Journalism Ethics - Student FAQs

The following is a follow up note I sent to students answering their questions after our Journalism Ethics lesson.

Thank you guys so much today!  That was the first time I taught that lesson and I appreciate the feedback, especially about the First Amendment video.  The information in that video is important to understand because The Freedom of the Press rights carry a huge responsibility which, in turn, is why the Code of Ethics is so important. I will try to find a better way to present that.

You had some excellent questions. I have provided answers and some links below to help you learn more about the questions you had.   

Is professional journalism a dying field?
This might be an interesting story for The Colonel to cover.  Survey students and ask where they get their news (Twitter, friends, SnapChat?) and how well-informed they think they are or care to be.  And why it is important to care?

Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News? By Bill Keller OCT. 27, 2013
Much of the speculation about the future of news focuses on the business model: How will we generate the revenues to pay the people who gather and disseminate the news? But the disruptive power of the Internet raises other profound questions about what journalism is becoming, about its essential character and values. This week’s column is a conversation — a (mostly) civil argument — between two very different views of how journalism fulfills its mission.

News and Guts seeks to build off the best traditions of 20th Century journalism, while taking advantage of the exciting world of 21st Century digital distribution and social media. Recognizing that the traditional silos of content between video, audio, and text are rapidly dissolving, New and Guts is developing projects that take full advantage of this new media landscape.

At what point does online “investigation” become an invasion of personal privacy?  
Another good idea for an article in The Colonel.  Find out if you can increase your privacy on Google.  If so, teach students how to hide their homes from Google maps, remove their names from Google search.  I use Google because well, it does seem to be  “The Circle”  (check out movie trailer here.  Book available in the library!)

How do you get in to professional journalism?

Is the press really free?  
This is an interesting question and is a lesson unto itself.  Yes, the Bill of Rights ensures a Free Press.
Committee to Protect Journalists - journalists are killed in other countries, even today!
CPJ defends the rights of journalists all over the world to work freely. We also focus on upholding the right of the press in the United States to report the news without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Our staff reports on press freedom violations, offers safety advice, and advocates on behalf of journalists everywhere.

HOWEVER, some may say the press is not truly free because  major news outlets are all owned by major corporations and some of those corporations can be traced to an individual or individuals who are partisan and some/all of the programming may reflect that bias or slanting of stories.  

The Media Ownership Chart is REALLY interesting….
Did you know that Viacom owns 160 cable channels that reach more than 600 million people worldwide?
Or that the Hearst Corporation owns 31 television stations and 20 U.S. magazines?
Or that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns (seemingly) everything? The company’s holdings include the FOX Broadcasting Company, FOX News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Daily News, HarperCollins Publishers, 20th Century Fox and the scandal-plagued News International. (And that’s not all.)
To learn more about which companies are currently dominating the U.S. media landscape, check out our updated media ownership chart. We’ve got information on all the big players in TV and radio; cable and telecommunications; print and the Internet. It’s not a pretty picture … and it shows the dramatic impact mergers and acquisitions have had in the last few decades.
Should you still report the truth if it harms the reputation of the newsmagazine/newspaper you're writing for?
Great question.  Here is what I think, if you try to run a story that harms the reputation of the news agency you work for, they will either scrap the story and/or fire you.   It may be about HOW your report the story, perhaps working with a journalist from another agency as an anonymous source (if you still want to work for that news agency).
Please stop in or email me if you have more questions or if I can help in any way!

-Mrs. K. Smith

Research Tools to Toggle Between

Today's research requires that we use a variety of applications, programs and tools. 
Knowing what tools to use and toggle between can be confusing.  I created this graphic to help students remember what they should be using during each step of research.

Testimonial Letter for CT Raised Bill 949

On March 6, 2017 the Joint Committee on Education scheduled a hearing on Connecticut Senator Terry Gerratana's Proposed Bill 14, now Raised Bill 949.
The bill states:
There is established a Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety and Media Literacy Advisory Council within the Department of Education. The council shall consist of teachers, librarians, representatives from parent-teacher organizations and persons with expertise in digital citizenship, Internet safety and media literacy, as appointed by the Commissioner of Education. The council shall provide recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding (1) best practices relating to instruction in digital citizenship, Internet safety and media literacy, and (2) methods of instructing students to safely, ethically, responsibly and effectively use media and technology resources.

The following is the testimonial letter I submitted in support of the bill. Please feel free to use for ideas if you find yourself writing to support a similar bill in your own state.

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with great enthusiasm and interest that I am writing this letter in support of Raised Bill 949 “to create an advisory council within the Department of Education relating to digital citizenship, Internet safety and media literacy.”

I am the school library media specialist at both Ledyard High School and Ledyard Middle School. Prior to this, I was the elementary school library media specialist at Ledyard Center School and Gallup Hill School for 19 years.  I have worked with students grades K-12 and I have been a part of the introduction and advancement of technologies in our schools.  My job has changed a lot in the past 20 years. While I continue to teach research, information literacy, and media production skills, now those skills are mostly digital.  Digital citizenship, Internet safety and media literacy are modern research skills.  

I believe this council is advisory council is necessary for two reasons.  
First, students are being given devices in schools but are not receiving instruction about responsible use.  Teachers across the state need a uniform message regarding best practices related to the instruction in digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy.  The council’s plan to provide methods of instructing students to safely, ethically, responsibly, and effectively use media and technology resources will ensure students receive instructional guidance to learn and develop these important skills.  

Students must have opportunities to practice critical thinking skills, evaluating what they read, hear and see in the media.  Not only do students need to learn how to read and write in the traditional sense, they need to learn to read and write in the digital world.  Students must learn to use and remix digital media tools to demonstrate understanding and interpretation. As digital citizens, students must understand the power of connection and their personal responsibility to use that connection to make positive changes in the global community.

The second reason I believe this council is necessary is to address who is teaching these skills.  Classroom and subject area teachers have barely enough time to get through their own curriculums.  The council will need to address the elimination of certified school librarians from schools.  Budget reductions have forced cuts in school library programs across the state and the nation.  In my district of 6 schools we have gone from 5 to 2 certified school library media specialists.

If Raised Bill 949 is passed, I ask that the council keep in mind that Connecticut School Library Media Specialists 062 are certified teachers and are experts at digital, media and information skills.  If you suggest or mandate programs, I implore that you make certified school librarians a component.  

I believe Proposed Bill 949’s advisory council is vital to moving our educational system forward, better preparing our students to be educated consumers and curators of media. I would like to thank all who worked on Raised Bill 949.  If I can help now or in the future, please contact me.   


Kathleen Smith

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