Hazelwood Week Part 5 - Continuing His Fight

ContentImage-3484-185458-byjim.png

Christopher Eckhardt died Dec. 27, 2012.

Christopher Who? Chris Eckhardt – First Amendment warrior and hero who in 1965 joined friends John and Mary Beth Tinker in wearing black armbands to school. Their silent protest of America’s involvement in Vietnam created a domino cascade that yielded school suspensions, lawsuits, appeals, and finally in 1968 a successful judgment from the U.S. Supreme Court (Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District).

So what’s the big deal? It’s only that the high court formally affirmed that First Amendment protection applied to scholastic journalists. That protection lasted 20 years until the same court stripped students of their First Amendment rights in its Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier decision. Subsequently a handful of states passed laws returning their students to Tinker standards, yet most of America’s scholastic journalists remain chained by the Hazelwood decision.

We all need to continue the vital work started by Chris, John and Mary Beth 48 years ago to ensure all scholastic journalists enjoy First Amendment rights:

  • Encourage our students to thoroughly and responsibly tackle those tough, sometimes edgy stories that need to be told – even if the content may be unpopular.
  • Use, promote and support services of the Student Press Law Center and similar organizations that become the student-journalists’ best friend when confronted with nasty legal dilemmas.
  • Recognize individuals and publications that have struggled with First Amendment issues. They are our contemporary warriors and heroes.
  • Insist that state legislators pass laws similar to those of states that support scholastic journalist freedoms (at last count, eight).
Comment

Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.

Hazelwood Week Part 4 - Playing the Game

ContentImage-3484-185423-byhaley.png

“We cannot make good news out of bad practice.” -Edward R Murrow, as director of the U.S. Information Agency, in response to Senate critics who wanted him to ignore racial problems to promote a better public image abroad. (From Life May 7, 1965)

America’s forefathers knew the importance of journalism. It is the only profession protected by a constitutional amendment. And indeed, it is the very FIRST amendment. Before they abolished slavery, gave the right to bear arms, and women the right to vote… it was journalism that was the very first constitutional amendment. A long, rough road to walk when teaching journalism… what applies as constitutionally protected thought, what we ask our students to memorize and recite… is NOT a right within the school walls.

The Big Chill

I have been teaching broadcast journalism for 17 years at three different schools. While all schools did not require prior review of our television news broadcasts and while I never felt “censored,” they all made it clear that my role as teacher/advisor was strictly academic. The purpose of our weekly broadcast television news show was to “practice” journalism. Any story that was risky or perceived as bad for school PR (sex, drugs, teacher incompetence) was to be avoided. Even though the story may raise awareness of HIV, teen pregnancy, or teen suicide for example. This unspoken pre-censorship results in a day in day out “chilling” effect. I, of course, push the envelope and allow my students to produce controversial stories, not to attract attention or to be edgy, but to provide real-world experience. I also ensure these stories are well-produced and thorough; they are fair, honest, and unbiased as possible – covering not just two sides, but all sides of an issue.

For job security and in order to stay in good favor with administration (who control our budget, our event access and for all practical purposes – our success), I have had to play the “game” and submit any “questionable” stories for administration approval. After all, censorship happens in the real world too. Even professional journalism media outlets have gatekeepers - producers, executive producers and corporate owners. A professional journalism operation worries much more about accuracy, fairness and public trust. While doing their best to avoid lawsuits, they strive to “reduce harm” with public figures. In our case, we do not have advertisers that can be replaced, but a teacher that can be, and a school administration that cannot.

In my experience, nine times out of ten – the story airs. I think administrations’ fears are worse than reality. Of course, in order for this to work, administration needs to trust their journalism teacher and the teacher in turn needs to be respectful of administration/school policies, goals and vision.

The Story that Got Away

There was one incident many years ago that landed me in the principal’s office. Students at my school were calling in bomb threats, which resulted in student and staff evacuation. Of course, ding…ding…ding… story! So, in the middle of producing the story, one of the bomb threats was so plausible that the bomb squad arrived. Of course, a journalist’s first thoughts are to grab the camera gear and get b-roll. And that’s exactly what we did. However, when administration learned we acquired the footage, they not only confiscated it, but put the kibosh on our bomb threat story. Administration claimed it was a “safety issue” to have the student that close to danger. While I didn’t disagree about that (especially considering that this was in the post-Columbine era), it was clear to me that it was more about protecting school image. It didn’t address why the footage already obtained was confiscated, and why we couldn’t use the b-roll to produce the story. For me, this was the story that got away.

