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Where have the leaders gone?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2010 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Judging newspaper entries this spring, I noticed a distinct lack of unsigned staff editorials. In some cases this seemed to be mirrored by a lack of depth or extended feature reporting.

If there were editorials, a significant number were not calls to action or statements of leadership on events or issues.

In other words, the leadership function seemed to be either distinctly limited or completely lacking.

Leadership can come from reporting or through editorial statements. When either seems to be missing, we have to ask why:

• Is it censorship or fear of censorship that limits substantive or thorough reporting and editorials?
• Is it because columns offer more “name” recognition? Are news and substantive reporting not in vogue?
• Is it the belief editorials are passé and have no real power to sway,  that depth and extended reporting is not popular in a culture of affirmation?
• Is it inexperienced advisers who don’t fully understand the leadership role of student media?
• Is it some other reason?
• Is it worth our concern?

I hope someone can shed some light on what seems to be a lack of editorials and a lack of issues reporting.

In 1947 the Hutchins Commission report called for more investigative reporting (remember studying the media’s performance in the early McCarthy era) and more social responsibility, reporting that went beyond the surface.

Some journalists refer to reporting beyond the surface as the candle theory of journalism — bringing light.  Surface reporting exhibited in the McCarthy era might be termed the mirror theory of journalism — reporting what we see in front of us.

Perhaps we need to find out why editorials and the resulting editorial leadership seem to be missing, why reporting beyond surface events seems to be absent or at least on the decline.

It might be time to reinvigorate the Hutchins movement and apply it to scholastic media. It’s a time of change in media as print seemingly fades and digital media explodes, especially at the scholastic levels. (See Part 2 for a look at the models we might be creating)

After all, even mirrors require some light to be effectively useful.

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The importance of staff edits:
critical thinking, leadership QT 38

Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 in Blog, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Given all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to see why writing an unsigned staff editorial might seem a lower priority than getting the next edition to print or finishing that great feature on the new student body president.

But these editorials represent a unique and powerful opportunity for the board to be leaders in their school communities, and editors tempted to skip writing them should reconsider their priorities.

As overseers of all publication content, school news editors know more about what’s going on in their communities than just about anyone else in the school. As they read each article and listen with a journalist’s ear to what’s happening around them day-to-day, they can see patterns and problems most people cannot, adults included.

Coming together as a group, they can choose meaningful topics to address and think critically about what they want to say about those topics as a board. Once they reach a majority opinion on the topic, they can write collaboratively on a Google doc or take turns writing the first draft and then edit that draft into a clear, concise final piece.

Because staff editorials are unsigned, they carry more weight than a single writer’s opinion and may have greater impact. Well researched, authoritative editorials are powerful tools for change in a school community, and editorial boards should make them a priority.

Guideline:

Student journalists should act as candles lighting issues within their communities as well as mirrors reflecting current events. One way to enact this leadership is for the student editorial board to write regular unsigned editorials to advocate, solve a problem or commend. Editorial opinions should be clearly labeled and separate from the news section and should not affect objective news coverage.

Social Media Post

Does your student editorial board write regular unsigned editorials? If not, they are missing an opportunity to lead.

Reasoning/suggestions: Student media show leadership in many ways, and one of the most traditional is through concise, focused and authoritative statements of well-argued and supported opinion which represent the institutional voice of the student media. These editorials are a unique opportunity for student leaders to give voice to student perspectives on important topics. Editorial board members who take this process seriously and write consistently can advocate for change, serve as calls to action or commend positive conditions. Because staff editorials are unsigned, they carry more weight than a single writer’s opinion and may have greater impact.

Resources:

Quick Hit: Picking a topic for staff editorials, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Quick Hit: Staff editorial process, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Mirror, mirror on the wall,” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Where have the leaders gone?” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Editorials under attack, Student Press Law Center

Explained: why newspapers endorse presidential candidates, Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle

They need the freedom to make mistakes, too,” Lindsay Coppens, JEA Press Rights Committee

Reading newspapers: Editorial and opinion pieces, Learn NC

Video: How to write an editorial, New York Times

Writing an Editorial, Alan Weintraut

 

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Journalistic credibility – gone with LeBron

Posted by on Jul 9, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

I know this is not directly related to scholastic journalism, but in a way it is.

