Thursday, December 06, 2007

Staff management issues

Why can't people see that a student publication should be run similar to a business? It's odd, I've told my staff that if people are to take us seriously, we need to act seriously. For whatever reason, though, the staff, more specifically the Editorial Board doesn't seem to get that.

I was curious if any other staffs have experienced this problem, and what they've done to alleviate it. I know that, short of screaming at them, I'm out of ideas.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

'Censoring students robs democracy'

Now, there's a headline we can all get behind. Joe Dennis, president of the Georgia Scholastic Press Association, wrote this column for the Atlanta Journal Constitution a couple of weeks ago in response to a principal's overzealous actions. (You may need to complete a free registration at the site to read it.) An excerpt:

In an era of No Child Left Behind and the standardization of education, the high school newspaper creates a rare forum where students can actually develop ideas and test their critical thinking skills. Writing a column in the newspaper requires students to thoughtfully craft their opinions, showcase them to the student body and be prepared for criticism of their viewpoints.

Instead of a lesson in critical thinking, the actions of Pitts showed East Coweta students that viewpoints different from the mainstream should not be tolerated. Instead of learning how to develop and express their viewpoints in a democracy, they learned that critical thinking is stifled if it differs from the authority's viewpoint.

It's an excellent piece citing many of the same arguments we use over and over again in justifying the educational value of journalism. And if you're curious, you can find the original columns that caused all the controversy here -- one is critical of the school, the other a satire piece. The AJC had its own response here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

SPLC names new executive director

This news is about a week old, but it bears reporting, even at this point: The Student Press Law Center named Frank Daniel LoMonte its new executive director. He replaces Mark Goodman, who is leaving at the end of the year.

LoMonte has experience as both a lawyer and a journalist, and has been a member of the SPLC's Attorney Referral Network.

"Frank's passion for student journalists and their rights of free expression came through loud and clear during the several interviews the board of directors held with him," Goodman said. "His work on his own college newspaper, his track record in civil liberties issues, his commitment to the issues central to the Student Press Law Center¹s mission and his strategic way of thinking are just what the SPLC needs as it develops plans for the future. I know the SPLC is in capable hands, with Frank LoMonte as executive director."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Passage of federal shield law not a boon for student journalists

Making the rounds today is news that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a federal shield law that will protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources in most instances.

While this certainly is a major victory for the First Amendment and journalists in general, the law doesn't give student journalists around the country the same protection it gives their commercial counterparts. According to the Washington Post, the law restricts protection to "people who earn a significant portion of their livelihoods as journalists."

Washington passed its own shield law last May which is much broader in terms of its protection of journalists, but is a bit unclear with regards to student journalists. The RCW defines "news media" that are protected in this way:

"Any newspaper, magazine or other periodical, book publisher, news agency, wire service, radio or television station or network, cable or satellite station or network, or audio or audiovisual production company, or any entity that is in the regular business of news gathering and disseminating news or information to the public by any means, including, but not limited to, print, broadcast, photographic, mechanical, internet, or electronic distribution."

The implication is that it's protecting those who make a living collecting and disseminating news, but it's not nearly as explicit in that regard as the federal bill. Are student journalists in "regular business" of gathering and disseminating news? Sure, every three to four weeks. Would it stand up in court? Who knows.

The moral for student journalists? Be careful. It's likely that it will take a court case to decide whether this RCW applies to student journalists, so weigh with great caution whether you want to promise anonymity to a source. Here are two tips:
  1. Ask yourself how far you're willing to go to protect your source. If you promise anonymity, you need to keep your promise. Will police agencies be running around trying to bully student journalists? Probably not. But it's happened before. You need to know that it's a possibility, and that you could end up in court. If that scares you, don't promise anonymity. That simple.
  2. If you promise anonymity, don't reveal the source to ANYONE. Not your friends, not your editor, not your adviser. This is the practice of commercial journalists. Your friends and editors might not be as strong as you, since they didn't make the promise. And your adviser plays by different rules; they answer to their principal and school board, and might have a legal obligation to reveal information.
So there you have it. The water is still muddy, but today is a hugely awesome day for journalism.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New school year brings new surprises

It's been really long week. With Vanguard going to press yesterday, it's made me realize a few things:

1. Never assign too few op/ed pieces.

For us, it is normally the one thing we never need to worry about. Such was not the case this issue. We had assigned four columns to fill three tabloid size pages; the worst part was, we didn't notice the problem until Wednesday (the day we went to press). And to make matters even worse, two of the columns we were counting on weren't even printable. As a result of this, instead of having 16 pages, we went down to twelve. In hind-sight, though, it was the right decision-- it was that whole "quality vs. quantity" thing; quality should always win.

2. A new staff page shouldn't be put off until the last minute.

We had started the page during issue one. We figured, "Hey, it's more then half way done, we cab get all the info at the last minute."

We were wrong. PHS (Puyallup High School) has 16 new teachers this year. On Wednesday, we had 13 of them interviewed. Because we were relying on the page to go to press, we had to do something with it.

To make matters worse, it wouldn't open on the computers we have in the newsroom.

We decided that I would finish it at home, as I have InDesign on my computer. What we didn't realize, was that we would be finishing the other pages until 10:30 that night or that the page wouldn't get finished until 11:42 to be exact.

3. Save frequently.

As I said earlier, Vanguard was at school until about 10:30. We had all the pages done except the front page by about 10. Then, when I went to finish page one, something horrible happened. Not only did InDesign keep "Detecting a serious error" and then closing, but apparently the district shuts down the server at 10:00. Unfortunately, Vanguard saves EVERYTHING on the same server. For about 15 minutes, I thought that all was lost. Then, my adviser, figured out that she could log on and get into the server--we were back on track.

I've decided that from now on, Vanguard editors need to start saving not only to the server but also to the computers hard disk. I don't want anything like that to happen again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

WJEA Journalism Day: Interest, Energy, Enthusiasm

More than 800 journalism students and their advisers from as far away as Spokane participated in Journalism Day at the University of Washington Thursday, Sept. 20.

It's always fun to be on the UW campus the week before school starts there-- everything is clean, trimmed and ready to go. And this year, Journalism Day coincided with "freshman move-in day"-- so that added some extra congestion and excitement, as well.

It's always a whirlwind of activity, with morning sessions presented by journalism professionals, followed by lunch, followed by two keynote speakers. This year, veteran yearbook adviser and national speaker, Barb Page, addressed yearbook students, and Jennifer Sizemore, MSNBC executive producer and vice president, addressed the newspaper and broadcast students.

We were thrilled to have a visit from Angela Thomas, assistant director at "J-Ideas" ( at Ball State University (Indiana), who facilitated a strategy session on student press rights following the keynote in Kane Hall. J-Ideas is a grant-funded non-profit promoting heightened awareness of the First Amendment among our nation's students. I was surprised (and pleased) to see around 100 students remain after the keynote to participate in that discussion. Cleary this is an issue that is on the minds of our journalism students around the state.

The trust of the meeting with Angela Thomas, was that students who care about this issue should gear up for another legislative fight this year. They were encouraged to find ways to be in touch with one another-- and this blogspot was suggested as one way to do that-- so that they can mobilize for trips to Olympia, if necessary, and just stay informed.

I personally want to thank all who helped to make the day such a success: the 23 journalism professionals who presented morning sessions, the keynoters and the event sponsors: the UW Department of Communication, the Society of Professional Journalists, Pacific Publishing Company (who printed our booklet free of charge), and the Washington News Council (who underwrote our use of Kane Hall for keynoter Jennifer Sizemore).

I especially want to thank Angela Thomas for flying to Seattle just to be here for Journalism Day. Her commitment is contagious and her energy level amazes me -- even while hobbling with a broken foot.

