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Protocol for Free & Responsible Student News Media

June 18, 2010

The Protocol represents a logical next step for the Civic Program in our work to further the cause of civic education in Illinois. In 2009, we released the Illinois Civic Blueprint, a document detailing six promising approaches to teaching civic education in high schools across the state. Among the approaches is making student activities available that encourage greater involvement and connection to school and community. The link between certain extracurricular activities and lifelong civic engagement is well documented, particularly those organizations that pursue a collective outcome, such as student government, youth service clubs and, perhaps most prominently, scholastic news media.Another approach emphasizes authentic student voice in school governance. This entails student opportunities to discuss school policies, present viewpoints, and have a respectful hearing of their concerns. It also includes information about student rights and responsibilities in school, and established processes for students to air their grievances, including issues of fairness. The Protocol that follows embodies these principles and more. The Knight Foundation's annual survey of student appreciation for the First Amendment shows that students are much more likely than their teachers or administrators to take for granted the First Amendment's five freedoms. However, students enrolled in classes with First Amendment or media content show higher levels of support for freedom of expression. Additionally, when First Amendment freedoms are rooted in their daily lives, students are much more likely to protect not only their own rights but also the rights of others. Such a reciprocal commitment is the best way to preserve First Amendment freedoms.All too often student media fall victim to the inevitable tensions associated with schools' perpetual balancing act between freedom and structure. Lack of structure invites sloppy journalism that reflects poorly upon the school it represents. Lack of freedom fails to prepare tomorrow's journalists for professional responsibilities and obligations and tomorrow's citizens for news consumption critical to informed democratic participation.The Protocol is our best effort to find balance between freedom and structure. It is a consensus document that student journalists, their advisers and school administrators can turn to repeatedly during times of both harmony and discord. When a controversy surrounding a student newspaper gathers headlines in the professional press or ends up in the courtroom, all parties lose. On the other hand, when adversaries become allies, when contentious issues are resolved through consensus, and when student journalists practice their craft with the proper mix of freedom and structure, all parties win.

Journalism, News, and Information; Media Access and Policy

Current State of Military-Media Relations: Where Do We Go From Here?

February 3, 2010

In fall 2006, approximately 140,000 American troops were deployed in Iraq, compared with about 20,000 in Afghanistan. By September 2009, there were 65,000 U.S. troops and nearly 40,000 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, with 124,000 still in Iraq. During those same three years, reporters and the news organizations that they represent also have confronted enormous change. Print and broadcast news outlets are struggling both to adapt to and compete with online media. Although people are reading newspapers in record numbers, many are reading them online, a factor that has toppled the traditional advertising model. Plummeting ad revenues have led to layoffs, slashed budgets and closures. Meanwhile, broadcast news organizations seem to compete for audience by increasing the number of shouting matches rather than nuanced, unbiased coverage of important stories.A few figures reveal the changing landscape. A 2009 report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that the Internet surpassed newspapers as a main source of news for those surveyed, growing from about 10 percent in 2001 to 40 percent in 2008. During the same period, newspapers dropped as a main source of news from more than 40 percent in 2001 to 35 percent in 2008. While television still leads the pack, it has fallen from a peak of 90 percent in 1996 to 70 percent in 2008. (See chart"Main News Sources for Americans," page 7.) "Viewership of serious news programs in broadcast is turning down sharply, so broadcasters are turning even more toward less serious news," said conference moderator Ralph Begleiter, director of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware.This strategy has had a major impact on coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan. "Let's face it, most Americans could care less whether the lights are on in Baghdad today or whether young women in Afghanistan are going to school," said Begleiter. "Most Americans just want to know when our boys are coming home." Against the background of these changes in the news business are two wars that are extremely complicated to cover, Afghanistan even more than Iraq. How does the military deal with reporters who are bloggers with strong points of view and no organizational affiliation? "You're dealing with irregular media as well as irregular warfare," said Begleiter. This puts an added strain on an adversarial relationship. Irreconcilable differences exist between the way the military and media carry out the same mission: to support the nation. "Many people inthe military believe that the way to be a team player is to support winning the war, which supports the nation. It's a logical conclusion."The media, on the other hand, play the role of devil's advocate in monitoring institutions like the military and the government. "Their purpose in life is to pick at the scab, to find out where the problem is. Of course, the ultimate goal is to help fix the problem," Begleiter said.

Journalism, News, and Information

The Health of Ethnic Media: Needs and Opportunities

December 30, 2008

The ethnic news media (ranging the gamut from newspapers to broadcast programs to online ventures) have experienced rapid growth in tandem with the changing nature of the nation's demographics, yet considerable anecdotal evidence shows that many of these outlets struggle with a variety of serious problems, ranging from poor journalistic standards to sheer survivability as businesses. The study was designed to provide an assessment of the sector's health and resiliency and to identify threats to success, primarilyfrom the perspective of its staff and leaders.

Freedom of Speech and the Press in the Information Age

September 25, 2008

On June 26 -- 27, 2008, more than 130 social studies teachers from across the United States, its territories, Cuba and even Iraq gathered at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for the James Madison Symposium conducted in partnership with the McCormick Freedom Museum. The symposium was titled Freedom of Speech and Press in the Information Age and explored four related topics under this thematic umbrella including free speech on the Internet and blogs, as well as in the traditional press; the Fairness Doctrine; press coverage during wartime; and the free speech implications of campaign finance reform.The two-day conference was organized around four separate panels based on the aforementioned subjects, and also included an evening banquet with a keynote address by C-SPAN President and CEO Brian Lamb, as well as a morning working session on lesson plans to address the four central topics.This report presents a summary of these deliberations in chapter form, with each chapter followed by a lesson plan rooted in the conference proceedings. The hope is that the summaries of the panel discussions help to contextualize the topics addressed and provide solid leads for further examination of these issues. They frame the embedded lesson plans, each designed for use in social studies classes at the secondary level.

Chicago Snapshot 2005-2006: A Year of School Newspapers and Advisers

June 1, 2006

We took a snapshot of high school newspapers and their advisers in Chicago last year, hoping for a glimpse into the future of student journalism in our city. We surveyed all of the city's high schools, but we focused on four: Morgan Park High School, North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School, Chicago International Charter School Northtown Academy and Northside College Preparatory High School. The four are a diverse but representative group in many ways, as you'll see. We found a first-year adviser whose journalism class required current events quizzes and "First Amendment Fridays" - and an experienced adviser who has embraced teaching journalism over English, his original field, because he likes journalism's sense of purpose. We found a strong student-run newspaper that also has established itself online - and a group of students who, with the help of a community newspaper, learned the joys of being published and making money in journalism. So we found good news. We also found change: Advisers at the two charter schools, both new last year, left their positions at the end of 2005-06. That happens altogether too often in Chicago schools, whether they're public, private or charter. And we found disturbing news: Our survey of advisers and journalism teachers found that, when compared to 10 years ago, school newspapers publish less frequently,advisers have less teaching and advising experience, and principals are more likely to review the paper before it's published. A larger percentage of public schools are completely without newspapers now than was the case in 1996. What does the future hold? At best, we found, it's a mixed outlook.

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