Road to Success
In the Beginning:
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Summer 2007 Issue
Censorship: The act subverts true learning of journalism
Logan Aimone to head NSPA
Scholastic Profile: 'How soon will I be running this place?'
The act subverts true learning of journalism
Amy Sorrell in photo by
The Indianapolis Star
By Warren Watson
Editors, your high school journalists need your help! Your First Amendment freedoms may be at stake.
• A Woodburn, Ind., journalism teacher was bounced because one of her students wrote an editorial advocating tolerance for gays and lesbians. Student journalism groups are in an uproar over this and other acts of censorship nationwide.
• State legislation in Washington protecting high school and college journalists failed in part earlier this spring because of opposition from the state’s largest newspaper. Some legislators called the bill “silly” and “unnecessary.”
• Mark Goodman, the out-going executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors that principals and administrators, seeking greater control of their schools, have become emboldened and are putting the red pen to student newspapers as never before.
“Many school administrators are proud to censor. They wear it like a badge of honor,” Goodman told the assembled ASNE editors March 27. “Our schools have failed with First Amendment education for both students and administrators.”
From the podium, alongside Goodman, Ken Paulson, USA Today editor and former executive director of the First Amendment Center, beseeched editors to come to the aid of their high school counterparts, saying that the First Amendment pressures facing scholastic journalism are real – and critical.
“Too many of us forget,” said Paulson “that the First Amendment is not handed to a young person along with a high school diploma. These core liberties belong to every American, and it’s the job of a free press to stand up for all journalists, whether they’re drawing a paycheck or not."
Sometimes it takes a high-profile case. Within six weeks of the ASNE convention, the ouster of high school teacher and journalism adviser Amy Sorrell of Woodlan High School near Fort Wayne, Ind., has energized a new corps of professional editors after a tolerance editorial led to her formal discipline and a threat of firing in early May.
The disciplinary actions in East Allen County prompted more than one dozen student journalism groups to issue a joint letter opposing the Sorrell action and decrying other cases of censorship across the country.
The actions also have befuddled professional editors.
“This move (in East Allen) sets the First Amendment back a notch,” said Mike Smith, a lifelong journalist and executive director of the Northwestern-based Media Management Center. “Students are the victims of this. Talk about your teaching moments.” Smith, a former high school journalist in the same Indiana district, called the school’s action “boneheaded.”
When learning of the issue in March, Dennis Ryerson, editor and vice president of The Indianapolis Star and Indiana’s largest newspaper, said, “This really stinks.” The Star and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, another of Indiana’s largest dailies and Woodlan’s local newspaper, editorialized strongly against the school district’s actions. That publicity prompted other editors to notice, and more are now advocating for a stronger professional role in high school newsrooms.
“The students of today are the journalists of tomorrow,” said Jeff Cohen, editor of the Houston Chronicle and chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ High School Journalism Committee. “It is essential that editors help pour a strong foundation for them and attract them into a craft that stands for making the world better through the exercise of free speech and free spirit.”
Added Ken Bunting, the former editor and now associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a booster of the unsuccessful student-protection bill (HB 1307) in Washington, “I have a hard time understanding editors and news executives who think press freedom for high school and college students isn’t their concern. When some in our industry brush aside and show indifference to censorship and free speech issues in schools, they are damaging our future, and the future of a democratic society.”
H.L. Hall, scholastic journalism author, two-time past president of the Journalism Education Association and executive director of the Tennessee High School Press Association, welcomes the increased involvement of professional journalists in student media.
“It would be fantastic if every professional paper in the United States would form a partnership with one or more schools to help the high school journalism staff both educationally and financially,” Hall said.
Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, said professional editors will get a lot back in return.
“Where do professionals think the next generation of journalists will come from? “News professionals ought to defend the independence of student media and the necessity to have a program in every high school,” he said. “You can’t teach the values and necessary role of a free press in an environment in which there is no journalism program or in which student voices are subject to heavy-handed censorship by administrators that we would never tolerate in our society outside of a schoolhouse.”