I'm, as usual, exhausted... but in a good way. J-Day is an event that reaffirms that we are doing important work. The students who attend are energized to move into the year doing the best journalism possible for their school communities. The teachers (many brand new advisers this year), head back to their schools knowing that they have a supportive organization behind them and no matter what happens, help is just a phone call away.

It's not too early to put J-Day on your calendar for next year: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.

Hope to see you before then!

Kathy Schrier, MJE
president, WJEA

Thursday, September 13, 2007

News Tribune seeking blog contributors

The News Tribune, of Tacoma, is seeking high school students to contribute to a blog about high school life. If this is something you'd be interested in doing, please E-mail me at with your name, E-mail address and school you attend.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Redesign tip #4

A great publication isn't an "advanced" design, it's attention to details.

The funny thing is, many publication staffs think that just because they a "great" design means that they are a part of a "great" publication. In reality, though, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Fact of the matter is, just because you, the person who was in charge of the redesign, are able to recreate all of the design elements doesn't mean that the rest of your staff will be able to. You need to make it simple enough so even your least capable page designer will be able to make any element without problem.

One way of doing this is by creating a Library in InDesign. By using libraries, page designers are able to just drag any element you add to the library on to the page, all they need to do is fill in the content. You can also use paragraph and character styles, though I've found them to be less user friendly.

Style sheets and deadline checklists are also an extremely good thing to make for everyone on staff. This way on deadline night, instead of whomever is proofing pages trying to remember all of your publication's style rules, they can just go down the checklist or style sheet and find any errors on the page.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Redesign Tip #3

Don't settle for the first thing you come up with.

It is the tendency of most, myself included, to settle for the first thing they see that's better then what they had before. And while it is better, your publication deserves a full process which includes a lot trial and error.

Had I settled for the first redesign idea I came up with for Vanguard this year, we would be using Weltron Urban and Impact. Not that it wasn't better then our old Arial/Arial Black style, it just isn't as good as Vanguard is capable of being.

When you begin to do a redesign, make three, four or even five different versions of it. You want options, you want to be able to choose the best one. Or even better, you could take the best features from each and find a way to combine them into one "super style."

Also, just because you were the one assigned or have taken on the task willingly to redesign your paper, doesn't mean that you don't need to take other people's ideas into consideration . As I've said before, others will see things that you won't. They will come up with ideas that you won't. Everyone thinks differently, and while you may have one vision for the publication, the news editor may have another; you just have to be open to it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Redesign tip #2

Go big or go home.

A bit of a cliche, I know, but it's true. Too often, looking at other publications around the state, I see newspapers and newsmags that have had, basically, the same design for five or even 10 years. And when asking them if they plan on doing a redesign for the new year, they simply say "We are just making some tweaks."

And in getting that response, these thoughts always pop into my head, "Why? Why not go big? Why not do it right?"

Realistically, do you think your student body will notice if all you do is change the body copy size to 9pt. instead of 10? Or if you change the kerning on the flag from Metrics to Optical? They may, but the likelihood is that they won't.

Now, this is not to say that just making a few small changes to a publication can't make it better; they most certainly can. But when you make such changes, you need to ask yourself if your audience, who you should be designing for anyways, is going to notice the difference. If the answer answer is no, is it really going to be worth taking the time to make "just a few tweaks?"

Ah, yes - the start of a new school year

We had our first day of school today over here in Wenatchee, and it was awesome to get started with my two new publications. There's definitely a bit of a feeling out period -- my new staffs don't courtesy laugh at my lame jokes the same way my previous staff did -- but I'm so excited for what the new year holds.

How about you? What do you hope to get out of this year in working with your student publication? What are your goals? What are the things that are on your minds as you get your publication up and running once again?

Friday, August 31, 2007

More details on Everett settlement

Here's the story from the Student Press Law Center. Additionally, you can read the district's take on the settlement in its official release here.

Lawsuit against Everett School District settled out of court

Two former Everett School District students, Claire Lueneburg and Sarah Eccleston, have settled their two-year-old First Amendment lawsuit with the district just as it was set to go to trial.

Each side is claiming victory, according to The (Everett) Herald.

Mitch Cogdill, an Everett lawyer who represented the two student editors, said the young journalists got what they wanted school administration review of material prior to publication but "not subject to (administration) approval."

"I feel like this pretty much gets us exactly what we wanted," Lueneburg said. "I think we have achieved everything and this is a victory for us."

Michael Patterson, the school district's Seattle attorney, disagrees.

"They absolutely lost," Patterson said. "This is total vindication for the Everett School District."

Who's right? It's unclear.

Although there aren't a lot of details in the story, the fact that both sides claim victory seems to indicate an ambiguity that is likely to set up students, advisers and administrators in that district for more headaches in the future.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tacoma News Trbune seeking contributors for fair blog

The News Tribune, of Tacoma, is looking for high school journalism students to help them with a blog about the Puyallup Fair. If this is something you would be interested in doing, contact Eijiro Kawada at (253) 597-8233, or E-mail him at:

Struggling for story ideas? Try this.

In a recent meeting I had with David Zeeck and Karen Peterson, Executive and Managing Editors of The News Tribune, I asked what they recommended for staffs who, during brainstorming, just can't seem to come up with enough story ideas.

Their responses weren't surprising. What was surprising, however, was the fact that I had never even thought about looking in these places.

They told me to contact any organization that keeps public records regarding your school. They suggested places like The University of Washington, who keeps records of how many students applied and got accepted from your school. You could use this info to do a comparison story between your school and the other schools in your district or even the other schools in the state.

They also suggested looking on On the website, there is a link to Al's Morning Meeting. The link will bring you to a column on the site with different events that are making news. It is a daily column, it also gives ideas as to how you may be able to make the ideas relevant to local audiences. Now, the column is intended for our professional media counterparts, so you may have to think a bit about how to relate them to students, but it can be done, believe me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Everett HS student press rights trial starts Sept 4

After nearly two years, the two former editors of the Everett High School KODAK will have their day(s) in court. The case, filed against the Everett School District for infringement of First Amendment rights, will be heard in Seattle Federal District Court beginning Sept. 4. The case is being watched around the nation.

Members of WJEA will be in the courtroom and will relay the highlights via this blog spot after each days' proceedings.

For a full history of the case, the best record can be found on the Student Press Law Center site: Their news archives will carry you back to the very beginning of the case, with updated stories as the case has evolved over time. Look too for related stories on Everett School District actions against the student underground publication at Jackson High School.

This court proceeding, set for the very beginning of the school year, will put the issue of student press freedom in the news once again. Please be ready, and encourage your students to be ready, to participate in the dialogue that will ensue on this important issue.

We will keep you posted in the coming weeks.

Kathy Schrier
president, WJEA

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Redesign tip #1

First things, first. I am Matt Anderson. I've been on the staff of the Puyallup High school newspaper, The Viking Vanguard, for two years (this will be my third). This year, I was chosen as Editor-in-chief. For the last year, I've been reading this blog to stay up to date with what's happening in the world of scholastic journalism. So when Nusser asked for contributing writers I decided to jump on the opportunity.

So I thought, having just finished what I consider a good redesign for Vanguard, it pertinent to inform other newspaper staffs of the challenges, perks and and some general info on redesigns for my first few posts. So, here you are:

Redesign tip #1:

Know what you're getting into.

Be aware, redesigns cannot be done in a day, not good ones at least. They take time. They take more than two or or three hours. The fact is that revisions can take months.

You will, also, have to convince some staff members that your publication needs a redesign. Don't just assume that they will all see the need the same way you do. There will always be that one staffer who says, "I like our old style. I really don't think we need to change; Arial is relatable."

You must develop a thick skin, as well. If you hope to complete a really well done redesign, you will need to ask for help. Different people will see things differently, and with that comes new and, perhaps, better ideas. It does, also however, bring the critiquing of your old ideas.

