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Teaching Tips

We are collecting tips from high school newspaper advisers nationwide on how to run student publications and deal with the issues from administrators, students and parents.

10 We Agree Statements Toward A Free and Responsible Student Press

10 We Agree Statements Toward A Free and Responsible Student Press

by Randy Swikle
Johnsburg (Ill.) High School
1999 Dow Jones Journalism Teacher of the Year

  1. Allow Mistakes. The freedom to err is an inherent feature of education, for learning requires practice, and practice involves trial and error.
  2. Permit Challenges. If authority were never challenged, we would still be believing the world is flat. Students should be encouraged to, question authority regarding any issue. The student newspaper can be an excellent vehicle for challenging authorities in positive ways that enhance learning; and build a better rapport between, students and officials.
  3. Accept Criticism. Do not feel malice toward those who gave it.
  4. Assume Integrity. We must resist the temptation to question someone’s integrity simply because we challenge his judgment. Avoid the simplistic idea “I don’t like your ideas; therefore, I don’t like you.” The focus of debate should remain on the merit of ideas rather than be sidetracked by personal attacks.
  5. Demonstrate Civility. In promoting one’s views in the student press or in other ways responding to an article, it is important to be civil to those who assert a different perspective. Show consideration, good manners, and courtesy as you present your arguments.
  6. Choose Logic. When the words of the student press ignite anger from the heart, surrender the emotion to logic from the mind. An emotional response tends to be less convincing than a rational one, and the temptation to return a hurt is less noble than the willingness to heal a wrong.
  7. Invite Controversy. No one can deny that controversial topics are an inherent feature of the press. Therefore, a journalism curriculum should include teaching students to pursue and publish articles on controversial subjects. Some principals fear controversy as a threat to school discipline. But controversy should never dispirit inquiry, and discipline should never detour discovery.
  8. Promote Teamwork. Teamwork means cooperative effort by the members of a group to achieve a common goal.
  9. Support Freedom. A free student press does not mean students have unbridled control of their newspaper.
  10. Acknowledge Value. There aren’t any other courses in the curriculum that have more potential of touching so many lives beyond the classroom than journalism courses.