Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scholastic Journalism Week

Happy SJW everyone! I'm very proud to say that I join so many other dedicated journalists, advisers and friends who all feel strongly about encouraging student media and care about maintaining high journalistic standards for the current and future news media.

When we think of the future of news production, it's exciting to think about all the changes that have been happening in the past several years that have led up to where we are now--and what it means for us in the years to follow. We are at a crossroads between the fourth and now "fifth" estates (consisting of a broader group of contributors). My idealism delights in the possibilities of an engaged community of writers and readers. My pessimism fears for a lack of training and regulation of accurate content. However, I can't help but think the changes that come with time offer us all a chance to reflect on how we plan to move toward progress rather than the alternative.

Regardless of how we feel about social networking sites in schools, I would like to throw out an argument (and please feel free to respond!): If sites like facebook and myspace are banned/barred/forbidden in schools, how will students learn appropriate ways to use these various communication tools appropriately, sensibly and as a mode for civic engagement? If something is made taboo, it only makes it more appealing. It's not facebook that's the problem, it's what people POST on facebook that causes controversy. Instead of focusing on suppressing students, why not consider ways of using facebook as a teaching tool on good internet etiquette? Perhaps if students understand internet safety, good manners and the value of choosing words carefully, we could eliminate much of the disagreement over whether or not facebook (and the like) should be allowed and even *gasp!* used in the classroom.

I say we stop fighting freedom of expression for students and start looking at more creative ways to engage students in meaningful online dialogue.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Since when did the first amendment apply to only people of a certain age?

One of the biggest beefs I have about school censorship is that it happens at all.

Is there a magic age that you suddenly have the right to be heard? Why are more children not outraged by this obvious exclusion from democracy?

It is my sincerest hope that schools will realize that they do more harm by trying to "protect" their students through censorship (whether it be a school-sponsored publication or otherwise) than they would by simply letting students speak out about issues that concern them.

Sheltering the young from the terrors of the real world is a thing of the past. Perhaps if we did more listening rather than squelching, we might learn something from those who live very much in the midst of the terrors.

Maybe if we all try to remember what we knew when we were younger (which is more than we know now, right?) :) we would have a better grasp of what we can do to work with--rather than against--our younger citizens.

Free speech for ALL.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

FOX tracks

I sincerely don't want to start a debate about which political party is "manipulating" the media. Personally, I find any news outlet (24/7, web, print or otherwise) that makes no attempts to apologize for a political agenda to be immoral and tremendously out of line with journalistic integrity. While this article (anonymously--but understandably so) criticizes a blatantly right-wing media franchise, this type of political sensationalism that blurs the line between news and entertainment is something I think many news channels could be called out on.

Nothing is sacred. And what is this showing our young journalists? That in the "real" world, commercial journalism is a catty and underhanded business. How do we win back journalism from this tailspin of competition and bias? How do we teach our students to see that regardless (or sometimes because) of our personal alliances and values that we need to fight to keep all voices as important contributions to the open forum?

Thursday, February 3, 2011


For several years, I worked as the newspaper adviser in a Catholic high school in the south. It was an amazingly unique experience because although I didn't have many of the same legal rights as the public schools, I was given the trust of the administration (at least for a while) to ensure the responsible journalistic tactics of my students--so long as they wrote nothing in conflict with Catholic teaching. This actually proved to be less difficult than one might expect considering that there isn't much that's in conflict with Catholic teaching. Another huge bonus: we could write about religion!

There is a list as long as your arm about what administrators cringe at when you talk about publishing an article about something (i.e. sex, drugs, suicide, etc.) but religion has got to be one of the biggest brain busters. Religious discussion in public school has led to all sorts of controversy, lawsuits, hurt feelings, threats, fear of certain phrases and pieces of name it. And in my school, it was all virtually moot. Granted, the school went at everything from a Catholic angle, but it was unashamedly willing to inquire about beliefs outside of its own. The benefit the students had was that without having to worry about giving preference to one religion over another (Catholic was obviously going to win out) and despite having that angle, students produced some pretty thought-provoking material that rivaled many professional papers.

Perhaps one of our biggest fears in scholastic journalism is being TOO open--or simply trying so hard to be "fair and balanced" that you lose any sense of the depth of a story. Having an angle that doesn't have to justify its bias simply because it's a cultural given is not always a bad thing. In fact, I think it's kinda cool. Maybe we need more bias sometimes--as long as that bias isn't shrouded in some idea that there isn't a bias to begin with. Know thyself...and then try to figure out everyone else.