Risqué content can quickly become risky for student journalists. A few bleep-worthy words or a more-than-suggestive sex column can earn editors and reporters anything from an inbox flooded with angry emails to an earful from school officials to threats to the publication itself. So how to handle it? Students and advisers dished on the agony and ecstasy of pushing the limits in campus journalism.
Recent court decisions and legislative battles have outlined a murky forecast for the applicability of sunshine laws to state school board associations. Actions in Iowa, as well as South Carolina and New Jersey, have muddied the waters when it comes to just how transparent these organizations are required to be and whether they do, indeed, qualify as public entities.
Teachers have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else — so long as they are not speaking as representatives of the school or in a school setting. But if they’re within school walls, or even just acting as an employee of the school, their speech can be – and often is – limited.
School searches and seizures of students’ cell phones are becoming increasingly common. The confiscation of phones is of special concern to student journalists, because “smart” phones are becoming the Swiss Army knife of newsgathering, capable of shooting photos and video, recording interviews, and holding endless virtual pages of notes.
Accreditation reports are like a snapshot of everything that is going on at the institution, from its financial stability to the quality of teaching, and these reports can provide leads to pursue about where the institution is heading and how it is measuring up against comparable schools.
This is journalism’s new reality – the reality that students are not the future of journalism, but the present. Even more than they realize, readers are dependent on students as front-line newsgatherers, telling essential stories that have nothing to do with keggers and sorority rush.
Mike Hiestand is leaving the SPLC at the end of the 2011-12 school year to devote full-time to some exciting ventures that he and his brother, Dan, have been developing.
Student journalists have heard doomsday predictions of print journalism’s demise for years now as professional newspapers are continually being forced to adapt to a changing industry climate or shut off the presses for good. Still, experts say college media generally are not experiencing the same degree of gloom and doom as their professional brethren.
Entering an interview with an open mind and broad agenda can lead to untold stories. One writer at the University of Virginia reflected on the school’s history and its perception as an institution catering to southern gentlemen – perhaps even prejudicially so. He wondered if LGBT communities felt those stigmas and stereotypes, a question that led to the series “Gay at UVA.”
The ethics of crime reporting are slippery, subjective and hard to define. Few stories have more at stake than those that deal with life and death, guilt and innocence. The decision-making — from how to word allegations to what information to include or exclude in a crime blotter item — is something that requires ethical discussion and dissection.