The odds seem to be stacked against the First Amendment in this fight.
State Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, of Washington state was instrumental in the defeat of HB 1307, which would have freed high school and college journalists from administrative censorship. He said there is no need for high school newspapers to practice real journalism, noting that kids today have the Internet, MySpace and other sites in which to express themselves.
“Schools are about education,” he told a reporter for J-Ideas, a student First Amendment institute at Ball State University.
Ongoing studies of the nation’s high school students, conducted on behalf of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, show that America’s high schools, conscious of the educational quality they produce, may have shunted the First Amendment aside.
It is significant that lagging support for free speech and free press comes at a time when administrative censorship is rampant in our schools and student journalists and advisers avoid confrontation by censoring their own work.
The latest Knight study, released in September 2006, showed that 45 percent of high school students — almost one in two — feel that the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. And more than 75 percent surveyed said they either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or take its rights for granted.
Not good news for the future of journalism.
Since the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision in 1988, administrators have gone far beyond the parameters of the law, which allows for censorship in limited circumstances — that is, when they can demonstrate a legitimate educational reason for doing so. In countless cases, principals have squashed material that is controversial in nature and/or might put a school in a poor light.
Imagine if professional newspapers avoided issues that are controversial or might be viewed as embarrassing or offensive?
Dave Zeeck, the Tacoma News Tribune editor and past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, also has been a strong voice. “Student media,” said Zeeck, in support of the Washington legislation, “should be able to fulfill its mission as independent public forums for student expression, informing and engaging a community.”
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'How soon will I be running this place?'
Ron DePty works for The Mountain West Sports Network
By Ron DePoty
I just hit the quarter of a century mark, the big 25-years-old and immediately my friends and family start cracking the jokes about being over the hill and such. That never really bothers me, but this time it actually got me thinking, which if you know me, is really a feat unto itself.
I came to realize that my 10-year high school reunion is quickly approaching. That time really has flown by, so many things have changed, yet so much is still the same.
Now I can begin to look back at my start in journalism and say the usual, “I wouldn’t be where I am today,” but to me that is only the most obvious statement that anyone could make. Without anything that has happened to me in my 25 years of life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. For me, I guess my reflection is a little less profound, but without my time in high school journalism, I wouldn’t have been ready to be where I am today.
I’ve always been a driven, goal-oriented person, always finishing one accomplishment by setting the next goal or task. From the first time I stepped into Clarissa Crozier’s newspaper journalism class, my thought was, “How soon will I be running this place?”
Understand that when I first walked into that class, my first class at Arapahoe High School nonetheless, I came in as a junior who had just moved across country. But that is how I work, I knew I could and would do it. What I hadn’t accounted for was having someone who was really going to push me, make me better and encourage me to aim even higher. Mrs. Crozier did that for me. She saw my potential, knew what I had done, realized what I could do and helped make me even better.
I’ve got to say that it probably wasn’t really that easy; God knows it wasn’t for her. I was always willing to push the envelope, to try the process and more then most, question the teacher. But the true key to it all was that so was she. That’s what has stuck with me most of all for all of these years. It’s not often you find that kind of support from an instructor.
Now it would be real easy to say that from there I went on to college and now work for Sports Illustrated or write for the sports section of some big time paper, but that’s not what happened. No, I went to college and decided that newspaper wasn’t really my thing, but television was.
It probably didn’t come as a shock to Mrs. Crozier. I never really liked dealing with AP style, but once again she couldn’t have been more supportive. So I did my four years at Colorado State University, testing the system for TV as much as I had with newspaper.
From the time I walked into the student run Campus Television, I thought “How soon will I be running this place?” By the time I graduated, I was running the sports department on my way to my first professional job at a Top 20 market station.
