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Law, Ethics and News Literacy
Without a free press, democracy fails.
NEW VOICES TEXAS
This studio shares the stories of the students at Prosper High School.
The people that come inside this studio give voices to the voiceless.
The people that watch the broadcasts from this studio change the world.
This is Studio 301 at Prosper High School.
Prosper High School was a school notorious in the journalism community for the journalism excellence that came from the campus, but in 2017 the story of PHS journalism was rewritten. My campus principal criticized the school newspaper, Eagle Nation Online, for not being positive or uplifting enough and required administration review before publishing.
Eagle Nation Online was the sister publication of Eagle Nation News, the broadcast program I led. The two programs were well established and practiced the highest journalism standards, but a national movement conversation began from this situation.
The New York Times, CNN and all of the nation's eyes were on Prosper High School and its journalism programs after ENO was censored and the journalism advisers' contract was not renewed.
Although I was not a part of ENO, I was left in a position of fear, hoping that one of my own stories didn't get censored by my principal after witnessing the newspaper's stories. If it could happen to our sister publication, I feared it could happen to one of mine, and it did. I covered a school walkout with another reporter and got footage of the students sitting outside during their gun control walkout. When I returned inside the building, an administrator approached me, asking me to delete the footage and not air it. I complied out of fear that our stories would have to be reviewed by the principal before them airing just as the articles of ENO did.
While Neha Medhira, former Editor-in-Chief, and the ENO staff eventually had the principal's policy of prior review and censorship reversed, Prosper High School journalism is not the same.
This experience taught me that student journalists don't have the same rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as I thought. I can't report the whole truth even if it puts a bad image on the school.
When I attend conventions and people hear that I am from Prosper High School, I am always congratulated on the trailblazing effort at my school, but the truth is, the struggle is not over. I am thankful to Neha and the ENO staff, who weren't too afraid to speak up like myself.
The fight is far from over. There is no legislation protecting student journalists' voices.
Student journalists across the country will walk into their studios like the one at Prosper High School, worried that their stories could be censored.
Thanks to the New Voices Texas legislation, someday in the future, students will be able to use their rights as guaranteed in the first amendment so journalists can continue to give a voice to the voiceless and change the world.
LET'S GET REAL
These videos are a series that I created to take big issues such as new literacy and copyright and make it a not-so daunting topic in one-minute public service announcements. I don't know of any student who wants to watch a long video about how to be healthy consumers of news or what is copyright infringement so I kept that in mind when producing this series. The mission of the "Let's Get Real" series is to inform community members and students on the importance of protecting student journalists' rights and making them aware of the issues they face to keep their communities informed.
Time and time again I have seen student journalists denied access to sporting events and political events simply because of their age. People believe that our voice means less just because we are reporting for a student publication and not a national network. This PSA makes the statement that student journalists are real journalists.
For the last 33 years, the standard for student publications has been restricted by the Hazlewood vs. Kuhlmeier case which gives school administrators the power to censor student journalism. After finding out that journalists in my own newsroom didn't know about this case and the restrictions that it puts on student voices, I created this PSA for the 33rd anniversary, and while we are most definitely not celebrating this anniversary, it is important to be aware of.
The inspiration for this PSA came about after I posted a photo on my Twitter after the ribbon cutting of my school. Several prominent community leaders screenshotted the post and posted it as their own. When people complimented the photo in the comment section, they actually credited it to another photographer in the town when it was my photo. This occurrence showed me people need to know it is not okay to take others' work and should value student journalists' work.
Philip L. Graham, former President and Publisher of the Washington Post, said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history." The events that occurred at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, will be in the history books and not for any good reason. This PSA is a commentary piece on my thoughts on the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol.
During the lockdown, I produced a broadcast story about the impact of COVID-19 on the Broadway community. I landed three large interviews with members of some of the biggest Broadway shows, including Disney's Aladdin. I couldn't get any footage of the actors in their shows because they are copyright protected, so I reached out to the publishers of each of the shows to receive permission to use the footage. To my surprise, both parties responded to my request and provided a surplus of video and photos that they owned and allowed me to use them in my stories. Even a company as large as Disney granted me access to their assets.
Email exchange with Colgan McNeil of Polk & Co.
THE CUPID SHUFFLE
The HTN staff brainstormed creative COVID-19 PSAs and came up with the idea to do a version of the Cupid Shuffle about walking in the hallways and practicing social distancing. The Cupid Shuffle is owned by the artist Cupid and is copyright protected by his label. We weren't sure if we would be able to receive permission to recreate such a large song, but I reached out to Cupid himself via email to see if we could make it a reality. To my surprise, Cupid responded and said "I love the idea" and left me his personal phone number. That Monday I gave him a call and he said his label cleared the use of the song and that we could use his official instrumental. We received written permission for our video, and the "COVID Shuffle" turned out to be a student favorite.
FACTS NOT FIRST
The need for news literacy has never been greater. Even the most “woke” audiences find it hard to distinguish legitimate news from content created to sell or mislead. One of the probable reasons for this is journalists rush to get their story on the air or in the paper to maintain timeliness and don't verify their facts just to get the most clicks. I saw the need to inform my peers on the importance of publishing hard facts instead of information that may be untrue to be the first to break a story. From February to May, we will bring several resources including a LIVE conversation series, comparisons of sources and student work spotlights to @QuillScrollSAB on Instagram. I also designed the graphics for this project.
TRANSPARENCY WITH ADMINISTRATION
Based on the section at the top of page, I think one could assume that I didn't exactly have the best relationship with the principal of Prosper High School, but the situation is the complete opposite at my new school, Rock Hill High School. The segment below is the perfect representation of the bond that I have built with my campus principal and the other administration. We created a segment called "Talk with Mr. Toth," where I interview him and the other staff members on the issues that students care about most. His commitment to transparency on campus has been echoed by our own in the Rock Hill Media program. On our Halloween episode, Mr. Toth and I dressed up as each other and made fun of each other for five minutes straight for the whole community to see. Mr. Toth is the definition of an excellent principal, and I am so thankful to have an administrator who sees and hears all of the students. Whenever we work on a harrowing story or need a comment/interview from him, he is always there for us.
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