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.