Now I’m onto job number two of my professional career and have that same old thought in my head, you know it, “How soon will I be running this place?” But as I sit here writing and reflecting, I now realize that it was that initial push, that first taste of the business and world of journalism that really created my passion for what I do. Something I have and will always give great credit to Mrs. Crozier. Without my time in her class, I wouldn’t be ready for where I will be tomorrow.
Ron DePoty graduated from Arapahoe HS in Centennial, Colo., in 2000 where he was the sports editor and columnist for the Arapahoe Herald. He went to Colorado State University where he was a sports writer for the Rocky Mountain Collegian and began working for Campus Television as a sports reporter and photojournalist. Prior to graduation in 2004, he was hired at KCNC- CBS4 in Denver as the weekend sports producer, while still attending classes. In 2006 he took a new job with Comcast Sports Net for its new network, The Mountain West Sports Network, where he is an editor and producer.
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'The latest of our breed, not the last'
By Richard J. Levine
These days the answer to that question depends on whom you ask as well as where and how you ask it.
Even in the U.S., where the growth of the Internet and broadband communications in homes and offices has clearly contributed to declining circulation and flat advertising, expert opinion is often sharply divided.
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest and wisest businessmen, is chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns the Buffalo News and a large chunk of the Washington Post. He has few illusions about the problems newspapers face.
“Fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry, a trend that has caused the profits of our Buffalo News to decline,” he bluntly told Berkshire shareholders earlier this year. “The skid will almost certainly continue….
“Almost all newspaper owners realize that they are constantly losing ground in the battle for eyeballs. Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the Internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.”
Hardly a stirring endorsement of the American newspaper.
Yet Ben Bradlee, the distinguished former executive editor of the Washington Post, takes a distinctly different tack. Ignoring the economics of the business, he puts his faith in the enduring value and power of great story-telling and journalism.
“If you are expecting me to expound on the many threats to our very existence, you are going to be disappointed,” the vice president at large of the Post proclaimed at the outset of a speech he delivered at the 2007 commencement of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. “I am flat-out sick of listening to predictions of our dire future, and what we must do to avoid extinction. There have always been people roaming this earth and writing what they learn for an audience hungry for the truth. We are just the latest of our breed, not the last.”
And he returned to the same theme in offering lessons learned in a lifetime reporting and editing:
“First off, journalism isn’t dead. People will always want the truth and the best way to get it to them is simple. Stories. Good stories. There’s a lot of hand wringing about the media lately. I think if they remembered to focus on stories, instead of each other, things would be a lot better. A good well-written story, one that changes how you think about something, makes you feel good or bad – that will always be in demand.”
The State of the News Media, a thoughtful and comprehensive study produced annually by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, strikes me as coming down somewhere in the middle of this raging debate. It points out that in the U.S. 51 million people buy a newspaper, 124 million “still read one” on an average day and the industry enjoys pre-tax profit margins “in the high teens.” Yet it concludes that “the print newspaper industry is unquestionably ailing” even if it isn’t dying.
“Circulation is declining. Advertising is flat….The search is on for new business models, but success is not guaranteed. And while the fundamentals might reverse, there is no compelling case that they will. Newspapers are focusing more on improving their journalism online. But it is not clear the Web will ever make enough money to support journalism as we know it in print.”
Truth be told, one has to look abroad to find unbridled optimism about the newspaper business.
“The newspaper business is challenging, rewarding work in almost any part of the world,” declares Newspaper Techniques, an international magazine focusing on newspaper strategy and technology. “But there are at least three places where the thrill of publishing a daily reaches its peak: Britain, Japan and India.”
Much the same point is made by the World Association of Newspapers, which says global paid newspaper circulation rose l.9 percent in 2006 to 510 million copies and the number of daily newspaper titles with paid circulation exceeded 11,000 for the first time.
“The prognosis for newspapers is actually quite different to conventional wisdom,” insists Gavin O’Reilly, president of the association. The statistics in World Press Trends, the association’s annual study of the global newspaper industry, reveals just how strong the growth is in some countries, most strikingly in India.
