January 31, 2021

Watch where you step. There’s social media everywhere.

This week we heard about the firings of two female editors who were expressing themselves on social media. In fact, that’s what inspired our latest Professor’s Press Pass (see below for more). Social media and journalism ethics are bedfellows, so how do you teach and advise your students to comport themselves across the myriad platforms for expression that now proliferate their lives?

(You can start by telling them not to use so many fancy words, for one.)

All joking aside, I’m usually a little reluctant to offer concrete guidance about social media behavior, because I don’t feel like I have the answers. But I am happy to discuss it, especially with young people.

I firmly believe that you can’t stop progress — you need only to look as far as music and fashion to prove that younger generations move needles. And so rather than stand in the way of progress and offer my unbending, old-school advice (“No emotion! You’re not part of the story!”), I’m attempting to thoughtfully engage on the issues that are critically important to young people. Racial bias. Income inequity. Gender discrimination.

We should listen to our students and young journalists who are trying to tell us that the old models of objectivity are dead. We ought to talk about what “making a difference” — one of the key reasons so many of us got into this business — means to them now. When we establish ourselves as credible listeners, we stand a better chance of being heard when it’s time to deliver the lesson. And maybe our lesson is smarter from the influence of new ideas.

When I have all the answers, you’ll be the first to know. For now I’m going to keep taking it all in and encouraging the students I work with to build strong ethical foundations. I hope you’ll continue to converse with your students about the issues around social media behavior, and I hope you’ll tell me your thoughts and what advice you give students that’s helpful and resonant.

Here’s to a good week in education.

The power of collaborations

I’m a huge fan of news organizations working together, even though I came up in a time when journalists were much more likely to compete than collaborate. That’s why I’m so fascinated by Nowhere to Go, a national collaborative effort among seven universities. From its own description: “There are more than a half-million people who are homeless in America, living in cars, shelters and on the street. A national consortium of student reporters fanned out across the country to find out how communities are responding.”

International Journalists’ Network reports that the two-year project was spearheaded by Kathy Best, a former editor at places like The Seattle Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who’s now the director of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland — no surprise there, as she was the architect of the award-winning student journalism collaboration, Code Red — Baltimore’s Climate Divide.

IJC reports, “The result has been a collaborative effort involving seven universities, 19 faculty members, and more than 270 students — from Oregon to Arkansas — that produced nearly 40 stories on how people are experiencing homelessness across the United States.”

Check it out, and consider if some kind of collaboration might be right for your classroom or student media organization.

Is being forgotten a right?

My colleague Taylor Blatchford, editor of The Lead newsletter, was smart to think about how student newsrooms are handling takedown requests, via The Boston Globe’s Fresh Start initiative. The excellent folks on the College Media Association listserv shared some of their content removal policies, like this one at Temple and at Elon, which has a link to a takedown request form. They also pointed to RadioLab’s Right to be Forgotten, in which a darker side of takedown requests are exposed — and it’s not what you’re thinking.

Win $500 and great networking

Applications are due Feb 8 for the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards. From a release: “The annual competition honors the best reporting across student and professional categories that reflect Robert Kennedy’s concerns, including human rights, social justice, and the power of individual action. … The high school and college journalism winners each receive a modest cash prize ($500) but the real draw is that their work will be featured front and center during our awards ceremony—invaluable exposure for those considering a career in journalism. For reference, here’s a piece the New York Times did on one of our student winners last year.”

Sparking audience loyalty

This week, Poynter debuted VidSpark, a series of articles and videos for local newsrooms to craft a social-first video strategy. The playbook includes best practices for YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, and case studies from the three VidSpark newsrooms. As my colleague Kristen Hare wrote, “These aren’t guides to show you how to weave TikTok dances into your reporting. They employ investigative journalism, civics and breaking news.”

In her introduction to the playbook, Ahsante Bean, editor and program manager for video strategy at Poynter, wrote how news organizations can take a community-building approach to this work, a strategy that grows audiences over time to maintain sustainability and build relationships. The lessons include:

Best practices

Case studies

Also at Poynter …

Poynter’s first On Poynt event of 2021 gave journalists and the public the chance to meet Julio Cortez, an Associated Press photojournalist who was at the Capitol for the siege on Jan. 6 and the swearing-in of the president and vice president two weeks later. Called “From the Frontlines: A Photojournalist’s View from Insurrection to Inauguration,” the event had more than 200 people sign up. You can watch the replay here.

You can tell your students that Cortez was a student photographer while earning his degree from Cal-State Northridge.

Education headlines

Great journalism to share with your students

Poynter’s Internship Database

A reminder that Poynter’s internship database is up and running. New this week: The National Catholic Reporter fellowship!

“Fellows work as full-time staff members in the newspaper’s Kansas City, Missouri, headquarters or in a major U.S. city where they live or are based. Fellows gain firsthand experience in a fast-paced virtual newsroom, reporting online news and features, helping with newspaper production, and maintaining NCRonline.org including social media and multimedia.”

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass

This week in Press Pass, we look at two high-profile firings of editors, both of whom posted something their employers found objectionable. “Can social media get you fired?” asks students to consider their own social media behavior and debate whether or not the actions of the posters and their managers were appropriate.

If you missed my big sales pitch last week, here’s an abbreviated version:

This new subscription service is kind of like a little vending machine for your classroom  — you pick out the bite-sized lesson you want. It’s $12 a month or $100 a year. A new classroom discussion topic is added each Friday, and I’ll give you a sneak peek in Alma Matters every issue. (See?)

Our lessons come with learning outcomes, background, links, pre-made discussion questions and a PowerPoint.

The library currently has a dozen of these case studies in it, and your subscription will give you access to all of them. You can cancel any time (but we can’t give refunds so choose your plan wisely!).

If you’ve ever wanted to support Poynter in some way, this is an excellent chance for you to contribute to our work while getting a great tool for your classroom in return.

One last thing

Twitter seems to think this was a Brian Williams prank. What do you and your students make of it?

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
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