More recently, a student approached me about producing an issue story about community misconceptions about the two local high schools, pinning one as “the ghetto school” and the other as “the druggy school.” I loved the idea, but was skeptical about tackling such a controversial subject. After all, this was not your typical “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” story. For the first time, I felt the need to get both schools’ principals to approve the story idea before producing it. Fortunately they did, and it was a very successful story.

In the end, if the story is accurate and just paints the school in a less-than-favorable light…then Hazelwood stands in the way of the freedom of the press and citizens’ right to know, not to mention potentially damaging the education, motivation and attitude of our future career journalists, and as a result it weakens the journalism industry as a protector of our society.

Haley Brueck is a National Board Certified Teacher, one of the highest certifications/honors a teacher can achieve. She earned a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Communications with a news emphasis from the University of Florida. During her 17 years in education, she's received many district, state and national recognition for her teaching, including two Teacher of the Year awards. Her students have been recognized for producing award-winning programming and many enter college with more knowledge and experience than most others, giving them the competitive advantage.

Comment

Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.

Hazelwood Week Part 3 - Broadcast Journalism Teachers Walk Precarious Line

ContentImage-3484-185420-bymichelle.png

Hazelwood. What did it do to teachers? It put us in a state of fear.

How many times have we heard the horror story of a teacher simply fired or "reassigned" to another position (not journalism) within a district because they stood up for student press rights?

While I have been extremely blessed to be in a school district for the past 15 years that does not practice prior review, I know in the back of my mind that at any minute, thanks to Hazelwood, I could have a mess on my hands. While I support my students and firmly believe in student press rights, I think of the teachers I have seen over the years lose their careers in journalism, and I pray that will never be me.

The sad thing is, in what other subject area do teachers have that constant fear? Can you tell me that in an Algebra class a teacher fears possibly going to battle over teaching students how to properly do an equation? Thanks to Hazelwood, Journalism teachers always have that fear. "If I teach my students how to properly practice journalism, will I be punished?" Hazelwood has created a world in which that punishment isn't just a slap on the hand, it can be an attack on a career, on a person's livelihood, and much more.

If push came to shove, would I go to war to support my students' press rights? It's a question I ask myself. As I get closer to age 40 and my fight is a little "less" than when I was in my early 20's, I often ponder, "Am I strong enough to risk it all to protect my students' press rights when my own country can't even seem to?" It's a question I can honestly say I hope I never have to find the answer to, as for 15 years now I have been blessed with solid broadcast staffs, supportive administration, and a community that expects “Blue Jay Journal” to produce solid and sometimes controversial stories.

The bar has been set and it's my goal to never go below it just to appease the ones who would choose to silence a teen voice.

Michelle A Turner has been the adviser of Blue Jay Journal TV/Radio Production at Washington HS in Washington MO for the past 15 years. They have received regional, state, and national honors and accolades over the years, ranging from NSPA Best in Shows, STN Excellence Awards, and more. You can see more of their current content at www.bluejayjournal.com

 

Comment

Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.

Hazelwood Week Part 2 - Kind of a Big Deal

ContentImage-3484-185458-byjim.png

By today’s standards wearing black armbands to school may seem pretty tame, but in turbulent 1965, it was enough to trigger school suspensions and lead to a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court battle over First Amendment student rights.

My friend for years before, high school sophomore John Tinker, along with his sister Mary Beth and their friend Chris Eckhardt, chose to wear the armbands to silently protest America’s involvement in Vietnam and to support Senator Robert Kennedy’s drive for a holiday cease fire. Their schools suspended them, prevailed in several subsequent court decisions, but ultimately lost when the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just a few years later I landed a job teaching high school journalism, and could tell my students (who were bitterly accustomed to the stings and limitations of being minors) that in the worlds of journalism and expression, they enjoyed exactly the same First Amendment freedoms afforded adults and members of the professional journalism community. Sure, they had to be thorough and act responsibly (just like their professional counterparts), but if they did then they enjoyed First Amendment protection.

That was, until the Hazelwood case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court 20 years later, in 1988, and the nation’s students lost their First Amendment rights – in effect, returning to their pre-Tinker case status. Unless they were fortunate enough to live in a handful of states that quickly passed student freedom of expression laws, America’s scholastic journalists were again subject to prior review and censorship by school administrators. How sad. Now I had to teach about another American double standard, about the First Amendment rights enjoyed by all American citizens unless they happened to be students.

Many, many professionals, teachers and students have worked to return First Amendment rights to students. Organizations like the Student Press Law Center consistently have supported scholastic journalists. These organizations need and deserve our support. Many scholastic journalism organizations also recognize individuals and publications that have struggled with First Amendment Issues. They must maintain vigilance and continue to applaud those who lead the fight for student First Amendment rights. These armaments must not be dropped.

