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Disturbing trends and a series worth reading


Even as some administrators name themselves editors of student publications, others try to use ethics as a guideline for punishment, adding another level to disturbing trends in scholastic journalism.

This misuse of ethical standards in scholastic journalism is the focus on a three-part series by Kent State University graduate student Trevor Ivan at the Center for Scholastic Journalism blog.

Ivan talks about schools and administrative organizations that try to hold  scholastic journalists to ethical codes and punish the students if they falter.

“The SPJ Code of Ethics is not a set of legal principles,” Ivan writes, “and shouldn’t be applied as such in an official school board policy (a legal code) governing publications. It’s important to remember the fundamental difference between law and ethics.”

It’s important for us as journalists to know how law and ethics work together to help student journalists understand the ways their rights and responsibilities work together. But ethics should never be used as a factor in punishing student journalists or limiting their growth.

“While saying that students must meet certain ethical standards sounds commendable,” Ivan writes, “it is in fact riddled with problems when it becomes part of a binding editorial policy that allows administrators to squash student expression because of how the administrators interpret such a code.”

The whole series is worth your time, especially if you have anyone trying to enforce ethical standards as a determinant for permitting unfettered student expression.

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