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Lesson Plans

Ethics and Hazelwood: What Student Journalists Should and Can Write

Lance Dillahunt of East Hampton High School in East Hampton, N.Y.

Lance T. Dillahunt
East Hampton High School
East Hampton, N.Y.

Title: Ethics and Hazelwood: WhatStudent Journalists Should and Can Write


  • Ethics
  • Ethical Codes
  • Hazelwood and Tinker


It is important for students to learn about ethics in the first place whether it is in a journalism class or not. For the time being, New York does not reqiure students to take ethics, so it will have to be in journalism. By having the students know that there actually is a Code of Ethics for Journalists and that they will adapt that code for themselves, makes them feel more like journalists and gives them ownership of what they are going to do. By having them learn about Hazelwood and Tinker, will give them a little bit of understanding of what it is they are allowed to write.


  • Topic
    • What are ethics?
    • In life, what are some of the things you shouldn’t do?
    • Are ethics important? For journalists?
    • What is the Tinker case? What was argued? Who won?
    • What is the Hazelwood case? What was argued? Who won?
    • What are three situations where a principal can kill a story?
  • Critical
    • What happends to a journalist if he doesn’t follow the code of ethics?
    • Why is it important to have a Code of Ethics?
    • Why was the Tinker case important?
    • Why was Hazelwood Important?


Activity 1

  • Have students look at the SPJ code of ethics and compare them with the pirate code of ethics.
  • What is similar and what is different? Students should write down two similarities between the two.
  • After, the students will look at the code of ethics from other countries and organizations.
    • Where are the similarities?
    • Which ethics are the most important?
    • The least important?
  • Discuss. Students will collectively decide which ethics they would like to adapt to their own code of ethics.

Activity 2

  • Each group will get two or three situations where a journalist is or isn’t behaving in an ethical way.
  • The students are to identify which ethics he or she is breaking and then rate it from 0-10 on the ethical meter. (Of course, each ethic broken is a 10.)

Activity 3

  • Students will read an article from "2002 Best Newspaper Writing" based on Sept. 11.
  • Students will decide if the reporter is being ethical as he writes this including the gory details that he does. Discuss.

Activity 4

  • After students have read about Hazelwood and Tinker, I will distribute the “Is it Hazelwood/Tinker?” chart from the SPLC book.
  • After going over the chart with the studetns, we will collectively go over situations and decide if it is covered under Tinker or Hazelwood.


  • Students will choose five items in their code of ethics and explain why each one should be there.
  • Given another three situations, the students must decide whether it would be covered under Hazelwood or Tinker.


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