And, most importantly, you must know why you want to do a redesign. If, when you ask yourself that, you answer is "So we win awards," then you aren't doing this for the right reason. A redesign must be geared toward helping readers. They are, of course, the end-all-be-all judge of whether or not we did our job correctly. You must make it so it's easier for them.

As Tim Harrower says in The Newspaper Designer's Handbook:

Today, people have changed... They collect data in a dizzying array of ways.

They don't need long, gray columns of type anymore. They won't read long, gray columns of type anymore...

Today's readers want something different. Something snappy. Something easy to grasp, instantly inviting, instantly informative.

And that's where you come in.

If you can design a newspaper that's inviting, informative and easy to read, you can-- for a few minutes each day-- successfully compete with all those TVs, radios, computers and magazines. You can keep a noble old American institution -- the newspaper -- alive for another day.

Suspended Cascade senior won't be allowed to return to school

Everett School District superintendent Carol Whitehead -- at the center of numerous student free expression controversies the last two years -- has decided not to allow David Whittemore to return to Cascade High School after he was suspended 10 days for using school computers to download files for the Free Stehekin, an underground publication.

In her decision, Whitehead said Whittemore -- who lives outside the ESD boundaries and needs a waiver to attend Cascade -- was not sufficiently remorseful and had a track record of truancy.

"He indicated no remorse for his defiant behavior, although he did state he was sorry he had been caught for his infractions," Whitehead wrote.

Whittemore said he felt he had shown remorse and had tearfully pleaded to return.

"Apparently breaking down into apologetic tears isn't a good enough sorry for a minor infraction regarding the misuse of a school computer, from which I had already been suspended for 10 days over," he said.

Oh, and the teacher who was involved is still on administrative leave as she continues to be investigated for her role.

You can read more about the background here. Whitehead also is part of the lawsuit against the ESD brought by a pair of former students which is slated to go to trial in September. Keep an eye out for that, as we'll have plenty of reporting here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Taking some time off, but leaving you with a proposal

You might have noticed that the posts here have gotten pretty sporadic as of late. That's because summer is here, and things get a lot slower on the education front.

Have no fear. We'll still post things that are newsworthy as they come up, and we'll really ramp it up as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. But until then, don't count on a lot of fresh content.

In the meantime, I have a proposal.

If you're a journalism educator or a student journalist in the state of Washington, we're looking for blog contributors. We're not asking for a huge commitment; just a commitment to post once or twice a week on scholastic journalism topics that are important to you. We're ESPECIALLY looking for student voices!

If that sounds like something you might be interested in doing, contact me here so we can start working together! No previous blog experience required.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oregon student press bill signed into law

There is hope for a student press rights bill in Washington yet, as Oregon signed its version into law on Friday:

OREGON — After a series of unexpected delays, Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) signed a bill today that will protect high school and college student press rights in the state.

What began as House Bill 3279 will become the first state law that protects both high school and college student publications under a single statute and the first measure enacted since 1995 that protects the free press rights of high school students. Although the president of the Senate signed it on June 25, the governor did not put his name on the document until today because the legislative process became congested toward the end of the term, government officials said.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More thoughts on the Frederick decision

This one from Charles Haynes at The First Amendment Center. Most of the column is a rehash of the issues with Morse, but he closes with this gem, targeted at administrators who think the best way to control their schools is to control student speech:

From the conflicting accounts, I don’t know what actually happened at Frederick’s high school. But I do know that far too many schools mistakenly assume that the best way to maintain discipline is to control student expression. Draconian speech codes and censored school publications may create the appearance of order, but they breed alienation, distrust and rebellion.

It may seem counterintuitive, but students are far more likely to behave well in schools that take free speech seriously. Schools where students are given meaningful opportunities to express themselves – and to participate in decision-making about school rules – are schools where high school rebels like Joe Frederick have little or nothing to rebel against.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Understanding how your staff thinks is the key to motivation

I was driving to school one day about a month ago when I heard this report on NPR. I found it fascinating because sometimes I have a hard time understanding the mindset of my students, who so often think about the world differently than I do.

As adults, sometimes we talk about "the good old days." To us, that includes just taking pleasure in a job well done -- not doing a job because it's going to get us some kind of recognition. Well, it's not just us who struggle with students who seem to be overly sensitive to criticism or need constant praise to work hard. It's a trend that's carrying over into the workplace:

Companies are hiring consultants to help manage the "over-praised" Me Generation. The result? Kudos for showing up to work on time! Awards for getting a report in! Forget Employee of the Month — how about Employee of the Day! Some managers are resistant, saying the only praise they ever got was a paycheck.

I know I'm not always real good at doing the kinds of things the reporter talks about in this piece, and as I search for ways to motivate my staffs, I'll be trying to do some of this stuff better -- even though I often don't understand the constant need for it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thomas takes 'in loco parentis' to whole new level

In the wake of the Frederick ruling, a number of legal experts are looking at the silver lining in the ruling: That it seems to be narrow and only apply to drug-related speech.

However, some worry that administrators will try to stretch the scope of the ruling, a la Hazelwood.

Jordan Lorence, senior vice president of the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative free-speech advocacy group, agreed that the concurring opinion may limit the ruling but fears administrators will ignore that limit.

"The Alito concurrence, joined by Justice Kennedy, recognizes the potential dangers of the majority opinion and seeks to limit it to situations where students advocate illegal drug-use," Lorence said in a statement from his office. "However, school officials will undoubtedly try to expand the reach of the majority's opinion in order to censor student speech that dissents from the official school policy." ...

Francisco Negrón, general counsel for the National School Boards Association, said in a statement that the decision reaffirms "the school's role in regulating messages that are detrimental to student welfare."

"The Court clearly spoke to the health and well-being of our students, not their constitutional rights of free speech," Negrón said in a statement from the association.

Even scarier, however, was the concurrence by Justice Clarence Thomas, who says he would do away with the Tinker standard if given the chance.

"I join the Court's opinion because it erodes Tinker's hold in the realm of student speech, even though it does so by adding to the patchwork of exceptions to the Tinker standard," Thomas wrote in his concurrence. "I think the better approach is to dispense with Tinker altogether, and given the opportunity, I would do so."

Thomas went on to say that he believes the framers of the constitution did not intend for the First Amendment to apply in schools, and that parents designate their authority to school officials.

Justice Alito rebuked that assertion -- "it is a dangerous fiction to pretend that parents simply delegate their authority — including their authority to determine what their children may say and hear — to public authorities" -- but that the line of reasoning even exists in any part of the Supreme Court is scary for all those interested in free student speech.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Seattle Times gives half-hearted rebuke of court's 'Bong Hits' decision

Apparently, The Seattle Times can't really decide how it feels about student free expression.

On the heels of the Times' sorry editorial endorsing opposition to House Bill 1307, the publication has now half-heartedly come out against the Supreme Court's decision to rule against Joseph Frederick in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

The U.S. Supreme Court needlessly chipped away at First Amendment free-speech guarantees with a ruling elevating a high-school prank to a dangerous promotion of drug use. ... Frederick's sign was ambiguous. Was the 18-year-old supporting drugs or Christianity? The ambiguity matters because it places Frederick's sign within the confines of protected speech.

You can read the entire editorial here, but that's really about as scathing as it gets.

The funny thing is, check out this excerpt from the Times from Jan. 14, 1988 -- the day after the court issued its landmark Hazelwood ruling.

From a practical standpoint, school authorities need to control actions that infringe the rights of others or disrupt class activities. Nothing of that sort is in the record of the Hazelwood case. The principal clearly violated the First Amendment's anti-censorship provisions and a high-court majority has let him get away with it.

