Pages Navigation Menu

Don’t let death derail your publication

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment


by Mary Kay Downes

The loss of any student is a tragic event either through sickness, accident or suicide.

Often times staffs are shocked when events such as this occur and frozen into either inaction or precipitous action. They ask, “Do we cover this?”  They ask,  “How do we cover this?” They ask, “Should we call the parents?”

All of these are questions which can be taken care of by establishing a policy by the editorial board for inclusion in the staff manual having to do with death.  We have a policy in our yearbook staff manual and it precludes any type of memorial page.

We include a picture of the deceased student in the senior section of the yearbook the year they would have graduated. It is in a box with year of birth and death. If a faculty member dies, we include a similar box in the faculty section of the current year’s book.

Read More

For your information

Posted by on Jun 26, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


A discussion on JEA’s listserv earlier this week raised some significant questions about FOI requests to student media – and the importance of clarifying who owns the content of student media.

According to Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, that situation raised an important issue for all public school-sponsored student publication staffs to consider: Under virtually all state open records laws, most school-maintained records are public: anyone has the right to request them for any reason.

Although there may be exemptions for some records that would implicate personal privacy or reveal personally identifiable information about individual students and their academic performance, Goodman wrote,  many records, especially financial records are open to the public on request and that would include the financial records of your publication.

Note Goodman said school records.

“I maintain that a much different standard should apply to any documents relating to the content of your publications,” Goodman wrote.  “Although there is virtually no court precedent on this (and as each state’s open records law is different, so it would take a court case in each state to settle the matter), I think there is a compelling argument to be made the the First Amendment protects the journalistic work product of student publication student staff members, effectively exempting them from coverage of a state open records law.”

The key to making that argument work, Goodman said, is evidence that students,  not school officials (including the adviser), are determining the content of the publication.

Goodman shared a story about a state attorney general opinion on this issue involving a college student newspaper at the SPLC Web site.

“Here is yet another reason why a smart school will have a written policy stating that student editors make the content decisions for their publications,” Goodman wrote.  “If schools are dictating content, that creates the possibility that every e-mail a student publication staff member sends relating to his/her job, every story draft a student creates, every page layout they work on will be subject to an open records request to the school.  On the other hand, if the students are acting independently (even with the advice of a faculty adviser), I believe these open records laws should not and would not apply.”

Goodman also addressed another point: who owns the copyright to the works media students create.

“If your school is claiming ownership (legally questionable at best), that will certainly bolster any public records requests for access to the records as well,” he wrote.  “I’m a firm believer that student works belong to students, not necessarily to the individuals but to the student publication staff and NOT to the school.”

Read More

Covering death: an article worth examining

Posted by on May 23, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The Kansas City Star ran an article today about how school yearbooks in the area handle death coverage. It is well worth reading – and discussing – before the situation occurs.

The article examines the wide range of thought that goes into deciding how, or whether, reporting death is an integral part of scholastic journalism.

A tip of the hat to Larisa Capodieci for tweeting this article about the difficult decision of handling death – in newspapers or yearbooks.

Read More