Differences between law and ethics

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“Student media are designated public forums, and free from censorship and advance approval of content. Because content and funding are unrelated, and because the role of adviser does not include advance review of content, student media are free to develop editorial policies and news coverage with the understanding that students and student organizations speak only for themselves. Administrators, faculty, staff or other agents shall not consider the student media’s content when making decisions regarding the media’s funding or faculty adviser.”

                                   — Society of Professional Journalists’ Campus Media Statement

Laws indicate what journalists must do while ethics indicate what they should do.

Rooted in ethics, responsible and free journalism adheres to applicable laws and operates using professional standards to enhance student media’s reach and impact.

Journalism, truly the cornerstone of democracy, starts at the scholastic media level, where students learn the legal and ethical implications of free media that make the United States unique among nations.

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The First Amendment and student media

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The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech and press freedom of all Americans, including students in school. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear these rights are not unlimited, it has also affirmed neither “students [nor] teachers shed their Constitutional rights to freedom of expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

In fact, free expression has long been regarded as the foundation of U.S. democracy. Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best: “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

The first direct experience most Americans have with press freedom, and the censorship that limits it, begins when they are in school working on student media. That’s why journalism educators, judges and First Amendment advocates have urged schools to support and foster student free expression because it is key to persuading young people “that our Constitution is a living reality, not [just] parchment preserved under glass.

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Hiring the qualified adviser

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Selecting the best candidate to advise a student media program involves a range of considerations. Finding journalism teachers with the necessary background and training helps to ensure students will have the best knowledge and skills to produce quality products. Those products are created for an outside audience rather than just teacher assessment within the classroom.

Teachers with the knowledge who know how to create excellent publications help students be responsible staff members — ones operating with accuracy, truth and integrity

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Journalism Educator standards

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Teaching secondary school journalism requires a broad range of knowledge and performance abilities. Journalism courses, frequently based in a school’s English department, go beyond what most English or language arts curriculum requires. Therefore, these standards reflect a need for skill in teaching storytelling, writing, listening, speaking, researching and reporting, leadership, collaboration, media law and ethics, fiscal responsibility and multimedia production. Mastery of these skills helps teachers prepare their students to become knowledgeable media producers and consumers essential to our democracy while using critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Exemplary journalism educators engage students using the best strategies in communication, instruction, management, motivation and evaluation. The ever-changing nature of media demands journalism educators keep pace with technology and pedagogy. Finally, such journalism educators seek growth through deliberate reflection, both individually and in professional learning communities

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