As scholastic media – online and print – strive to find models of what they want to emulate, they of course look to the commercial media (I have reasons for not grouping them all under the guise of professional).

This post by David Zurawik makes excellent observations about some forms of  “journalism,” most recently exemplified by ESPN’s LeBron James infotainment last night.

I am not recommending this because I am from Cleveland but because the author makes relevant points about journalistic credibility.

LeBron is gone; let’s not send journalistic integrity with him, at any level.

Hype is not what scholastic journalism needs; real leadership through digging and reporting is.

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The process of deciding staff editorials QT41

Posted by on Jan 7, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Quick Tips, Teaching | 0 comments

Keys to effective editorials include focused positions, credible sources and meaningful topics. If the topic is focused on issues and problems, strong editorials include a call to action or possible solutions.

Ideas for topics should be discussed throughout the deadline cycle. The editorial board will select the topic, and a member of the editorial board will write it as an unsigned editorial.

In general, student reporters should consider reinforcing the importance of key stories with local impact and importance by preparing staff editorials that take a definitive stance.

Editorials are least effective and meaningful when they approach topics other than the  mundane.

Key points/action

Staff editorials, the position of the student media on topics of importance and interest, require thorough planning and credible sources and arguments for support.

Student media show leadership in many ways, and one of the most traditional is through concise, focused and authoritative statements of well argued and supported opinion that represents the institutional voice of the student media.

Stance

In general, student reporters should consider reinforcing the importance of key stories with local impact and importance by preparing staff editorials that take a definitive stance. Editorials are least effective and meaningful when they approach topics other than the mundane.

Such leadership pieces should not be exclusively negative or positive. They can offer solutions, alternatives, commendation and/or points for compromise. They should make statements and not ask questions.

Reasoning/suggestions:

Keys to effective editorials include focused positions, credible sources and meaningful topics. If the topic is focused on issues and problems, strong editorials include a call to action.

Ideas for topics should be discussed throughout the deadline cycle. The editorial board will select the topic, and a member of the editorial board will write it as an unsigned editorial.

Staffs may set their own policies, but the staff editorial need not reflect the views of all editorial board members.

Editorials can still play an important role in today’s media.

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

Resources:

Quick Hit: Picking a topic for staff editorials, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Quick Hit: Importance of staff editorials, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Mirror, mirror on the wall,” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Where have the leaders gone?” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Editorials under attack, Student Press Law Center

They need the freedom to make mistakes, too,” Lindsay Coppens, JEA Press Rights Committee

Explained: why newspapers endorse presidential candidates, Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle

Reading newspapers: Editorial and opinion pieces, Learn NC

Video: How to write an editorial, New York Times

Writing an Editorial, Alan Weintraut

 

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Choosing topics for editorials QT37

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Blog, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

The best and most effective staff editorials are those that tackle an important topic and then give audiences a reason and a way to address it.

Staff editorials should concern local or localized issues for the student body and/or school community. They may advocate, solve a problem or commend.

Guidelines

Staff editorials should concern local or localized issues for the student body and/or school community. They may advocate, solve a problem or commend.

Question: What are best practices in choosing staff editorial materials?

Key points/action: The best and most effective staff editorials are those that tackle an important topic and then give audiences a reason and a way to address it.

Stance: Develop criteria for choosing editorial topics that can include:

  • A topic that can make a difference
  • A topic for which there can be reliable and credible sources
  • A topic audiences can address and create change
  • A topic that has reported content to provide background
  • A topic for which the reporter(s) can find first-hand information and sources

Reasoning/suggestions:

Remember, editorials are concise, supported and take a stand. Also to note: staff editorials are unsigned because they represent the entire publication or media.


Resources:

Quick Hit: Staff editorial process, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Quick Hit: Importance of staff editorials, JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Mirror, mirror on the wall,” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Where have the leaders gone?” JEA Scholastic Press Committee

Editorials under attack, Student Press Law Center

They need the freedom to make mistakes, too,” Lindsay Coppens, JEA Press Rights Committee

Explained: why newspapers endorse presidential candidates, Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle

Reading newspapers: Editorial and opinion pieces, Learn NC

Video: How to write an editorial, New York Times

Writing an Editorial, Alan Weintraut

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

 

 

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