Student Journalists Challenge Traditional Industry Ethics – Poynter


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I returned to school this fall and started a part-time Masters in Journalism Education at Kent State University. My first class focuses on teaching journalism ethics, so I’ve spent the last few months looking at ethical standards in journalism and thinking about how they apply to student journalism.

My class is mainly composed of professional journalists and teacher / student media advisers. The testimonies of counselors during our discussions reminded me that student journalists face ethical issues that professionals rarely have to consider.

Because they are students, they are all part of the communities they cover. Especially in high schools and smaller colleges, it’s hard to really separate yourself from the people you write about. The basketball coach you interview may also be your math teacher, and the student body president you are writing a profile about may be your friend’s older sister.

While navigating these dilemmas, student journalists of a socially conscious generation are also pushing back some of the industry’s long-standing standards for objectivity, neutrality, and perceptions of bias. As students rally nationwide for March for Our Lives protests against gun violence, newspaper co-editor Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that “journalism is a form of activism “.

Students ask the following question: Can journalists write about issues in which they have a personal interest? How do we separate journalism and advocacy – or should we? How do social networks intervene in all of this? Do personal identities make journalists biased or improve their work?

These are discussions that also take place in the professional world, especially around race, police violence and demonstrations. What sets student newsrooms apart is one of their greatest strengths: their adaptability. When your staff is completely renewed every four years, there is less pressure to do things the way they always have been. There is more room for radical changes, new policies and experimentation.

This is the start of The Lead’s series on the evolution of ethics in student journalism. Over the next month, we’ll hear from student journalists tell us how their newsrooms approach objectivity and other traditional ethical ideals. We will explore how to codify ethical guidelines for your staff. We will examine the sometimes blurred line between journalism and activism.

Are ethics still essential to student journalism? Absoutely. But the student journalists realized something the rest of the industry should keep in mind: the way the industry has traditionally viewed objectivity and neutrality benefits a select group of journalists and hurts many. others. It’s time to challenge the practices of our newsrooms as we would any other organization and find a better and more inclusive path.

Is journalism a form of activism? Many journalists cringe at the term and think it compromises their ability to report fairly, but there is a case to be made in favor of the idea, writes Danielle Tcholakian for Longreads. Journalists advocate transparency, accountability and truth, and their most compelling stories often lead to tangible change.

“We observe, but we stimulate and investigate too,” Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times told Tcholakian. “We sue when government officials don’t give us files; Past Supreme Court newspaper cases have won important First Amendment rights victories for Americans. We publish investigations when we discover wrongdoing, and we’re proud of the improvements these investigations make in the lives of millions of people. We will refuse the judges’ orders and go to jail to protect important sources. We organize to protect ourselves when we fear for our work. It all sounds like activism to me, even though reporters think the word carries a stigma. “

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