E-mail me and I'll get you a full copy of the text of that Hazelwood editorial. As Brain Schraum put it when he passed it along to me, what a difference 20 years makes.

Time's running out to register for J-Camp

This deadline for registering for this summer's student journalism workshop at Central Washington University, dubbed "Writes and Responsibilities," is quickly approaching.

In order to avoid a $25 late fee, your registration materials must be mailed by June 28. That's Thursday.

You can download the registration application here. I'll be one of the many journalism experts teaching at the workshop, so really, what more reason do you need to attend?

Monday, June 25, 2007

SPLC director reacts to 'Bong Hits' decision

The Student Press Law Center has put together its own, more detailed news flash regarding today's Supreme Court decision on "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

The SPLC concurs that the ruling seems to be rather narrow and apply only to speech that advocates drug use, but director Mark Goodman said it still sets a poor precedent.

“It’s disappointing that the Court once again felt the need to diminish student First Amendment protection at a time when teenagers’ understanding and appreciation for the First Amendment is so incredibly low,” he said. “The last thing the country needs is a court ruling that further diminishes its relevance to their lives.”

Again, we'll have more as we have a chance to really digest the ruling.

Supreme Court rules against student in 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' free speech case

I don't have a lot of time to post at the moment, but in case you haven't seen it, the Supreme Court ruled today against Joseph Frederick in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case.

I haven't had a lot of time to review the court's opinion yet, but it appears the justices -- in a 6-3 decision -- ruled rather narrowly on the case, choosing to focus on the school's anti-drug mission in ruling that the speech restriction was justified.

"It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use-- and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent, worried about the ramifications of limiting speech, especially that which seemed to be harmless.

"This case began with a silly nonsensical banner, (and) ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message."

We'll have more analysis on the fallout in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Parent gets in on the action in Everett

On the heels of letters from WJEA President Kathy Schrier and the students of The Free Stehekin to the Everett Herald regarding the Everett School District's policy of prior review, here is another letter taking the district to task -- this time, from a parent:

Apparently the district does not trust these students, or their advisers, to use their heads and hearts when making editorial decisions. These are young people on the cusp of adulthood who deserve the opportunity to handle the responsibility of publishing their own newspapers and literary magazines.

Hopefully, all this pressure results in some action for the district, which has been strangely quiet on this whole situation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Students of Free Stehekin speak out

As teachers, we often do a lot of work on behalf of students to defend their right to free speech in our schools.

Sometimes, though, the best thing we can do is let the students speak for themselves.

This excerpt is from a letter the staff of the Free Stehekin at Cascade High School wrote to the Everett Herald:

It is imperative that all students stand up for their rights to free speech. Not only is that right the first to be defined under the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, but the Washington state Constitution also asserts, "Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right." Even those of us under 18 are entitled to freedom of speech.

Despite recent setbacks that have been extremely well covered by The Herald, we of the Free Stehekin are determined to continue our student forum and our battle for rights. A final edition for this year is planned for Friday, although we are certainly rushed getting it done!

Way to go, Free Stehekin.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oregon student free expression bill off to the governor(!) for approval

In stark contrast to our struggle in Washington to get House Bill 1307 passed, the Oregon Senate has sent its student free expression bill to the governor for approval.

The bill will protect both college and high school journalists, although some Senate Judiciary Committee amendments did strip some of the protections from the bill, according to the Student Press Law Center:

HB 3279 stipulates that high school and college journalists are responsible for determining the content of school-sponsored media. The bill also affirms the right of student journalists to pursue a lawsuit under the state law against schools that violate free press rights.

But the Senate's amendments to the bill deleted a provision that designated college publications as "public forums" and removed the original bill's guarantee that student media advisers who refuse to censor student journalists cannot be fired or transferred. The House had previously amended the bill by removing "advertising" from a list of protected student expressions for high school students and excising a clause that would have allowed for the awarding of attorney's fees and costs. ...

Rep. Larry Galizio (D-Tigard), who introduced the bill in March, said while he thinks the bill was better in its original, more protective form, the law will lend much-needed support to student press. Galizio said he concurred with the Senate committee's revisions but plans to introduce new legislation in the fall that will offer more protections to student publications.

"I could have decided to not concur ... and risk losing the entire bill or I could do what I have chosen to do," he said.

There is some debate about whether the amendments will make much of a difference in the law's enforcement, but SPLC legal consultant Mike Hiestand -- a Washington resident who put in a lot of work on behalf of HB 1307 -- said no matter what, "the bottom line is that this is a good thing for Oregon student media."

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski has indicated he will sign the bill into law. It would take effect on July 1.

Saga in Everett School District continues; WJEA president weighs in

The Everett School District is putting together quite an unenviable track record of trying to squelch student free expression rights.

It began last year with the mess at Everett High School, in which the school board backed a principal who required prior review, resulting in two students suing the district and the adviser being "reassigned." It has continued this year with the students at Cascade High School taking their newspaper underground -- as the students at Everett did -- in an effort to retain control over their publication, and resulted in a student and teacher being suspended for working on The Free Stehekin on school computers.

All because the administrators in the Everett School District insist on prior review of student publications.

In a letter to the editor published yesterday in the Everett Herald, WJEA President Kathy Schrier fired back:

Those of us involved in scholastic journalism are shaking our heads at the fallout from this flawed policy: two good teachers whose careers have been impacted, two former student editors who are suing the school district, and now a top student suspended for 10 days. Why? Because the Everett School District does not believe that students should control the content of their student publications. ...

When student newspapers are forced underground, students must learn by the seat of their pants - rather than in a classroom setting - how to use their voices in published works. This removes a tremendous opportunity for learning and exploring best practices under the guidance of a certificated teacher/adviser. ...

I propose that scrapping the policy would be a bold, educationally sound move for the Everett School Board. It would show a commitment to making Everett schools places where democratic principles are modeled, critical thinking is encouraged, and where students don't relinquish their rights at the schoolhouse gate.

This piggybacks on what the Herald said in its own editorial earlier last week.

The Everett School District shouldn't worry about a troublesome article showing up in a student newspaper. Its own actions have become embarrassing enough. ...

The suspensions are the latest chapter in a tale of administrative overreaction. ... (T)he district faces a federal trial, a hard-working student and a respected teacher are suspended, and journalism students don't have access to school equipment to publish campus newspapers, all because a misguided policy is being enforced. ...

Educators overseeing student publications are there to teach journalism. Students learn by engaging in the entire publishing process, including the chance to deal with the repercussions of printing controversial material.

The district's current policy has created problems rather than preventing them, and has fostered a hostile environment for student journalism. Enough damage has been done. The school board needs to abandon its policy of prior review.

The part that makes me laugh the most -- or maybe cry? -- is that Whittemore was suspended for 10 days because of a policy that "prohibits students from using school funds to create an unsanctioned publication."

Which makes me wonder.

Are they suspending every student who is using "school funds" -- computers, printers, telephones, etc. -- to create unsanctioned work at school? Or just those "dangerous" students producing newspapers?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Longtime leader of SPLC moving on; search for new director to begin this month

Mark Goodman, the exectuive director of the Student Press Law Center since 1985, has resigned his position effective January 2008 to accept a newly created position at Kent State University as Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism.

According to the SPLC press release:

SPLC’s board has begun making plans for a smooth transition as our organization enters a new era. A committee already is at work outlining the qualities, background and experience we are looking for in a new executive director. We expect to have a job description and application information available later this month. Please check the SPLC’s Web site in a few weeks for more detail: Our goal is to interview candidates during the summer and name a successor by the late fall/early winter. (If you have names to recommend for consideration as the new executive director, send them to Mark will officially begin work at Kent State in January, 2008, and he will play a key role in the transition process.

It is unknown at this point whether the committee will be seeking another lawyer to fill the position.

