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Careful preparation creates
strong mission statements




Part 2 of a series  on pieces of the journalism puzzle: Mission Statements

by Candace and John Bowen
A mission statement defines your student media, shows your audience what’s important to you and helps them see why you do what you do. It’s not easy to write an effective one.sprclogo

When JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee set it out write a sample mission statement to share, the 10 of us didn’t realize what a challenge this would be. Sure, it would take some tweaking and some discussions when this many writers work together. But we came to find out it was more than that.

[pullquote]We think you need a mission statement, and we think ours is worth consideration.[/pullquote]

The following is the model we finally agreed was best – though not perfect. We knew, for instance, we didn’t want to post a mission statement and have schools everywhere think it’s the only option. Schools are different: the student staffs, the advisers and the audiences have variations that show not one size fits all.

So here is our contribution. We think you need a mission statement, and we think ours is worth consideration. But we also share some points to think about as you write your own from scratch or adapt what we offered you.
• Audience engagement. Think about the importance of getting your audience to think and hopefully to act. Your mission should be to create media to get and keep them involved.
• Journalistic responsibility. Point out the basis of solid journalism you want as the very heart of your media: truth, integrity, completeness and accuracy.
• Additional reporting basics. Make sure your audience knows it can trust you because you also offer context to put reporting in perspective, verification that shows you double-checked, coherence that ensures it makes sense and presents all relevant information.
• Ethical reporting and editing. To complete the reporting process, present your work ethically and to professional standards for your audiences.
Student-determined content. It should make a difference to your audience that students are in charge and decide all content for your student media. It definitely makes a difference to courts, too.
• Diversity of ideas and representation. It’s not just one clique that runs your student media. All voices contribute ideas and have representation in your media.
• Platform consistency. It’s not a newspaper policy and a separate Web, yearbook or TV station policy. As all media providers realize they are connected and each telling a story in the best way possible, it’s important the school’s media share the same policies and ethical approaches.
• School mission statement connection. It shouldn’t be surprising that school mission statements often mention the same points student media do: building thinking citizens, preparing students for democracy, etc. Tie parts of your media mission statement to those as well.

Our model, then, would look like this:

_____________ (school name) student media provide complete and accurate coverage, journalistically responsible, ethically gathered, edited and reported. Student-determined expression promotes democratic citizenship through public engagement diverse in both ideas and representation. 

Part 1: Build a strong foundation
Part 3: Points to avoid in mission statements
Part 4: Fitting the pieces into a strong Foundation


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