Social Role: Week 5

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only one you have.”
-Emile Chartier

These days, if you go by social media comments, it seems like every news story ever published is controversial. So what does that mean – are there stories that should never be published? Issue that should never be addressed? And how do those ideas relate to scholastic journalism?

In my opinion, there is no topic – either in professional journalism or scholastic journalism – that should be considered as off limits. Any topic has merit, if the reporter puts in the necessary work and reports accurately, ethically and objectively.

In order for the free press to stay a free press, journalists must continue – or even improve on – their reporting of the controversial issues. They should always strive to provide all of the information necessary for their audience to make critical judgments and form their own opinions about the issue.


Social Role: Week 4

These days, with a 24/7 news cycle and social media posts galore, it seems harder and harder for journalists to stick to their roots – to continue practicing journalism of verification. Instead, everyone is in a rush to get to the story first – even if that means compromising accuracy.

So, how do we teach our students, the journalists of tomorrow, how to sift through the rumors and the ‘fake news’ to report accurately, and timely, information?

We teach them to verify. They should be constantly verifying, and synthesizing, the information they gather, in order to present only the most accurate and reliable facts possible.

For this week’s readings and assignments, I found the “Accuracy Checklist” assignment the most valuable. In Kovach & Rosentiel’s 2014 adaptation of “The Elements of Journalism,” they give a list of steps for journalists to take in order to make sure their reporting is as accurate as possible.

I think that such a checklist, posted in a journalism classroom for all to see, is a great addition to the revising and editing stage of publishing scholastic news stories.

Here are the checklist features, in my own words:

  1. Is the lead of the story sufficiently supported?
  2. Is the required background material complete?
  3. Are all stakeholders identified, and have both sides been given a chance to talk?
  4. Does the story pick sides or make subtle value judgments?
  5. Will some people like this story more than they should?
  6. Have you attributed all the information to make sure it is correct?
  7. Do you have multiple sources for controversial facts?
  8. Do the facts back up the premise of your story?
  9. Did you double-check quotes to make sure they are accurate and in context?
  10. Have you checked websites, phone numbers and names?
  11. Have you checked ages, addresses and titles?
  12. Do time references in your story include day and date?

Similarly, I think teaching ALL students these steps, as news consumers, could greatly enhance the critical thinking and skepticism by which students analyze their news stories. Many adults do not read news stories critically, but if we teach the next generation to *really* look at what they’re reading, and what motives might be behind it, perhaps we can bring back the days of valued investigative journalism.

Social Role: Week 3

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is afraid of its people.”
-John F. Kennedy, 1962


Who do media outlets report to? Who should they cater to?

In a democracy like ours, it is essential for the news outlet to focus on its readers as their primary concern. To uphold the watchdog role of journalism, news outlets mustn’t care what government officials or even private corporations think of their coverage.

Unfortunately, after years of declining reader subscriptions, there is a growing demand on news outlets to cater to their advertisers regarding content. News outlets simply can’t be effective and serve their role of protecting democracy if they’re simultaneously pandering to what their advertisers care about.

Instead, journalists must report the truth – and that must be the whole truth – to ensure they are informing their readership of the important issues, and exposing truths in government that can have an effect on those readers.

Why multimedia journalism matters

As a teacher candidate in my undergraduate program at the University of Texas at Tyler, I was required to create a teacher portfolio. The portfolio, for all the importance my instructors gave it, could seemingly land my dream job, if only I could manage to make it swoon-worthy enough.

And so, like any good English/Language Arts student in the early 2000s, I felt like I needed a good quote on my portfolio’s title page. One that could, in 25 words or less, sum up the entirety of my passion for teaching.

This is what I chose: “The future does not fit in the containers of the past.” I don’t remember for sure, but I probably found the quote after a Google search for ‘great educational quotes,’ or something to that effect. The quote came from the then Chief Executive Officer of VivaKi, Rishad Tobaccowala.

As a so-called millennial, I had always felt fairly tech-savvy. My middle school days were filled with mandatory keyboarding classes and playing Oregon Trail on our weekly trip to the one school-wide computer lab. In high school, we learned basic HTML coding and created our own web pages. I took to technology quickly and wished that we had even more technology at our small, rural high school.

And so, as a newly-certified teacher hoping to find a full-time teaching position – teaching only journalism and publications – I felt like technology was one thing education was lacking. Especially education in rural East Texas, where I still lived and hoped to work.

But, journalism positions are hard to come by in that particular geographic area, and although I did find a journalism job, the district I ended up in certainly didn’t fulfill my ‘educational technology’ dreams. Instead, all cell phones were banned for students my first year in the classroom. The phones would be confiscated, and the students fined, if teachers could even see a phone in a student’s pocket or in their backpack. In my first day of teacher inservice, I found myself in a room with my coworkers, being taught how to create PowerPoint presentations. It was August 2010.

To say I was frustrated with the environment would be an understatement, but I made it work. I may have covertly broken a few (or a lot) of school rules, but I tried to implement true technology into my journalism classroom as often as possible. I felt strongly, just as I did in high school and college, that technology can make life easier, better and more efficient. And, even though there are dangers and pitfalls to technology, the evolution is one which should be embraced more – especially by educators charged with preparing young people for their lives after graduation.

Even though I am not in the classroom this year, I still work with other journalism teachers daily, and I always encourage them to implement technology as much as possible, too.

For student journalists, embracing technology and learning convergent and multimedia journalism is essential for their futures, especially if they plan on becoming journalists themselves. Even for those who plan on different career paths, knowing the skills of multimedia journalism and understanding how the related processes work, can be a tremendous help to them as news consumers.

For this course, I hope to improve my knowledge of photography, since I am almost entirely self-taught. I’ve had a few short courses in video reporting and editing, such as at the ASNE Reynolds Journalism Institute during the summer of 2016 – but I don’t feel like I know enough about it to really teach it well to my students, or to other people’s students.

I hope to learn enough this semester to be able to comfortably explain the basics of multimedia journalism to students, and to get enough of a foundation that I can continue to build on it after the course is complete.

Social Role: Week 2

“The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot,” -Katharine Graham

When people say that journalists must tell the truth – what does that mean? Surely, the information they present must be accurate. But, what about choosing what information to present in the first place? And choosing what information not to present?
Well, that makes up the truth, too. We’ve heard the old adage that we should tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and it rings true for journalism, too.

But what IS the whole truth? And how can we teach our student journalists how to tell it?

These days, it’s hard to know what people want from the news – they don’t seem to really understand it themselves. But ultimately, it is the news outlets themselves that set the agenda of what will be talked about. And sometimes, that means presenting the news that no one wants to hear. l.

Walter Lippmann said, “News and truth are not the same thing…The function of news is to signalize an event. The function or truth is to bring to light hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and make a picture of reality upon which men can act.”

I don’t believe this is any different now, in either scholastic media or professional media. Anyone charged with presenting the news must not only be a mirror, reflecting the current events and informing readers about it, but should also be a candle – illuminating the hidden issues and showing people how they can act on them.