Six principles of scholastic journalism
1. Establish policies enabling effective and responsible reporting.
Students: Practice effective and responsible reporting.
Student journalists practice their First Amendment rights and responsibilities when reporting as designated public forums. When students follow and adapt a code of ethics based on professional standards such as those of the Society of Professional Journalists or the Radio Television Digital News Association, they develop civic responsibility and understand their free speech rights and responsibilities. When they adhere to professional, legal and ethical standards, student journalists enhance their credibility and build public trust. Democracy stagnates when the flow of information is impeded.
Advisers: Develop policies and practices for effective and responsible reporting
Advisers should teach and coach students about legal and ethical principles of responsible journalism by working with them to develop effective policies as well as sound learning processes. In instilling professional legal and ethical standards in their students and creating open forums for student expression, advisers should follow the Journalism Education Association’s Adviser Code of Ethics. Central to this guidance is empowering students to make final decisions of all content, and to anticipate the impact of their decisions.
Administrators: Establish policies for effective and responsible reporting
Effective and responsible student media policies and processes enable all student media to operate as designated public forums where students practice their First Amendment rights – and responsibilities. A code of ethics for students and advisers, based on professional standards such as those of the Journalism Education Association and Society of Professional Journalists, supplements these policies and provides direction. The more student journalists adhere to professional, legal and ethical standards, the more they serve their communities, developing civic responsibility, enhancing their credibility and building public trust.
2. Provide opportunities through student-run media to build better citizens who apply critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Students: Apply critical thinking and decision-making skills to their media
In addition to understanding guiding legal and ethical principles, students consume and create media content conscientiously. Student journalists collaborate, think critically, engage in thoughtful decision-making, and manage conflict effectively. Students also grasp the importance of media literacy: responsible media use and critical assessment in a democratic society. Prior review and prior restraint truncate any educational atmosphere where students learn from their decision-making, thus inhibiting the development of life skills that are the foundation of good citizenship in a democratic society.
Advisers: Provide student-run media opportunities to build better citizens using critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Advisers should counsel students to actively participate in the democratic process by making wise decisions based on critical thinking, analysis and other higher-level skills. Student journalists learn to lead others, to collaborate with others, to manage deadlines and budgets, to interview and interact with a wide range of sources and peers, to prioritize and resolve conflict. To achieve these goals, they will create and practice codes of ethics and follow professional standards. Prior review and prior restraint truncate any educational atmosphere where students learn from their decision-making, thus inhibiting the development of life skills that are the foundation of good citizenship in a democratic society.
Administrators: Provide opportunities through student-run media to develop better citizens who can apply critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Strong scholastic journalism programs help schools do a better job of educating citizens to participate meaningfully in the democratic process. Students learn to make wise decisions through critical thinking, developing leadership skills and collaborating with others. Prior review and prior restraint truncate these skills and create an educational atmosphere in which students cannot learn, thus inhibiting the development of life skills that are the foundation of civic responsibility in a democratic society. The results of a strong journalism program extend beyond the classroom and positively affect the entire school and community, modeling the media’s role in a democratic society as a forum for the exchange of information and ideas. Recent studies indicate journalism students have higher grades in high school and college, and do better on college testing.
3. Hire and depend on professionally educated advisers and who use proven curricula.
Students: Rely on and respond to professionally educated advisers.
Student journalists demand excellence in education from their journalism advisers and programs. They ask for teaching in media law and ethics, responsible reporting, and effective journalistic practices. They learn best from advisers who have been trained in professional standards. Students require an active commitment to excellence from their publications advisers but do not expect or encourage advisers to do their work for them or to make decisions for them. The professional adviser, they know, demands students embrace the total learning process.
Advisers: Depend on and seek proven curricula to educate students.
Although some come prepared, other teachers and advisers develop skills and passion for scholastic journalism as they grow with their students. Successful advisers know to include journalism ethics and instruction on First Amendment law as part of the curriculum. Such instruction instills responsibility as students learn and practice standards of professional journalism. An adviser educated in the principles of responsible journalism becomes the expert in matters concerning student publications and can advise students and school officials in dealing with the public. Educated advisers also make significant contributions to the building of a strong program and sound curriculum by participating at the state, regional and national levels through conferences, contests and critiques, ensuring students learn from a wide and diverse range of competent journalists and knowledgeable advisers.
Administrators: Hire and depend on professionally educated advisers who use proven curricula.
It is imperative for advisers of all backgrounds to have access to educational opportunities for professional development so they can most effectively coach student learning. A responsible student media program implements a curriculum that provides practical experiences in developing the civic responsibilities of all journalists, preparing students to have a career in media and/or to be critical and literate media consumers. An adviser educated in the principles of responsible journalism becomes the expert in matters concerning student publications and can advise community and school officials in dealing with the public. School officials best create an active and informed community by developing student journalists taught by a knowledgeable and dedicated adviser.