If you've ever had the good fortune to attend a session by Goodman at the annual NSPA/JEA conventions, you know what an awesome advocate for student rights he is. Under his leadership, the SPLC has literally helped thousands of student journalists through various legal challenges.

If you'd like to send him a note of thanks for his amazing work and leadership, you can reach him here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

J-Ideas director urges professional media to support student journalists

Warren Watson, the director of J-Ideas at Ball State University, put together a nice piece on the Poynter Institute's site urging professional media members to join the fight for student free press rights.

Much of what he had to say centered around the opposition to our own state's failed legislation, specifically pointing out The Seattle Times' flawed editorial. He expresses hope that the recent case at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School will provide the impetus for professional media involvement in the fight:

Sometimes it takes a high-profile case. The Indiana adviser, Amy Sorrell of Woodlan Junior-Senior High School near Fort Wayne, Ind., was in the middle of her suspension at the time of the ASNE convention. ... Her situation has energized some editors.

"This move sets the First Amendment back a notch," said Mike Smith, a journalist and executive director of the Northwestern University-based Media Management Center. "Students are the victims of this. Talk about your teaching moments."

Watson sums up the story this way:

Student journalists are in the process of learning the First Amendment. Student journalism is education in action. Censorship subverts the true learning of journalism.

"Too many of us forget," [USA Today editor Ken] Paulson said, "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."

There's a nice section for feedback. Consider leaving a comment to urge our professional media colleagues to take a larger role in defending the First Amendment in high schools.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Reassigned Woodlan adviser honored

The American University law school honored Amy Sorrell with its Mary Beth Tinker Award on Wednesday for her efforts to fight censorship in her school.

The honor is well deserved for an adviser who has gone through a lot in this ordeal.

Sorrell detailed her experiences to at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. She challenged those at the luncheon to work toward protecting student rights.

"This is something we need to do now - not wait until you are a victim of censorship," she said. "We need to challenge schools to be advocates for students and to truly make schools a place for learning. Schools need to be places that harbor student rights, that encourage students' thoughts and ideas even when they are unpopular."

Oregon House passes student free press bill

Great news out of the state to our south.

The Oregon House of Representatives passed its student free press bill, House Bill 3279, by a 39-16 vote on Tuesday. The bill would guarantee the same rights to high school journalists that House Bill 1307 would have in Washington, although there are some differences:

As amended by the House Judiciary Committee, the bill dropped a provision freeing school districts and boards of legal liability for the content of school-sponsored media.

Although it would allow civil lawsuits to enforce state and federal constitutional rights of free expression, the amended bill would limit damages to $100.

Unlike Washington, there were supporters of the bill from both parties; there also were legislators who are former administrators who spoke in favor of the bill.

Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, said the bill leaves the burden on the students.

"It is going through experience that they learn," said Jenson, a retired instructor at Blue Mountain Community College. "If everything is sugar-coated, there's not any real education there."

If you're interested in listening to the floor debate -- including bill sponsor Rep. Larry Galizio's impassioned speech -- you can find that here. It's about one hour and 45 minutes into the session.

The hope here is that if Oregon can get this bill turned into law, it might provide a compelling example for our own legislators when free press legislation is introduced again next legislative session.

The bill now heads to Oregon's Senate.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Deadline for study grant applications extended

A reprieve for those of you students who have been dragging your feet on an application!

Kris Daughters, director of the WJEA Summer Student Workshop at Central Washington University, has extended the application deadline for the Workshop Study Grant to next Friday, May 18.

The extension comes from a mailing snafu that caused the apps to be mailed out later than usual, according to WJEA President Kathy Schrier.

I'm going to be teaching at the workshop, along with many other distinguished advisers in Washington. What are you waiting for? You can get a copy of the workshop brochure here, and download a copy of the grant application here. There's

Monday, May 07, 2007

Looking to spice your school's online edition?

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's one of the reasons high school newsrooms are littered with exchange papers from across the country and why swap shops often are among the most popular activities at national conventions.

Well, consider this your online exchange.

The NSPA recently announced the winners of its Online Pacemakers, and they're worth a look, whether you're wanting ideas for your new Web site or simply seeking ways to spice up your bland design. One can learn a lot by emulating the best.

Check them out:
Additionally, here were the other finalists:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Get WJEA blog content delivered your way

Looking for a way to get your hands on content from the WJEA blog that doesn't include visiting the site 10 times a day to check for updates?

You now have more options than ever for getting the blog's content delivered to you. Check down the right-hand side of the blog, and under the "How YOU can contribute to this blog" piece -- which by the way, not many people have taken advantage of -- you'll see three new options for getting content delivered just the way you like it.
  • Subscribe via e-mail: This is just what it says. Enter your e-mail address, then follow the confirmation link on the message that is sent to you and you'll be all set to receive daily content updates. The downside (or upside, depending on your perspective), is that it only sends you updates once a day, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. No instant notifications when content changes.
  • Subscribe via RSS feed: This option is if you use an RSS reader, a great tool available through most every Web browser and e-mail client. The benefit here is that you get content delivered to you instantly when it's published. If you click on the link, it will take you to's feed site, which will help you get it into things like Google or My Yahoo. If you're just interested in the XML link, here it is. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read here. Basically, RSS feeds keep you from having to visit a hundred sites a day to check for new content by delivering new stuff straight to you. Huge time saver once you learn how to use it.)
  • Add blog to Technorati favorites: Use Technorati to keep track of your favorite blogs. Click on this link to get started.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions on getting any of that stuff set up, feel free to e-mail me here. Happy reading, and, as usual, suggestions welcome!

Board upholds Vashon censorship

Alas, if only we could reach the school boards that often make final decisions in censorship cases.

In another blow for student journalists, the Vashon Island School Board upheld the censorship of an article that was to run in the Vashon Island High School student publication, The Riptide. Apparently, the board operated under the (well-documented) misguided assumption that the school owns the publication, according to the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber:

As (VHS Principal Susan) Hanson had explained earlier, the school district owns the paper and is liable for what appears there, so it has the right to control it, (board member Gene) Lipitz said.

Unfortunately, this overly simplistic view of the situation ignores that The Riptide appears to have operated in practice as an open public forum, a situation that should have trumped the censorship under the Hazelwood case, since, by the board's own admission, there is no clear publications policy in place in the Vashon Island School District.

For his part, adviser Greg McElroy disgrees with the board's decision, for obvious reasons.

Greg McElroy, a faculty member who advises the staff of the Riptide, said on Sunday that since the student paper is owned by a government agency, he thinks it inherently has no power, as the federal and state governments do not, to censor. He added that he recognizes that the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise; he says he just disagrees with the court’s decision.

He also indicated that there are five states that now have freedom of the press laws that apply to students and that Washington would have had one if a bill enacting student press rights had passed the Legislature this year.

Asked who would assume liability if a school administration could not censor student newspapers, he said it would be the editors of the paper, who would likely not be sued if they understood and practiced sound journalism.

Do you have a great administrator in your school or district?

In all the talk of censorship that often can permeate the discussion of advisers, WJEA knows that there are, in fact, many administrators in our state who actively support students' First Amendment rights through publications.

We want to make sure they get recognized for the great work they do.

Got one at your school or in your district? Nominate them for the WJEA administrator of the year award. You can download the award application here, or you can click on the image to the right and print it out. Any administrator at the school or district level is eligible for the award, and nominations can come from either advisers or students.

Applications should be mailed by May 15, so you've got two weeks to get your act together!

By the way, last year's well-deserved winner was Brian Lowney of Emerald Ridge High School -- my principal. If you have any questions, contact me here.

