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The importance of linking to reporting

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Links in online reporting provides context, credibility and transparency for coverage

by Kristin Taylor
You can’t click on a print newspaper, so why should we include links in digital stories?

The Nieman Foundation provides four main purposes for adding links:

  1. Links are good for storytelling.
  2. Links keep the audience informed.
  3. Links are a currency of collaboration.
  4. Links enable transparency.
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‘I just wrote that to get a grade:’
Students should write what they believe QT42

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



For opinion stories, students should stand behind what they write.

Key points/Action:

To ensure credibility, students should only write opinion stories that represent their beliefs. If, during the research phase, the student changes his or her mind, then the story should be reassigned or the content of the story be altered to reflect the change in view.


Credibility is everything in journalism. Give the reader the ability to trust what you say.


Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel wrote in “Elements of Journalism” about the importance of transparency and credibility.

“If nothing else, this responsibility requires that journalists be as open and honest with audiences as they can about what they know and what they don’t. How can you claim to be seeking the truth when you’re not truthful with the audience in the first place?”

Students should heed this advice. Students must be truthful with their audience in all stories they write regardless of the type.


The Best Way for Publishers to Build Credibility through Transparency, API

Elements of Journalism, Rosenstiel and Kovach


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Lessons in transparency, by George

Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Stan Zoller, MJE

Unlike sports, journalism has no season.

While a football season may go three months, a journalism season goes nine. And then some.

So even as advisers get ready to distribute yearbooks or put out that last edition of the paper, their work, and that of their student journalists, is not over.

While they may not be producing anything for their media, the issues and trends in journalism continue to whirl about them.

While there are a litany of workshops for advisers to learn how to advise media and teach journalism, the never-ending sagas about the world of journalism provides timely and “real life” case studies for discussions about ethics in your journalism classroom.

Some of the more notable cases included Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass and of course Brian Williams. Their reputations for fabrications in their reporting are virtually legendary. But they are not the only ones.

While fabrications captivate media observers, journalism educators included, they are but one stain of disdain on the fabric of reputable journalism.

In addition to the expectations that journalists, whether student or professional, present accurate and honest reports, there is the expectation journalists are transparent in their reporting.

And why not? Reporters expect their sources, especially those in public positions such as city councils and school boards, to be transparent.

That’s not always the case.

Hello, George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos, who flew into the limelight during various stints with former President Bill Clinton, including press director of Clinton’s 1992 Campaign and White House Communications Director, is now chief political reporter at ABC News where he has appeared on Good Morning America and hosts the network’s Sunday show This Week.

Considering that background, you would expect Stephanopoulos to be transparent and accurate.

The keyword is expect.

But that has not been the case recently. Stephanopoulos came under fire for not, according to CNN, reporting he had made a $75,000 contribution to the Clinton Foundation. No big deal?

It is when you are covering Hilary Clinton’s campaign and were scheduled to moderate presidential debates in 2016.

What makes Stephanopoulos’ faux pau annoying is not that he did it, but the American news consumer continues to be put on edge by journalists, some of whom elevate to god-like status, in their reporting.

Trust in journalism begins not at the keyboard, but in the newsroom before an interview is conducted.

Student journalists need to not only understand, but practice transparency. It’s not unusual for student journalists to want to take an ‘easy way out’ on a story and maybe use sources or materials that give them path of least resistance. Interviewing friends or colleagues in a club, sport or organization are not unheard of. Policy and procedure manuals should include a statement regarding transparency and any conflict of interest.

Conversely, student journalists need to check and recheck their sources’ background so they know exactly where the source “is coming from.”

Taking an easy way out may seem like a great way to meet a deadline.

It’s not a good idea when it comes to developing and presenting trust in reporting.

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Separating news from views: Does social media need a new player? Part 3

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Determining what communities want and need in social media coverage seems to have generated a new media role: community manager.