4. Ensure open lines of communication among students, teachers, administrators and citizen stakeholders.
Students: Communicate openly with peers, advisers, administrators and community stakeholders.
Through thorough, accurate and complete coverage, student journalists seek input and response from fellow students, teachers, administrators and community members. They accept and publish signed letters to the editor and respond to suggestions from the school and other communities. Students clearly communicate their decision-making processes used to gather and report information. They listen to community concerns and seek community input as a part of this learning process. Their reporting engages all community segments in a learning experience, while they follow standards established by responsible journalism in a democratic society.
Advisers: Ensure open lines of communication among students, teachers, administrators and citizen stakeholders.
It takes an entire scholastic community to build a successful student media program. When students, advisers, school and district administrators, commercial journalists and citizens understand the importance of practicing responsible and ethical journalism, and all that means, the program thrives through a meaningful and open exchange of ideas and concerns. The program also advances the citizenship mission of the school system through active student participation. Advisers encourage the concept of transparency, the process student journalists used to gather information and why this information is essential to the reporting process.
Administrators: Facilitate open lines of communication among students, teachers, administrators and stakeholders.
Responsible administrators understand the importance of students practicing professionally oriented and ethical journalism. They support a free and open exchange of ideas among all stakeholders, knowing that an informed community makes intelligent and decisions concerning its schools. The responsible administrator supports student media knowing that even the most controversial reporting is meaningful and beneficial in a democratic exchange of ideas. Such a program advances the citizenship mission of the school system through active student participation, and engages all community segments in the learning process. Democracy stagnates when ideas are not discussed openly.
5. Encourage balance in student media content through the use of complete, accurate and thorough information with access to diverse sources.
Students: Report complete, thorough and accurate information, including a variety of diverse perspectives.
Presenting information thoroughly, completely and accurately, in perspective, within a school and its surrounding community is essential to the exchange of ideas in the student media, and hence in a democratic society. Students research stories, using relevant, credible sources, live and non-live. Further, student journalists do not ignore any segment of the school or community population who might bring relevant information to the story. Student journalists must have access to reliable and relevant resources, including school records and proceedings open by law to the public. By reporting using this process, student journalists complete the growing and important roles of verification and synthesis of information.
Advisers: Empower students to produce complete, accurate and thorough media using diverse sources.
Successful media content relies on nuts and bolts: correctly spelled names, properly identified people and accurate facts and figures. But that is only the start. Through research, including use of credible websites, and through interviews, student reporters gather information to reflect multiple perspectives. Student journalists must have access to reliable and relevant resources, including school records and proceedings open by law to the public. Students also must learn to practice the expanded media roles of verification and synthesis as they make final decisions of content for their media. The responsible adviser will enable students to make the best decisions by providing them with access to the best equipment, using the best skills.
Administrators: Endorse responsibility in student media content through the use of complete, accurate and thorough information from diverse sources.
Journalism’s first loyalty is to its citizens. And providing accurate information is the cornerstone for creating an informed and democratic community. But accuracy without perspective is not enough. Although others can more quickly spread information, scholastic journalism must take on the expanded roles of verification and synthesis, placing information in perspective. Successful student media content rely on nuts and bolts: correctly spelled names, properly identified people and accurate facts and figures, but must do so much more. Student reporters gather information to reflect multiple perspectives through research, including use of credible websites, and access to sources. Student journalists must have access to reliable and relevant resources, including school records and proceedings open by law to the public. Such journalism programs empower student media to practice journalism consistent with the highest and most ethical professional standards.
6. Produce media that report information in context, visually and verbally, to enhance comprehension and greater good for all communities.
Students: Produce media content in verbal and visual context.
Empowered students produce journalistic media with visually appealing, clear and concise elements in context and perspective that allow audiences to appreciate, comprehend and act on information. Student journalists will enable audiences to differentiate the important from the mundane, and will develop news in proportion and significance. Such programs also increase audience interdependency and involvement, demonstrating the fact journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens of its various communities.
Advisers: Empower student media to package information in context, enhancing comprehension for all communities.
Student journalists need to write and edit clear, concise and accurate articles, scripts and related text; to create strong photos, videos and illustrations to accurately convey the content’s message; and to package these elements in a way that maintains comprehension of the information. Advisers provide access to updated approaches and materials so students can synthesize and verify information, demonstrating that journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens of its various communities.
Administrators: Enable student media to report information in context, visually and verbally, enhancing audience comprehension and understanding.
Because today’s audiences initially scan rather than read, first impressions are important in perceiving the complete story. Therefore, the ability to write and edit clear, concise and accurate articles, scripts and related text; to create strong photos, videos and illustrations to accurately convey the content’s message; and to package these elements in a way that maintains the completeness of the information is crucial to student media. Audiences must believe they are receiving information so they can act with confidence.
Scholastic journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens of the school’s various communities, and only responsible student media, publishing verified and complete information, in context, can fulfill that goal.