Settlement reached in Woodlan case

Embattled Indiana journalism adviser Amy Sorrell, whose ordeal we've been tracking here, has reached a settlement with with East Allen Community Schools in what has to be considered a blow for student free expression rights. Under the settlement, Sorrell keeps her job but will be transferred to another school and barred from advising publications in the district for three years.

Predicatbly, very few seem to agree with the district's decision, although the district maintains it has been unfairly maligned. Said the Indianapolis Star in a staff editorial (stop us if you've heard this before ...):

"While student press freedom is not and cannot be absolute, court precedent holds that educators may not arbitrarily suppress school journalism and must show academic reason for intervening. Avoidance of trouble does not strike us as an academic criterion, much less a guide for budding opinion writers."

So, what can be learned from this situation for advisers who hope this never happens to them?

David L. Adams, a professor of journalism at Indiana University, said one of Sorrell's biggest mistakes might have been taking the lead in fighting against administration:

In hindsight, one of the other mistakes Sorrell might have made: leading the charge for threats to her students’ expression. It’s a difficult task for 14- to 18-year-olds to do this, and many teachers make a similar mistake because they know that freedom of expression is often challenged by those in authority. Young Americans can be terrified easily by adult threats when they try to express their thoughts on issues of controversy.

Advisers, it's always best to let your students do the leading in situations such as this. You can point your kids in the direction of sound information and advice, such as WJEA and the Student Press Law Center. But the moment you take the lead, you run the risk of putting your job in jeopardy. Sorrell's job might have been in jeopardy anyway, but it certainly wasn't helped by the fact that she used her district e-mail to solicit help for herself and her students. Protect yourself!

This doesn't in any way excuse the district's actions, which were reprehensible toward student free expression, and it's unfortunate that Sorrell's forced apology gave Superindendent M. Kay Novotny the opening she needed to issue this smug statement (which included the assertion that Sorrell was allowed to keep her job out of "compassion").

But it's important for both students and advisers alike to remember that student journalism is always at its strongest when the students are the ones making the decisions -- even whether to fight censorship.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Big news: Wenatchee adviser named new executive director of NSPA

Big news out of Wenatchee, as Logan Aimone, the adviser of The Apple Leaf newspaper and WaWa yearbook, is the new executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association.

In a news release on its Web site, the NSPA praised Aimone for bringing "visionary leadership, high ethical standards and an unflinching commitment to promoting free expression in the student media."

Logan has been intimately involved with WJEA for many years now, but Washington's loss will most certainly be the gain of NSPA -- and the rest of the country. We wish him the best!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Resolution expected soon for suspended adviser in Indiana

About a month ago, we brought you the story of Amy Sorrell and the staff of the Woodlan Junior-Senior High School newspaper, in which Sorrell had been punished for failing to bring an editorial the principal later found too controversial to his attention before publication.

Sorrell now faces losing her job.

In what has been a pretty slow-developing story, the school board is finally ready to make a decision on Sorrell, who has been suspended since the incident. According to this AP story, a public hearing on Sorrell's status will be held Saturday, and a vote on the matter by the school board is expected by Tuesday.

Sorrell regulary submits stories she believes could be controversial to Principal Ed Yoder for review, but failed to submit an editorial that advocated for tolerance of homosexuality. School officials argue Sorrell should have known better.

"The way we view it is the broad topic of homosexuality is a sensitive enough issue in our society that the principal deserves to know that it's something the newspaper is going to write about," said Andy Melin, assistant superintendent of secondary education and technology.

At the risk of blaming the victim, this case should serve as an excellent example of why it's never a good idea to agree to submit stories to administration for review -- especially agreements where it's up to the adviser to determine what might be controversial. It's a no-win situation, and I know from experience that sometimes the stories that are most controversial are the ones you never anticipate.

If a principal insists on reviewing content, it's wise as an adviser to insist they review it all. That way, you have protected yourself from the very predicament Sorrell finds herself in. This principal has created a situation where he wants all of the control but none of the liability. It's a bad spot for an adviser to be.

On the bright side, the coverage of this case has brought out the most thoughtful piece of writing from a school official that I can remember. John Quick, a superintendant in Indiana, wrote this piece over the weekend for the Indianapolis Star, advocating for student publications to operate as an open public forum.

"Empowering our students with high-level thinking and decision-making skills in this manner is solid educational practice. Students take their position of ownership seriously. They are well-versed on current events and seek to present information within a local framework. They understand writing for a teenage audience. They contact sources by interviewing experts outside the school in addition to school administrators and students. ...

"In addition, student journalists acquire high-level and transferable skills. These include initiative, responsibility, leadership, accountability, problem-solving, teamwork, delegation, meeting deadlines and communication. Their future employers will be grateful. Because students have the unique opportunity to maintain the journalistic credibility of their own publications, they practice such intrinsic values as integrity, truth, loyalty, courage and commitment to excellence."

Think about doing as I've done with this piece: Print yourself a copy and save it for when you need to articulate to someone why it's so vital that students operate in a public forum setting -- especially a school official who refuses to believe it can be done responsibly. So often, these arguments come from advisers. This one comes from a superintendant.

We'll update you as more info becomes available on the Woodlan situation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

VT killings sparking discussion in your newsroom?

Chances are, the answer is yes, as we all think about how safe we are in our schools. And, if the answer is yes, chances are good that you're probably talking about how to cover the killings in your own school newspaper.

Some quick tips:
  1. Don't rehash the entire event itself. It's already been covered as well as it can be covered by mainstream media -- you likely won't have much to add to it from a news perspective.
  2. Localize your coverage. The one thing you can do better than the national media is make your coverage relevant to your own readers. How prepared is your school and community for such an attack? Are there people at your school or in your community who have connections to Virginia Tech? Do students know when to alert authorities to a potential danger in their school? All would be excellent story ideas that will resonate with your readers.
  3. Ask permission to use stuff. With such a proliferation of coverage on the Internet, the temptation is to take images and such and use them in your publication. Don't do it -- unless you ask (and gain) permission from the copyright holder. Plan ahead!
If you need further advice, feel free to post questions in the comments section, or send us an e-mail. We're happy to help!

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, I discovered a similar article at Poynter High. Lots more good advice in there!

Consider all potential sources when covering a story

Where do you get your news?

In the case of the Virginia Tech killings earlier this week, many traditional media outlets began turning to some nontraditional sources.

As most of America sat glued to their televisions for the latest information on the shootings, some of the best reporting was being done on the Internet -- and not in sanctioned media. Many students started posting information to blogs and on social networking sites such as myspace and Facebook, using it as a way to communicate with each other and the outside world.

Savvy journalists used that as a way to gather information in this time of crisis.

Granted, this event is an extreme case, but how often do you look to those kinds of resources as potential sources for story ideas or for information on a given story? I can think of at least two instances where my staff has used myspace to get substantial leads and information. While obviously not always the most reliable source, this kind of unfiltered "journalism" can provide you with help when more traditional methods have failed.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Washington fares well at national conference once again

The NSPA/JEA spring (I hear that term was used loosely) national conference in Denver, Colo., wrapped up this past weekend, and, as usual, a number of Washington schools brought back plenty of hardware.

Here's a list of all of the honorees, according to the NSPA and JEA Web sites. (If I've forgotten anyone, please let me know ...)