According to information in a March 21, 2011, article by Ben LaMothe, Why Newspapers Need Community Managers on the 10000 words blog, the term may offer a way to brand online news coverage.

LaMothe cites the Econsultancy blog for the term and its use as a way to engage the community, set overall strategy and create branding for the media’s products.

Modifying such a role in online scholastic media might serve two essential purposes: differentiating between objective and subjective content and helping establish a “brand” for student online publications. A community manager might develop strategy for reaching and involving the communities and making daily updates: performing the medium’s public relations.

Some schools using the concept of community manager haven’t yet gotten anticipated results.

Meghan Morris, editor-in-chief of The Spoke in Pennsylvania, said her publication has an “operations manager,” but the role has not worked as she would have liked. She said she has found it hard to surrender the role. “In the future, this idea of ‘community manager,'” she said, “would be part of the web director or business manager’s role. Dealing with irate parents, facilitating focus groups or other ombud duties will remain the role of the EIC.”

Ted Noelker, managing editor of multimedia at Francis Howell Central in Missouri, said his publication launched its website and communications editor position at the same time to handle promotional aspects. He, too, said, he ended up doing much of the work of the position. “It is such an open-ended job,” he said. “It’s hard to cover all they need to so without being too narrow or too broad. It’s an important role, one that’s been tougth to fill.

LaMothe called the community manager a “must-have position” for a news organization. “The comments, your Facebook page and your Twitter page are all public-facing, and they deal directly with your readers on a daily basis,” he writes. He also says the position must be separate from the newsroom.

Anaika Miller of Foothill Technology High School in California agreed with Morris and Noelker about issues. “It has just become easier for me to handle public relations,” she said. “This works for our site, but in a professional newspaper, I bet the position could be utilized better if it were somebody’s focus/only job.”

All three referred to the position as one of public relations. Miller said no one at her school solely maintains the job because the workload is too light.

Minnesota adviser Jeff Kocur said the community manager role was similar in his school, with the editor using her Facebook status to push stories direct people to the publication’s site. He said he would consider adding a community manager position to his staff. “This person would be responsible for outreach and public relations in addition to writing stories and doing the exchange papers,” he said. “They would send out twitter feeds and facebook updates to push people to our site and manage online reader surveys. This would be an editor-level position, and they would still write stories.”

These staffs perceive a need for such a position, much as LaMothe and others urge. How the position is utilized, who fills it and what its ultimate role is, however, remain a work in progress.

Historically, a public relations role has been a hard one for scholastic media. Creation of a “community manager” might enable more community involvement as journalism grows in its use of social media. How that position develops and how it is differentiated from news reporting should be an ongoing discussion.

Ideally, a  “community manager” role should be cleanly separated from that of news journalist, including separate sources and posts for public relations and news. To ensure the public understands journalism’s varied roles in a democracy, we must be transparent about what we say and what information from each source means.

Accomplishing that may not be quickly achieved as scholastic journalism increases its use of digital media. Clarifying the role of a “community manager” or similar position is a step toward scholastic journalism’s successful use of social media.

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Incorporating ethical guidelines into social media use: Part 2

Posted by on Mar 25, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


In the first part of this series, Marina Hendricks, a commission member and student in a social role of the media class, talked about how scholastic media might create tools in the growing use of social media. Now, others in the class offer additional comments and suggestions.

This piece will suggest guidelines – and hopefully raise questions – about principles behind such tools in three key areas: information gathering, reporting and promotion, perhaps the most problematic new area of social media use. Overall, students in the class say the legal and ethical principles guiding social media use are the same as traditional, or legacy, media.

Key areas students focused on and their comments:

Information gathering

• Information gathered online should be independently confirmed offline.  Interview sources in person or over the phone whenever possible. Students would verify claims and statements. This includes crowdsourcing.

• Correspondingly, the instantaneous time element makes it more difficult to verify spot news, so be upfront about non-verified info. In fact, don’t run anything on social media students have not verified.

