Back to School Checklist: Evaluating your staff’s ‘media-law radar’

Basic knowledge of the law continues to be an ever-growing part of the skill set required of all journalists, including students.

One fairly quick — and mostly painless/sometimes entertaining — way to check how much your students/staff know about media law as they head back to the newsroom is to direct them to the SPLC’s Test Your Knowledge of Student Media Law quiz series. Created with funding help from the Newspaper Association of America, our quizzes are one of our most popular Web resources.

In about 30 minutes, students are both quizzed and run through scenarios — many based on real-life situations for which students frequently seek our help  — that should help them prepare for the bulk of legal issues they are likely to encounter this school year. And while they’re not going to become media-law experts in a half-hour’s time, the experience should activate their legal radar enough to alert them to problems of which they might not even be aware.

We still hope and strongly suggest that a staff devote at least a few classroom periods to a more thorough discussion of media-law topics.  To help with that, we have designed a number of Media-Law Classroom Presentations that teachers or editors can use to talk about censorship, libel, privacy, copyright and other common legal topics. In the meantime, our online quizzes should provide a jump-start.