NSPA Yearbook Pacemaker finalists:
Tenas Coma, Mt. Si HS
WaWa, Wenatchee HS

NSPA Best of Show winners:
  • Wright in the Middle, Charles Wright Academy
    3rd Place, Middle School Newspaper
  • The Phoenix, Peninsula HS
    9th Place, Literary Arts Magazine
  • The Commoner, Gov. John R. Rogers HS
    8th Place, Newsmagazine
  • The Sound, Gig Harbor HS
    1st Place, Special Edition
  • The Apple Leaf, Wenatchee HS
    5th Place, Newspaper (17+ pages)
  • The Peninsula Outlook, Peninsula HS
    7th Place, Newspaper (17+ pages)
  • WaWa, Wenatchee HS
    4th Place, Yearbook (275-324 pages)
  • The Sound, Gig Harbor HS
    2nd Place, Newspaper (13-16 pages)
  • The Viking Vanguard, Puyallup HS
    5th Place, Newspaper (13-16 pages)
  • Tenas Coma, Mt. Si HS
    3rd Place, Yearbook (225-274 pages)
  • Cat Tales, Mt. Si HS
    8th Place, Newspaper (1-8 pages)
  • InView, Auburn Mountainview HS
    10th Place, Newspaper (1-8 pages)

All told, 61 students came home with awards in the JEA Write-off competitions (remember, no more than 10 percent of entrants in a contest receive a superior rating):
  • News Writing -- Excellent: Andrew Talevich (Mount Si High School), Jordan Dieckmann (Richland High School); Honorable Mention: Sharon McClintock (Mountlake Terrace High School), Natalie Bryant (Wenatchee High School)
  • Editorial Writing -- Excellent: Sara Chemodurow (Gov J R Rogers High School), Katy Verwest (Kamiakin High School), Ashley Thompson (Puyallup High School), Matt Little (Richland High School); Honorable Mention: Alex Fisher (Timberline High School)
  • Feature Writing -- Superior: Katie Potasky (Gov J R Rogers High School); Excellent: Mackenzie Helgerson (Auburn Mountainview High School), Jenny Draper (Kamiakin High School), Katie Webster (Richland High School)
  • Sports Writing -- Honorable Mention: Chris Stocke (Gov J R Rogers High School), Jordan Gisler (Mountlake Terrace High School), Brittany Ward (Puyallup High School), Kara Mcmurray (Richland High School)
  • Review Writing -- Excellent: Janelle Jordan (Oak Harbor High School), Ingrid Jans (Wenatchee High School); Honorable Mention: Mary Rose Breskovich (Peninsula High School), Kasey Eickmeyer (Richland High School)
  • Editorial Cartooning -- Excellent: Megan Harris (Auburn Mountainview High School)
  • Commentary Writing -- Superior: Taylor Buck (Peninsula High School); Honorable Mention: Quinn Hopkins (Mount Si High School)
  • Copy Editing/Headline/Caption Writing -- Superior: Kristen Suver (Timberline High School); Excellent: Danny Serna (Puyallup High School), Tim Seguin (Wenatchee High School); Honorable Mention: Corina Cheever (Mountlake Terrace High School), Larissa Miller (Peninsula High School)
  • Newspaper Layout -- Honorable Mention: Claire Meuleman (Wenatchee High School)
  • Newsmagazine Layout -- Excellent: Kendra O'Halloran (Mountlake Terrace High School), Abby Williamson (Peninsula High School); Honorable Mention: Summer Yates (Emerald Ridge High School)
  • Advertising -- Superior: Ji Mun (Mountlake Terrace High School), Nicole Pinto (Peninsula High School); Excellent: Danny Canham (Emerald Ridge High School); Honorable Mention: Stephany May (Puyallup High School)
  • Yearbook Copy/Caption: Sports -- Excellent: Caylene Castagno (Mount Si High School), Naomi Lindsey (Peninsula High School); Honorable Mention: Caity York (Emerald Ridge High School), Tommy Lammert (Wenatchee High School)
  • Yearbook Copy/Caption: Academics -- Superior: Bruno Shilot (Mount Si High School)
  • Yearbook Copy/Caption: Clubs -- Honorable Mention: Avery Hutcherson (Mount Si High School), Allison Bangs (Wenatchee High School)
  • Yearbook Copy/Caption: Student Life -- Excellent: Xandy Evans (Mount Si High School), Hannah Schultz (Wenatchee High School)
  • Yearbook Layout: Theme -- Excellent: Kate Gruver (Emerald Ridge High School)
  • Yearbook Layout: Inside Pages -- Superior: Daniel Langager (Wenatchee High School)
  • Literary Magazine: Layout -- Honorable Mention: Hannah Leahy (Oak Harbor High School)
  • Computer Design: Infographics -- Excellent: Sarah Hiraki (Peninsula High School)
  • Computer Design: Advertising -- Superior: Patrick Renie (Peninsula High School); Excellent: Breanna Stanek (Oak Harbor High School)
  • Newspaper Sports Photography -- Excellent: Elaine Olbertz (Peninsula High School)
  • Yearbook Student Life Photography -- Superior: Brandon Knapp (Gig Harbor High School)
  • Newspaper News/Feature Photography -- Honorable Mention: Mackenzie Knapp (Gig Harbor High School), Ian Ostericher (Peninsula High School)
  • Photography Portfolio -- Superior: David Kasnic (Wenatchee High School)
  • Video Feature Story -- Superior: James Luce (Peninsula High School), Travis King (Peninsula High School); Excellent: Caitlin Ulvin (Mountlake Terrace High School); Honorable Mention: Stephen Dold (Edmonds-Woodway High School)
  • Video Commercial/PSA -- Honorable Mention: Kaytie Henson (Oak Harbor High School)
  • Videography -- Excellent: Daniel Gilmore (Oak Harbor High School)
  • Video Commentary -- Excellent: Nathan Yaffee (Edmonds-Woodway High School)
Congratulations to all of our winners!

College-only bill dies on state senate calendar

What was left of House Bill 1307, the Student Free Press Bill, died on Friday when the Senate failed to schedule the measure for a vote. The college-only measure had been on the calendar for a week.

Bill author Brian Schraum has pledged to continue to fight for legislation that includes protection for both high school and college students.

"There will be a next time. When this legislation comes back in the near
future, I hope all of you will continue the good fight."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Forty-eight tips in 48 hours? Ambitious Poynter fellow sets out to collect advice for you

This weekend marks the first of the year's National Writers Workshop, taking place in Hartford, Conn.

Lucky for you, you'll have a representative there.

Pat Walters, a 23-year-old Naughton Fellow at the Poynter Institute, will be seeking to bring his readers a plethora of writing and reporting tips in his two days at the workshop from some of the nation's best writers to his blog.

The plan is simple. Track down 48 useful reporting and writing tips in 48 hours and publish them here in real-time. I'm looking for the practical stuff you can take to work with you on Monday morning.

I'm eager to check it out as the weekend progresses.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poynter Online Ethics Tool can help you make sound, defensible decisions

I've just discovered what I think could be one of the most valuable tools to scholastic journalists, courtesy of the Poynter Institute.

One of the biggest criticisms levied against high school publications staffs by those who seek to censor them is that students lack the maturity to make sound judgements with regard to sensitive issues.

We know this, of course, to be completely false, but it never hurts to have documentation to back up your claim. This is where Poynter comes in with its Ethics Tool -- a step-by-step guide to making sound ethical decisions at your publication. (You'll need a free registration to use the tool.)

The justification for this process is simple:

The value of knowing a system for making tough choices is that when a dilemma drops out of the blue, our decision-making is still more efficient and more reliable than trying to think of everything at once and for the first time.

There is a lot of truth in that. The adrenaline rush that can come when confronted with a big decision -- whether to cover a certain story, whether to use a certain person's name in a story, etc. -- can sometimes cloud our better judgement. This tool can help prevent that by walking you through 10 clear, tried-and-true steps that should clarify your throught process.

If we use a sound process to make journalism ethics decisions, we can be sure:
--we have not relied on fickle instinct,
--we have efficiently spent our time "on task,"
--we have thought of everything we should,
--we can still meet the deadline.
Not to mention: we have made a good decision that we can justify, even to people who disagree.

At the end of the 10 steps, the tool produces a document you can share with others involved in the decision-making process to gather input.