• Specific links (not just click here) should be provided to attribute the source/attribution for any online resources used or indicated.

• Be transparent with the audience as well as sources. Let them know how you contacted people, in what context you gathered the information and how you verified it (or didn’t).

• Student journalists who insist on avoiding social networks are likely to miss good opportunities and great stories. If all your sources came from the Internet, they would skew toward the more affluent and educated. When you interview people digitally, you miss a lot of good information. Journalists must strive for diverse representations of sources in their stories.

• These new tools can generate story ideas, allow readers more interaction with the reporters, and increase the reporter’s ability to find sources and network. These are certainly excellent additions to the tool belt of resources reporters have available to them to do their job.

• Social media will not replace traditional reporting; its primary purpose should be in making initial contact with subjects or verifying quotes and facts after an interview.

Objectivity and credibility in reporting

• When using social networks, nothing can call into question the impartiality of student news judgment.  Student media must never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism. … This same caution should be used when joining, following or friending any person or organization online.

• Ensure informed consent. It’s easy for sources to misunderstand your intentions. It is your responsibility to tell them who you are, what you are doing and where your work will run. Take special consideration with children and other vulnerable people. When contacting children, make sure they connect you with a responsible adult.

• Breaking news posts – all news posts – must be approved by a student editor. No exceptions.

• The student media site will not publish images from social media networking sites.

• Typos, biased language and even possible outright privacy breaches posted by individual reporters, acting without a system of checks and balances, will call into question the professionalism of student media and challenge its credibility.

• If the audience perceives biased or unfair coverage, they will no longer trust the student media as news sources and the capacity for elevating community dialog to issues of importance will be lost.

Promotion of student work

• Professional material (reporting and leadership) should not mix with private or promotional materials.

• It is important and valuable to promote our work through social networks. Student journalists bear most of this burden. But the newsroom as an institution is responsible for some of this work. When promoting your work:

  • Be accurate. It’s easy to sensationalize or oversimplify.
  • Be clear. If you are not a good headline writer, seek some training.
  • Always include a link and make sure the link works.

• Journalists must recognize that everything on their social media has the potential to influence their reputations and by extension newsroom credibility.

  • Don’t post information that could embarrass you or your newsroom, even if you believe your page is private.
  • Use the tools, such as limited profiles and privacy settings, to restrict access to your most private information.
  • Recognize that your actions can be misinterpreted. You may sign up for a group to get story ideas, but people may see you as a fan. State your intentions often, in wall posts and other notifications. When appropriate, tell groups when you are signing up that you are looking for story ideas.
  • Manage your friends and their comments. Delete comments and de-friend people who damage your reputation.
  • Social media could also enhance our outreach to the community. Using tools such as Twitter and Facebook, we can push students to our website by letting them know what stories we have recently posted. We can advertise when we are next distributing our newspaper. We can solicit story ideas, invite letters to the editor, or request feedback while we are in the process of putting our paper together. From a strictly practical standpoint, social media can allow us to let others see the great work we are doing more frequently, and, hopefully, engage them in a more earnest discussion about our role in the school.
  • Social media opens journalism to be a more two-way form of communication.  Reporters can find the people they need and readers can interact with the people their story had an impact on almost immediately.  They may not like everything sources or readers tell them, but at least there is feedback.

Resources used for these points

“Social Media and Young Adults”

Newspaper social media policies: Out of touch

Journalists use of social media

 Using email as a reporting tool

Online journalism ethics: A new frontier

News organizations work to set social media policies

Online journalism guidelines: guidelines from the conference

A tip of the hat to these 10 wonderful students, all journalism educators or commercially working journalists, who helped sort through these and other resources: Andrew Christopulos, Traci Hale Brown, Marina Hendricks, Judy Holman Stringer, Trevor Ivan, Lori King, Kate Klonowski, Jeff Kocur, Dino Orsatti, Chris Waugaman.

What points would you add, subtract or question?


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