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“What did you do this summer?”

“What did you do this summer?”

It’s a common enough question for people who work in academia. Our annual cycle is different — our years start in September and end in May, and summer is our time to tackle everything that the “regular year” couldn’t hold. That may mean research, course 

Creativity and Time

Creativity and Time

It’s time to talk about time again. As soon as this video started, I could see its direction. The premise is straightforward and simple: given 10 seconds, a group of kids will draw the most obvious solution. Given 10 minutes, they will come up with 

“What do we do with a problem like Brian Williams?”

“What do we do with a problem like Brian Williams?”

If you’re hearing the nuns from The Sound of Music right now, I apologize. But the question remains valid. What do we do with a charming, likeable national news anchor who lied?

Many people have argued that his intent was good even if the lie was not, that it was an honest mistake even though he was suspended from NBC News for six months. Regardless, his integrity has taken a hit. And because of that hit, he should not return to national network news.

When I state this opinion, some people have suggested my take is too harsh. I generally come back with this hypothetical: Imagine a student plagiarizes a chunk of text for a paper. He intended to change it up, cast it in his own words, but forgot. He turns it in, and you catch it. Do you let him off because his intent wasn’t to plagiarize? Or do you maintain that academic dishonesty is academic dishonesty, and the penalty applies?

Remember that the networks use public airwaves — held in the public trust. While the FCC no longer operates under a public trusteeship model, it still requires that over-the-air broadcasters (like the local stations that affiliate with NBC) work in the public interest. These stations need to serve the nation and to the best of its ability — which means they need to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Let Williams go to the cable networks, which can afford to specialize. Let Williams go to the cable networks, which can balance entertainment and news. They may have a national audience, but they don’t serve a national audience.

Over-the-air broadcast stations have a higher responsibility. That responsibility means Williams doesn’t return.

If I could save time in a bottle…

If I could save time in a bottle…

If only I had more time… It seems like a lot of people I know say that — myself especially. If only I could find more time, then I could get “caught up.” More time would mean less stress, or higher quality work, or both. 

A letter to Angela

A letter to Angela

A recent post on PBS’s “EdShift” blog by Angela Washeck has caused a certain amount of buzz in the journalism education world. In her column, Washeck, a professional journalist, talks about her experience earning a teaching certificate in the State of Texas, with an eye 

Watching Neshaminy

Watching Neshaminy

I’ll be keeping an eye on The Playwickian during the coming school year.

For those unfamiliar, The Playwickian is the student newspaper for Neshaminy High School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This particular student newspaper is currently embroiled in a struggle with its school board over the use of the word “Redskins,” the nickname of the school’s athletic teams.

The students don’t want to use the word, calling it derogatory. The administration has told them they must.

There has been excellent coverage by the Student Press Law Center of the continuing controversy, including the latest move by the school board of passing a new student publication policy that limits student authority over their newspaper. That policy will likely face legal challenge given Pennsylvania’s state education code, which provides comprehensive protection to student speech

In that SPLC article, The Playwickian’s co-editor-in-chief Gillian McGoldrick is quoted as saying ““We’re definitely going to pursue it, it’s just a matter of how. We need to decide what our next step is going to be. We’re not just going to let this happen, we’re going to keep fighting it.”

And this is where I get curious. One challenge with serious student speech issues, like any serious First Amendment issue, is that they tend to drag on. Consider the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines decision – John and MaryBeth Tinker, along with Christopher Eckhardt, were suspended for wearing their armbands to school in December 1965. The U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed their right to do so without government reprisal was published in 1969.

Or more relevant to this situation – the Hazelwood Spectrum was censored in 1983, and the Supreme Court’s decision upholding that action was announced in 1988. The legal process takes time, and in that time, passionate student journalists graduate and move on. The students who take their places may not share in that enthusiasm for a free student press, or may be so used to administrator prior restraint that they choose not to fight it.

There’s no indication this is the case in Neshaminy – yet. The students appear strongly committed to their cause, and their adviser, Tara Huber, was named Journalism Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015 by the Pennsylvania School Press Association. The elements for success are present, but this next year will be crucial.

A common counterargument to the idea of free speech and press for high school students is a lack of maturity. If the students of Neshaminy High School can continue to uphold their values and support their right to continue to make smart, responsible editorial decisions, they will go a long way toward erasing that stereotype and forwarding the cause of student speech.

And for those students of The Playwickian:

Bake your own bread

Bake your own bread

Everyone should learn how to bake bread. Yes, this is relevant to this blog. About a year ago, I made the decision to stop purchasing store-made bread and starting making my own. At first it was novel, fun. I tried different recipes, played with different 

Define “inappropriate”

Define “inappropriate”

in·ap·pro·pri·ate – adjective \ˌi-nə-ˈprō-prē-ət\: not appropriate, unsuitable* I am breaking one of the rules on leads that I teach here — starting with some variation of “Webster’s dictionary defines…” is one of the older schticks out there, and it shows its age. But I thought 

“Click” goes the moral moment

“Click” goes the moral moment

Three seemingly unrelated tweets gave me pause today….

First, “Boston University independent student newspaper apologizes after making light of rape.” It seems that BU’s student newspaper’s police column had a habit of creating witty, pun-filled headlines for entries on assault, breaking and entering, and racially motivated vandalism. After one student called the newspaper out on its tendency to make light of serious crimes with real victims, the editors issued an apology and promised to change their ways. Evidently, it’s only funny until someone points out that it’s not.

But these are just kids, right? Adult kids, to be sure, but students nonetheless. We can expect more of our educators, correct? “Middle school principal plagiarizes Forbes column” suggests perhaps not. It’s a rough time for plagiarism and cheating in generally. Studies over the past few years have determined not only that more high schools students engage in some form of academic dishonesty, but that they don’t really see it as a moral or ethical issue. If their middle school principal doesn’t see a problem with lifting 12 lines from a Forbes column to introduce herself to the staff, if huge groups of teachers in Atlanta can change test scores (although to be fair, they’ve been caught and face fraud charges), then why not lift a few lines from Wikipedia to make that paper work?

My Twitter feed did offer up a ray of ethical sunshine today — from a British tabloid photographer. Yes, you read that right. If you’ve noted the date of this post, the world right now is holding its collective breath for the very pregnant Duchess of Cambridge (and if you aren’t, the Guardian has thoughtfully created an alternative online presence for those who believe there might be other news today). Jesal Parshotam was the photographer camped out at the hospital who saw the royal couple arrive and broke the news that the next royal was due to appear. Despite what I’m sure was a fair amount of photographic equipment, he had no image to share of the expectant couple. He explained:

“We had decided in advance we were not going to take a photo of her,” claims Parshotam. “I made that decision — she’s a woman in labour. I just wanted to photograph the commotion and convoy of cars. That was a personal decision we both made. To take a picture of her would have been over stepping the mark.”

Granted, the paparazzi and the royal family have not had a solid relationship, with good reason. Perhaps that’s what established the need to recognize “a mark.” Regardless, it was a good call. That last waddle into the hospital, gasping through labor pains and trying not to think about the next few hours is hardly a Kodak moment, especially one that would likely make it around the world in less than an hour.

“A middle school principal, a world-class university and a British paparazzo walk into a bar…” sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but honestly, which would you peg as a designated driver?

Nurturing media literacy

Nurturing media literacy

Remember Weekly Reader? Every Friday, your teacher handed out a four-page newspaper with the news of the day, but written just for you. I loved it, and looking back over old issues, I love it more. It didn’t condescend, it didn’t marginalize important topics and