Bolstered by a huge population, a booming economy, increasing literacy and the relatively low penetration of computers, the Indian newspaper industry is experiencing explosive growth. Between 2001 and 2005, the number of daily newspapers both paid and free in India grew to 6,530 from 5,346, a 22 percent increase. In the same period, the number of dailies in the U.S. declined by one to 1,486.
Raju Narisetti, a former Dow Jones colleague, is the editor of Mint, a new financial daily distributed in New Delhi and Mumbai and produced in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. The English-language newspaper was launched last February with an initial circulation of 80,000.
“With India’s economy expanding rapidly, there is a need for a paper that will chronicle the Indian financial and business saga impartially and with a strong rigor,” Narisetti says. Or as Ben Bradlee reminds us: the strength of newspapers remains rooted in providing readers with important, interesting and truthful stories.
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Blogging can have consequences
By Rich Holden
At the JEA/NSPA spring convention in Denver, I had an opportunity to meet with a dozen high school journalism students from around the country at the conference’s “Break With a Pro” (former pro?) session.
There were the usual questions:
“Will newspapers be around when I graduate from college?” Yes, despite what some misguided guidance counselors might be telling the students.
“Should I major in journalism in college, or should I focus on liberal arts?” It depends. If you know you’re interested in journalism, by all means explore various journalism schools.
Remember that few disciplines are as liberally focused on liberal arts as is journalism. At a minimum, you’ll probably be taking at least 75 percent of your courses outside of journalism. “When should I begin to look for internships?” By all means, start looking no later than the summer between your senior year in high school and freshman year in college. While you won’t land an internship at a major daily newspaper, the odds are that you might be able to find something rewarding at your local weekly newspaper or similar publication. But be aware of the fact that the internship probably won’t pay much, if anything.
Then the discussion turned to the proliferation of Web sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. I’ll admit I’m a confirmed Luddite when it comes to anything related to computers, but I was surprised that every one of the students was registered on at least one of those sites.
It gave me the opportunity to warn them that, as much fun as those sites can be — at least I assume they can be — they can pose problems in the future.
When the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund was selecting participants for our college intern programs last December, at least a dozen news organizations asked specifically if we looked at the above Web sites or did a Google search on a student’s name. This is an industry trend that will do nothing but grow in the future.
I explained to the high school students that, unlike Las Vegas, what happens on these Web sites doesn’t necessarily stay there.
As advisers, put yourselves in the position of a newspaper (or, for that matter, college) recruiter. Student “A” blogs about how she despises school and homework and how she looks forward to partying all weekend. Student “B” writes about his love of school and how his idea of a great weekend is one spent reading a book.
Of course, not everything the students write should be taken literally, but recruiters don’t make that distinction. In the above example, which student would you seek out? I’d opt for “B.”
The students responded that it’s their First Amendment right (amazing how many students know at least one of the five freedoms in the amendment) to write anything they desire on their personal blogs.
I suggested that, yes, they have a First Amendment right to free expression, but they don’t have a First Amendment right to have a job at my newspaper or be admitted to my college. I hope I succeeded in getting them to realize that a bit of care should be taken when they’re making entries on these Web sites. Something they write this fall could come back to hurt them in the future. I think it’s important that advisers should let the students know about the potential consequences of their writings.
Speaking of “Break With a Pro,” as you prepare for the school year to start, this is a good time to get in touch with your local news organization to line up some speakers for your class. As more and more schools are putting their newspapers online, it’s a perfect opportunity to have someone on the newspaper’s Web site visit the students and talk about his or her job. Remember that these are members of the “working” press and might not always be available on a specific day or at a specific time. But with a little flexibility, something almost always can be arranged. You and your students would benefit, I’m sure.
On a sad note, scholastic journalism lost one of its most ardent supporters with the passing of David L. Adams in June. David was the director of student media at Indiana University for nearly two decades, but his ties to high school journalism were equally strong. He served as executive secretary of the Journalism Education Association and was a board member of the Student Press Law Center.
