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Freedom of the Press: Right to Know vs. Right to Privacy

Anthony Flowers of Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas.

Anthony Flowers
Thomas Jefferson High School
Port Arthur, Texas

Title: Freedom of the Press: Right to Know vs. Right to Privacy

Description of School and Students

This five-day unit will be taught to 10th- and 11th-grade journalism students who have completed journalism I and are taking either journalism II or newspaper classes. The student body is culturally diverse inclusive of African-American, Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian American students. The school district is inner city and is considered an “at-risk” campus.

Generative Topics:

  • Does the press have universal freedom?

Generative objects:

  • Various articles/news clips relating to censorship and sensitive issues like the Levy/Condit case and Princess Diana’s death
  • Hazelwood handout

Understanding goals:

  • Essential or Guiding Questions
    • What is freedom of the press?
    • Should there be limits on the press?
    • Are there aspects of the media essential to freedom of the press?
    • Does censorship have its place?
    • How would a restricted press impact American society?
  • Critical Engagement Questions
    • Have technology; advertisers and media mergers affected press freedom?
    • How does Hazelwood affect high school newspaper’s freedom?
    • Should reporters feel the need to self-censor if they do have a free press?
    • What is the difference between public and private individuals?

Performances of Understanding, Rationale and Timeline

Activity 1

Activity 2 (two days)

  • Discuss Princess Diana and Levy/Condit cases as well as Clinton/Lewinsky. Discuss the difference between private citizens and public citizens and the determinations by the court system of differing rights to privacy. Students then break into groups of four and develop an argument for or against the people’s right to privacy. Final arguments will be presented to the class and debated.

Activity 3

  • Have students discuss the role of advertisers in the media world. Students should determine whether or not they believe news agencies should report the news based on whether it will reflect poorly on an advertiser. Homework: In groups of three, have them research (through interviews) whether or not such has happened at the local newspaper/television station. Present findings to the class as a group

Activity 4

  • In groups of three to four have students develop a policy for handling advertisers and their complaints about possible news stories. Present scenarios and have the groups develop a response to each based on their news policy. Have groups present final determinations to the class.

Assessment

Each activity counts 75 points. Each student should present a grade sheet with an assessment of the other group member’s contributions to the overall project. Individual grades will be determined from an average of the reports and the teacher’s observations.

Recommended Readings and Sources

  • “FERPA Fundamentalism,” SPLC Report, Student Press Law Center. Spring 2001. pp. 35-38
  • Goodman, Mark and Hiestand, Mike.”Invasion of Privacy,” "The Starting Point: Young Journalists and Law." Pamphlet from the Newspaper Association of America, Vienna, Va., and the Student Press Law Center, Arlington, Va. 1999. pp.16-25.
  • Goodman, Mark and Hiestand, Mike, “Conflict with Authority: First Amendment Protection for Youth Journalists,” "The Starting Point: Young Journalists and Law." pp.26-33.
  • “Parents file Libel suit against school,” SPLC Report Student Press Law Center p. 25, Spring 2001.

Bibliography

  • Cappon, Rene J., “News Writing: Information is not Enough,” "The Associated Press Guide to News Writing 3rd ed.," pp. 5-21, ARCO – Thompson Learning, 2000.
  • Didion, Joan, “The End of the World,” Stanford Review, March 1994.
  • “FERPA Fundamentalism,” Report Student Press Law Center pp.35-38, Spring 2001.
  • Goodman, Mark and Hiestand, Mike. “Invasion of Privacy,” "The Starting Point: Young Journalists and Law," pp.16-25, Vienna, Virginia. Student Press Law Center. 1999.pp. 16-25
  • Goodman, Mark and Hiestand, Mike. “Conflict with Authority: First Amendment Protection for Youth Journalists,” "The Starting Point: Young Journalists and Law." pp.26-33.
  • “Parents file Libel suit against school,” Report Student Press Law Center. Spring 2001. p. 25.
  • Roberts, Paul. “How To Say Nothing In Five Hundred Words,” "Readings For Writers 3rd ed." (Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich publishers).1980.
  • Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. ยง128.62 Journalism. Texas Education Agency.


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