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Advocacy and journalism:
coexistence or natural conflict?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by John Bowen, MJE
Initially came the mass shooting of 17 students and school staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

Students and scholastic media reported the issues surrounding the shootings and the followed student protests, trying to make sense of it all.

Then came discussion among journalism educators about student advocacy and journalism. Should the two travel together? Can they coexist in the same newsroom?

Now is the time to assess those questions, and more.

In a chapter titled “What we need from the ‘Next Journalism'” in their book, Blur, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel  look how questions like these might identify purpose, roles and focus of media in the future.

“Strip away platform. Strip away technique. Strip away culture,” they write. “What function does a newsroom serve in its community? What is its essential purpose, apart from generating revenue?”

Student journalists raised the essence of that question when they reported social issues and events surrounding the shootings at their school. Thousands of other teens, some student journalists, joined in, bringing praise as well as anger, ultimately participation innational marches and protests.

Journalism educators  prepared their students not only to report the events and the issues, fulfilling their social role  responsibility. They also embraced the leadership aspects of journalism by guiding students as they made coverage and action decisions.

Mix the leadership and growth of student voice with the concept of journalism as advocacy and we create debate on the essential purpose and role of scholastic journalism.

After all, muckrakers like Nellie Bly, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell rerouted the scope of journalism.

Perhaps this present confluence of two major points – change in journalism and a regrowth of advocacy – can fuel the expansion of New Voices and propel scholastic journalism into examining issues and potential solutions.

“Telling stories is not the answer. Neither is delivering the news, or even monitoring government. All those have been a part of it historically,” Kovach and Rosenstiel state in Blur. “But we think the essential function is something broader and more conceptual, and the future of journalism depends in part on embracing the broader notion.”

The authors specifically mention verification, synthesis and making sense of information presented as parts of that larger notion of essential journalism.

It is time to expand the discussion to include the broader notion of scholastic journalism’s future roles and whether advocacy is among them..

In the next month or so we will develop and discuss what these potential changes might mean to scholastic journalism, provide background and perspective and share activities and lessons, grow discussion and spread possibilities.


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Can the Elements of Journalism help replace prior review?

Posted by on Nov 4, 2009 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


As we’ve tried to emphasize in the last several posts, prior review is not a valid or workable educational practice. It betrays the trust of the audience (as well as that of student journalists and their advisers) and negates any concept of students taking responsibility for what they write.

Let’s see if we can build some common ground to lessen the need for prior review, which we have seen lately undermines the whole educational process.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel call this approach the science of reporting.

Together, these points, say the authors, lead to the discipline of verification, meaning published material is accurate, truthful and in context.

Paired with responsible journalism, as defined by JEA and outlined in an earlier post, Kovach and Rosenstiel’s verification of information and science of reporting provide a framework for scholastic journalism without prior review.

Given the outrageous examples of recent prior review, isn’t it time to give student journalists a chance to prove good journalism can and will occur without review?

In their book, The Elements of Journalism, they outline five points for this concept:

• Never add anything that was not there: This requires solid reporting and a variety of credible sources.

Never deceive the audience: This requires building a framework of trust with your audiences and ties to the next point.

Be as transparent as possible about methods and motive: It allows the audience to judge the validity of the information, the process by which it was gathered and the motives and biases of the journalists providing it, the authors say.

Rely on your own original reporting: Reporters who can do their own work, with encouragement and support from school officials and advisers will produce  stronger, more complete reporting. This might even mean turning off the Internet filters so they can have unfiltered access to information and sources.

Exercise humility: Journalists should be humble about their own skills as well as what they see and hear from sources. This reinforces the need to know perspective on stories as well as being open-minded to story-changing resources.

Recent examples of prior review leading to censorship clearly show we must find a way to encourage students practice what they are taught. We hope The Elements of Journalism can help pave the way.

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