When I was new to this job 15 years ago, David was always eager to answer any questions I had or offer guidance on any subject I threw out at him. He will be missed.
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Logan Aimone to head NSPA
By Carol Smith
While many high school journalism teachers and advisers have wound down from a hectic school year, a Wenatchee High School journalism teacher is getting geared up for a new career.
In July after 10 years as a journalism teacher/adviser in the state of Washington, Logan Aimone packed up and moved to Minneapolis, Minn., to become the National Scholastic Press Association’s executive director. Aimone was selected for the leadership position from more than 40 applicants.
Dr. Albert R. Tims, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota and president of NSPA, speaks of Aimone as that “special person” NSPA’s board of directors had in mind to fill this position.
“I’m especially impressed with Logan’s potential for visionary leadership, high ethical standards and an unflinching commitment to promoting free expression in student media. I am equally impressed with his dedication to serving students and advisers -- his dedication and passion are inspiring,” Tims said.
“NSPA has a track record of strong leadership in scholastic and collegiate journalism, and I am excited to help move this organization forward,” said Aimone in a written statement. As an adviser, Aimone’s student publications, the Apple Leaf newspaper and the WaWa yearbook, have won numerous state and national awards, including the NSPA’s most prestigious Pacemaker award and the 2001 JEA Student Impact Award.
In his application letter seeking the director’s position, Aimone describes himself as “a highly motivated and energetic worker passionate about journalism and the role of student media in the campus community and in society.”
As NSPA’s director, Aimone has assumed responsibility for the organization’s leadership, strategic direction and internal and external management. Director’s duties also involve leadership skills that will promote free expression in the student media and upholding the First Amendment rights on a national level.
“I will say that everything we do will get a new perspective from me. I will be asking questions and challenging whether the way things have been done are the right way to do things. I have some ideas of how to strengthen both high school and collegiate journalism, and I am going to look for more opportunities to do so. I want to work with our partners like the Journalism Education Association and College Media Advisers as well as form new relationships with other media or nonprofit groups. I have some lines in the water, and we’ll see what happens,” said Aimone, who will be turning 33 this month.
Aimone will replace Tom Rolnicki, who held the position for 25 years, and Dr. John Ullmann, who was acting executive director during the search.
While looking forward to this new leadership position and career, Aimone has mixed feelings about ending his classroom teaching experience.
“The brightest part of every day was the time in my class with my students,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to work with the best and brightest, some of the finest people I have known. I know I made a difference, and I love teaching. At the same time, public school education is full of turmoil right now, and there is a lot of frustration.”
Aimone’s passion for journalism is evident through his professional credentials and his honors and awards. In addition to his masters of education from the University of Missouri, which focused on journalism, he has received Master Journalism Educator certification in 2005 through the JEA. Also in 2005, Aimone was named a Distinguished Adviser by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, from which he also received a Special Recognition Adviser award in 2002.
He has been a frequent contributor to Adviser Update. The Washington Journalism Education Association honored him as Washington Adviser of the Year in 2005 and Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression Award winner in 2004.
For the WJEA, he serves as secretary, and since 2004, he has directed the summer student journalism workshops. Between 2000 and 2003, he worked as the co-director of these summer workshops.
Aimone has served on JEA’s awards and certification committees and as an award judge at many other national workshops and conventions.
The 1998 Dow Jones Intensive Journalistic Writing Institute fellow at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind, was also a 2001 ASNE fellow at the High School Journalism Institute at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Aimone has presented at state and national conferences on IJW and journalism class curriculum.
In selecting Aimone as NSPA’s new director, Tims said that Aimone had the full board of director’s approval. The board of directors search committee had interviewed four candidates from those that had applied and who were presented to the board as finalists. Three to four board directors and the NSPA staff interviewed all candidates during their campus visits.
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