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How do your students report the Haiti earthquake?


News about the Haiti earthquake dominated the media today, and some scholastic journalists are trying to find ways to report the devastation and loss of life.

Questions they should consider include:

• How can we localize and show readers relevance? That should be among the first concerns. What is the best way to bring the impact of the story to the readers’ community? Has anyone been to Haiti? Have family there? Are local groups involved in relief efforts? Has anyone local survived anything similar? What is the most effective way to report the situation? Commentary on the tragedy? A call to action? Reporting the issues so the reality of the situation becomes the focus? Who will become the best sources? The most credible sources? The most timely sources? Who could be primary sources so reporters are not just rehashing or Time magazine? Are there money-raising scams surrounding relief efforts? How can readers recognize and avoid them?

• What legal issues could create problems? How can we avoid using copyrighted images with stories? What would be good resources for images? If the student publication is Web-based, to whom can students link? What are reliable resources? Publications with a subscription to MCT Campus might have a distinct advantage. What about using flash graphics or other multimedia coverage? What is the best way to do the reporting legally?

• Are there ethical considerations about what to show and print? This certainly will become an issue as more commercial media show images of bodies and devastation. What should scholastic media show and why? Assuming you can use such images with permission, will you have discussed the effects of gruesome photos? Why use them? Should your audiences be warned?

We raise these issues not to flash the red light of decision-making restraint but rather to enable the green light of ethical decisions. If your students decide such localized and relevant reporting is justified, we encourage them to do so thoroughly and with compassion.

Whatever steps they take to decide what to publish or broadcast, their decisions need to be rooted in long traditions of journalistic excellence, of publishing a story that affects their community and enables audience involvement.

That’s doing it the right way.

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