Collaboration is at the core of scholastic journalism programs that achieve high standards of competency, ethics and community service.
The ability to collaborate effectively is particularly important in addressing controversies involving the student press. An inherent function of American journalism is to encourage diversity, which includes covering perspectives that may be disagreeable, unpopular and discomforting. While that function is essential to the democratic process, it also can cause headaches for principals who want to avoid any kind of conflict at school (outside of academic and sports competition, of course).
But schools are marketplaces for ideas, and controversial topics should be considered carefully rather than censored. To avoid controversy is to deny students opportunities to improve skills in conflict resolution, to appreciate minority voices, to modify attitudes based on new insights and to contribute to problem solving. The roots of American freedom were nurtured by controversy and conflict—both inherent attributes of democracy. The student press can be an instrument of civility when values, judgments and feelings collide. By amplifying student and community voices on important issues, the press helps people define problems, identify alternative solutions, reach common ground and fix things.
Protocol, an concept originally suggested by Bob Steele of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, is a structure that facilitates collaboration by providing procedures that inspire ethics, help build ideal partnerships and make consensus more attainable.