I always tell my staff that it's not what you can do in a given situation, but what you should do. The more often you concentrate on the latter -- which is exactly what this tool will help you decide -- the more you will build credibility with your administration and, more importantly, your readers.

I strongly encourage you to use this tool next time you or your staff need to make a tough journalistic decision.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Story idea: What's on your principal's playlist?

I'll confess -- I count my iPod among my most prized possessions. Four thousand songs of musical goodness that at the very least help define who I am. After all, you can learn a lot about a person from the music they listen to.

Those of you that have met me before, consider this: Does it change your view of me to know that I own just about every Pearl Jam album ever made? What if I told you that Five Iron Frenzy is my favorite band? Or that I enjoy listening to Underoath and Blindside? Or that Dave Matthews Band, John Coltrane and Tchaikovsky all share space on my iPod?

Therein lies a great story, as brought to us by the Poynter Institute after checking out this story on iTunes celebrity playlists:

What's on your principal's iPod? Or check the playlist of your head custodian or media specialist or Student Council president. Consider graphic treatment of those playlists to add visual interest to your report.

Anyone can report on what celebrities listen to. Only you cover your school.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Check out WJEA's annual awards

We'll just go ahead and file this under the "better late than never" category.

WJEA handed out a number of awards at its annual state conference on March 10 at Gov. John R. Rogers HS in Puyallup, and although they've already been listed on, it bears repeating the recognition here.

  • Leading the way was Future Journalist of the Year Nick Feldman from Wenatchee HS. The editor in chief of The Apple Leaf was awarded $750 and is Washington's entrant into the Journalism Education Association's national journalist of the year competition.
  • Peninsula HS's Cassandra Kapp was the winner of the Lu Flannery Outstanding Journalist Award, which also carried a $750 award to be applied to the college or university of her choice.
  • Dan Hardebeck, adviser of the Timberline HS newsmagazine The Blazer, was named Adviser of the Year. It is the second time Hardebeck has won the award.
  • WJEA President Kathy Schrier won the Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression award for her unbelievable work on behalf of House Bill 1307. Schrier spent countless hours of her own time coordinating and disseminating information for advisers and students seeking to pass the bill. The honor comes with a $500 cash award.
  • Advisers Laurie Bender of Kamiakin HS and Gay Buissink of Walla Walla HS each received $750 study grants to attend summer workshops.

Congratulations to all of our winners, and be looking for the Administrator of the Year award application that will be available this spring.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The fight continues: Seattle P-I supports high schools

Even as House Bill 1307 moves on with protection for only colleges, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has come out against the senators who chose to strip high school students from the bill:

To learn about fulfilling democratic responsibilities, students need freedom, including the ability to make mistakes. Passing protections for college students should help lawmakers see the groundlessness of their concerns about ensuring high school students' rights and responsibilities.

You can read the entire editorial here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Statement from WJEA President Kathy Schrier

The following is a statement from WJEA President Kathy Schrier. She was the recipient of the Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression Award at the WJEA state conference on March 10 for her exemplary effort in coordinating the high school support of the bill.

Hello everyone,

In case you hadn't heard, today the Washington state Senate Judiciary Committee killed the high school portion of Bill 1307. All language pertaining to high schools was removed, and it now moves forward as a college only bill.

Of course, this is a huge blow to all of us who worked so hard to promote this legislation that was to have been a shining light for other states to follow. In fact, even with our defeat today, Oregon and Michigan have similar bills that are now going through the legislative process.

We have learned that school administrators in our state are interested in suppressing student voices by controlling what can and can't be expressed in school media. This, I find to be not just sad, but frightening. WJEA will continue to fight for student voices and for student-run media in every public high school.

We must remember that rights were not lost because of what happened today; they will continue to be what they were before the legislation was introduced. The state constitution still says students have free speech. Administrators still have some restrictions on what they can censor. Unfortunately, because of what didn't happen today, the language of the law is still vague and it is likely that students may have to fight even harder to maintain their rights within their school walls.

Rep. Dave Upthegrove and Brian Schraum are heroes in my book. They started a wave that is spreading to other states and a dialogue that will go on long after this legislative session ends. And the amazing Fern Valentine has championed this cause for many years and I know won't give up now. Vince DeMiero, too, has used his gift with words to articulate this cause with intense passion. Jeff Nusser created a fabulous blogspot and, despite sleepless nights with a new baby, found time to post all the latest news on HB1307.

The students who travelled to Olympia and who spoke with such conviction were an inspiration and are the reason we needed this bill to pass. And last but not least, the folks at J-Ideas, especially Angela Thomas, who flew to the northwest twice to be with us in Olympia at the most critical times -- THANK YOU for believing so strongly in this bill and for devoting so much time and website space to this cause.

I would also like to thank Rachel Smith, Rep. Upthegrove's fabulous assistant, who not only kept us all posted on the latest news but became a good friend to our cause along the way.

And how could I possibly not mention Mike Hiestand! He's right up there on the hero pedestal with Dave and Brian. His knowledge of the law and his ability to articulate it so well gave us confidence and strength all along the way. THANK YOU so much, Mike. We're so glad you are now a Washingtonian!

Kathy Schrier
President, WJEA

Statement from Rep. Upthegrove

Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines) was the primary sponsor of HB 1307. He proved to be a great champion of free student press rights in the legislature, and worked hard until the very end to keep high schools a part of the bill. Here is his statement.


As you may know by now, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended the student free press bill (HB 1307) to remove high school students from the bill. The provisions of the bill now only apply to public colleges and universities. The bill then passed out of the committee on a party-line vote, with all of the Democrats supporting the bill and all of the Republicans opposing the bill.

In order to secure the votes on the committee, I had to agree to not try to add high school students back into the bill later in the process.

Even though the bill now only applies to college student media, it still faces a rocky road in the Senate. It still needs to make it out of the Senate Rules Committee, and then we will need to secure support from a majority of the Senators, and then the Majority Leader needs to agree to place it on the floor calendar for a vote, and then the Governor will need to not veto it. Your continued support and communication with Senators would be appreciated.

For those of you most interested in the high school portion of the bill, I encourage you to continue to stand up for your college counterparts. Not every college in Washington has a policy in place to fully ensure that their student paper is, indeed, treated as a public forum. Conflicting federal district court cases have created more uncertainty for college journalists. I also believe that passage of the college portion will build support and momentum for addressing high school student media in the future.

Like many of you, I became emotionally attached to this issue and thisbill. I know how disappointed and frustrated you are because I am too. The legislative process takes patience and persistence. So while it's OK to be sad about this, I ask you to also have patience and persistence. We all need to continue to champion the cause of student press freedom. You can count on my continued support.

I want to pass along my appreciation and thanks to Brian Schraum, who brought the idea for the bill forward and served as an eloquent spokesperson for the bill in the media around the country and on several public forums. He inspired me to introduce the bill and also inspired my passion for the issue. I also want to thank Mike Hiestand from the Student Press Law Center, who not only provided great legal analysis, but also proved to be a gifted communicator who was able to take complex issues and boil them down into arguments and language that even legislators could understand.

Finally, I was blown away by the tremendous support shown by student journalists and their allies from every corner of the State of Washington. The public hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee was one of the finest moments of the 2007 legislative session. I can't express my appreciation enough to everyone who took the time to travel to Olympia for the hearings or who contacted their legislator.

Please know that YOU educated and inspired legislators to become champions of the issue. You inspired legislators like Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor), Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island), Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), and Rep. Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam). These legislators deserve your thanks and appreciation for their active support and assistance with the bill.

Lets get the college portion passed into law and then recommit ourselves to continuing to "finish the job" in a future legislative session.

Thanks again,


Dave Upthegrove
State Representative
33rd District
Chair, Select Committee on Puget Sound