’s Panic Button from the Scholastic Press Rights Committee? After reading about the situation at Regis Jesuit, do your students feel called to action somehow? Is this something to write about or explore further?

  1. Plan for remote learning. Make use of online resources, either to adjust as some schools return to virtual environments or to provide alternatives for students at home due to isolation, illness or other circumstances.

An easy way to provide choice and flexibility is to invite students to choose their own law and ethics session from this free online repository coordinated by Virginia High School League and Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers. Students can produce a slide, mini-lesson or other short debrief to share what they learned.

Seniors can work on Journalist of the Year entries and develop their law and ethics section with some extra help from this Portfolio Polish resource.

Prospective editors can build a plan for how they’ll teach important scholastic press rights issues to next year’s staff. Have you added a related question to your editor interview process?

Students of any experience level can also view and analyze these award-winning First Amendment PSAs and create their own.

All of these options work well for in-person scenarios, too, of course!

  1. Gear up for Scholastic Journalism Week. What gets scheduled gets done, so it’s time to help students plan for #SJW2022 (Feb. 21-25, 2022) and the #AmplifyingVoices theme.

Student Press Freedom Day is a signature aspect of the week-long celebration. The Student Press Law Center has developed a variety of activities and suggestions for how students can take part in advocacy, outreach and more for a day of action Feb. 24.

Look for more ideas — and share what you’re doing — on social media.

If you’re beginning a semester with new or transfer students, don’t forget to match them with a mentor from your staff to provide extra training on students’ rights and responsibilities as journalists.

As we embrace this fresh start, let’s show students how important these topics are by doing what we can to incorporate law and ethics activities on a regular basis in 2022.

* Don’t beat yourself up about what you didn’t get to last semester. Just start fresh!

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Enemy of the American people?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 3 comments


Scholastic Journalism Week gives students a chance to prove the opposite

by Stan Zoller, MJE
This week is Scholastic Journalism Week – a time for scholastic journalists and their advisers and teachers to tout the excitement and passion that is, in many ways, uniquely scholastic journalism.

There will be posters, T-shirts, activities and, of course, voluminous numbers of social media posts.

This year, however, there’s something else that needs to be added to the mix.

A sense of urgency.

Never before in American history, or the history of American journalism, has the media and the First Amendment come under such ridicule and hatred by a sitting president. Instead of being dubbed “watchdogs” who protect the public’s right to know, mainstream journalists have been labeled “the enemy of the American People.”

By a sitting president.

Evita Peron would be proud.  So would Hitler.  So would Stalin.

In January 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward Carrington that “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right, and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Jefferson made this comment two years before the First Amendment was submitted for ratification and more than four years before it was ratified, that coming in December of 1791.

While Jefferson took exception to the media, as many people do, he at least seemed to realize the importance of a free press and how it, like individual Americans, have a right to their opinion.

[pullquote]Jefferson got it; Even though, historians claim, he had one thing in common with Donald Trump – a fundamental distrust of the Fourth Estate, reportedly saying in June of 1807 that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”  In the end, however, Jefferson knew the importance of a viable media.[/pullquote]

Jefferson got it; Even though, historians claim, he had one thing in common with Donald Trump – a fundamental distrust of the Fourth Estate, reportedly saying in June of 1807 that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”

In the end, however, Jefferson knew the importance of a viable media.

The theme of Scholastic Journalism Week, “The Communities We Cover,” reflects the need for a free and vibrant press. Student journalists, like any other journalists, need to be free to report on anything within their community – whether it is their school, school district or hometown –without fear of censorship, restraint or undue lambasting of their efforts by officials.

Journalists are not perfect.  Neither are school administrators, educators or politicians. The reality is, however, that the work done by journalists is an open book for anyone to see, especially in the age of social media.  Mainstream journalists are trained in press ethics and laws and have the tools to fact check in order to verify their work.  Again, it’s not always perfect.

The First Amendment clearly states that there shall be no laws “…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”, yet messages coming out of Washington, D.C. seem to be taking a counter-step to the that sentiment.

While there are cries to take the plight to social media with various hashtags, the fight against the assault on the nation’s media needs to go further.  Student journalists need to take charge of informing their news consumers that journalists, including those in student media, are not “the enemy of the American People.”

During Scholastic Journalism Week scholastic media outlets should encourage their audiences to become civically engaged and contact lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to let them know that an assault on the First Amendment is not only an attack on professional journalists, but the nation’s students as well.

This year it’s important to not just celebrate Scholastic Journalism Week.  Student journalists need to take pride in what they do and practice the craft that they and their advisers are so passionate about.

It’s that important.  In fact, it’s urgent.

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