Student journalists must continue to be thorough and responsible in their work, and continue to raise the bar of excellence higher and higher, and prove by performance that they deserve the return of their First Amendment rights lost in the Hazelwood decision. State legislators need to be encouraged to draft laws similar to those of states that support scholastic journalist freedoms (at latest count, eight).

Above all, everyone needs to hear that, yes, this really is kind of a big deal!

Jim Ellenberger started a small broadcast club at Perry High School in Iowa in the early 2000s, and within a few years it became part of school’s curriculum. He served as treasurer of the STN Executive Council and remains on its Advisory Board. He has been an RTNDF Teacher Ambassador, Student Press Law Center Steering Committee member, Channel One Advisory Board member, and an Iowa High School Press Association officer. He also particpated and assisted in nine ASB Workshops (formerly "Camp STN").

 

Comment

Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.

Hazelwood Week Part 1 - It Can Happen to Any of Us

ContentImage-3484-184267-davescholasticbroadcasting.png

I founded "HTV Magazine" at Hillcrest High School in 1989. I am still the show's adviser. It is produced each month by our advanced Broadcast Journalism II staff, made up of about 18 juniors and seniors each year.

We operated under no prior review or restraint from the fall of 1989 until the fall of 2001. By that time, we were on the cusp of winning our sixth consecutive Broadcast Pacemaker Award, we had earned three  Robert F. Kennedy High School Journalism Awards, and had gained a national reputation for doing strong journalistic stories, credible and accurate, with a true teen voice.

Then it happened.

Hazelwood came calling in late September of 2001, not long after the 9-11 attacks on America. During a student commentary, an HTVer had the audacity to compare contentious local school board meetings to a reality show where "everyone sits around stabbing each other in the back." The line was the only mention of the school board made, and it came across as humorous. As my principal said at the time, "Nobody can say it's not true." She was in our corner.

The superintendent, on the other hand, was less amused. After the program ran on Thursday night in its usual 6:30 and 10:30 time slots, I got a call on Friday afternoon. I was asked to take that line out of the show before it ran again over the weekend. Seriously? A one-liner by a student who was making one simple point about a bickering school board, something which was well-documented in the local media for months, had inspired the first-ever attempt to censor HTV.

It was our 13th year on the air.

When it comes to the debris left behind by the Hazelwood decision, which empowered administrators who have zero training in journalism to censor journalism, the scholastic landscape is littered with daring students and hard-working, dedicated advisers who have seen their stories altered, or canned altogether, because someone up above deems them too sensitive, or often, just too true. "Do not report that the air quality in our school is bad, even though it is, well, bad."

I envy those who regained their scholastic press freedoms thanks to post-Hazelwood laws that protect young journalists in a handful of states. Those of us in the other 42 states need to find sympathetic politicians ready to carry our concerns to the legislative level.

The scenario that played out in 2001 at Hillcrest was about a superintendent out to protect his relationship with the school board that hired him. That motivated the confrontation over that one line in an OPINION piece, clearly labeled since the title was, "JUST HIS OPINION." The commentary was actually about reality TV shows. The school board reference was thrown in for a laugh.

We were not laughing afterward.

While the students and I refused to change the line in any way, and the show did return to its regular time slots the next week, things changed thanks to this fight, and not for the better. Going forward, all student-produced programming was placed under prior review by our district. We had to submit our shows a full week ahead of their air date. I am not sure how the higher-ups justified it. They just did it. And it lasted for several years before we all moved our shows to the Internet. It appears as long as we are not seen on local TV anymore, we are safe. No prior review.

At least until the next time.

So as we look ahead to the 25th anniversary of the Hazelwood decision on January 13, the ASB staff has invited three guest bloggers to provide what I think you will find are three thought-provoking columns in the days ahead. Feel free to share them with your students or colleagues, and when this Sunday, January 13th arrives, pause at least once during the day to think about how "HTV Magazine" was placed under censorship less than a month after an attack on our nation threatened all of our freedoms, except for Freedom of the Press. Students had already lost that in 1988.

Dave Davis is the longtime adviser of "HTV Magazine" at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, MO. He was a founder of the Student Television Network in 1999, and served as its first president, and its first National Convention Chairman. Since the summer of 2000, Davis has directed a week-long training seminar for scholastic broadcast teachers called the "ASB Workshop," recognized as one of the nation's best and most effective professional development opportunities, with a strong emphasis on journalistic ethics, responsibilities, story gathering and storytelling. He also writes a bi-monthly blog aimed at high school broadcast teachers.

Comment

Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.