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A presentation intended for faculty, staff and administrators at Mercer County Community College that provides information about interacting with student journalists effectively.

A presentation intended for faculty, staff and administrators at Mercer County Community College that provides information about interacting with student journalists effectively.

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  • 1. Quote me on that!Handling student media and the law: a primer for community college administrators and faculty. Mercer County Community College- IPIC Presentation Prof. Holly Johnson &Prof. Diane Rizzo
  • 2. Should I talk to student reporters? YES? NO?
  • 3. Should I talk to student reporters?Here’s how many in academia see it: YES NO
  • 4. What prevents people from talking to reporters? FEAR of the Consequences I’ll jeopardize I just don’t I’ll look likeThey’ll get it my job or my have time. I’m drawingwrong and I’ll relationship This will put with attention to be blamed! me behind in colleagues. myself. my work.
  • 5. What about the law?Could I be breaking the law? These Things are Always Legal • Giving your OPINION on any matter • Asking to receive a copy ahead of time of the questions the reporter plans to ask • Asking the reporter to read a quote you’ve given back to you so you can make sure they got it right • Giving student reporters copies of any memo or document or information that is available to them under OPRA • Providing facts that are accurate to the best of your knowledge • Asking to be an anonymous source if the information you are giving puts you in danger. Illegal • Deliberately misinforming reporters • Covering up or obscuring illegal actions • Removing newspapers from bins on campus so people won’t read them • Cutting off funding or firing staffers (or the advisor) in retaliation for a story that was unflattering • Demanding to approve a story prior to it being printed • Making up a policy that would otherwise break the law (e.g. you can’t create a policy that students can’t take your picture when you’re in public on campus as this violates other state, federal and local laws).
  • 6. What is OPRA? OPRA is the state level Open Public Records Act (sunshine law) of New Jersey which provides governmental transparency and accountability. Documents A physical record available under includes: any OPRA include, but Under OPRA, paper, written or are not limited to: public agencies, A record is printed book, institutional data, including considered to have document, meeting minutes, community a government Got an OPRA drawing, map, policies and colleges, must purpose when it question? Call the plan, photograph, handbooks, officialmake available to has been “made, Government micro-film, data- memos, salarythe press and the maintained, kept Records Council processed or information, public any on file or been (GRC) toll free at: image-processed contracts, “physical record received in the 1-866-850-0511. document, and attendance sheets, that has a course of official information stored crime logs and government business.” or maintained statistics (must be purpose.” electronically or by made available sound recording. under the Clery Act).
  • 7. What about FERPA? The Federal Education Records Privacy Act* protects individual student records. Student Reporter Rights and Faculty, admin and staff Responsibilities under FERPA responsibilities under FERPA Students have to know and explain what records The burden is on the school to provide legal they are requesting and the laws that pertain to their justification for denial of a records request. requests. The school cannot be sued by an individual student Students can pursue a waiver from the person for wrongful disclosure under FERPA, only the US whose records they want. If the student(s) provide Dept. of Ed can penalize and then only for the lack written permission, there is no FERPA issue. End of of an effective policy not for one particular story. disclosure. Students may request a redacted version that Since congress passed FERPA in 1974, the US provides statistics but is purged of names and other Dept. of Ed has not penalized a single school for identifiers. violating FERPA.*Information on this slide comes from text by Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center as presented in Sept/Oct 2009 article “FERPAFoibles” by Michelle Rydell in Quill the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists.
  • 8. What can I do to support students but protect myself?Give student reporters time but set appropriate limits, particularly if they seem insufficiently professional or prepared.If you want a clearer sense of what the reporter is coming to speak to you about or you are notsure you are the right person for them to talk to, ask to receive the questions ahead of time, but resist the urge to let them do the interview via email. If you are not the right person to talk to, try to direct the student reporter to the person who is,but avoid the urge to pass students on when you do actually know something about their topic.If you think a student reporter may not have gotten your quote or facts right, ask them to repeatback to you what you said so you can clarify in the moment. If you realize after the interview that you may have said something inaccurate contact the Editor in Chief to clarify. When students get things wrong, respect them enough to hold them accountable by notifying the Editor in Chief of the need to print a correction. Consider writing a letter to the editor.
  • 9. Other questions:Why did three students • Frequently we assign multiple junior staffers to cover the same topic come to talk to me but only print the best reported version. This means students haveabout the same topic? to compete, as they would in the real world. • We recommend you give all students at least a little time, but cut theDo I have to talk to ALL meeting short for all but the best prepared reporters. of them?I was interviewed on an • The student may have gotten a stronger quote from a different important topic, but my source (particularly if you recommended they speak to someone else) quote didn’t appear in • The student or editor may not have been certain the quote wasthe article. What gives? accurate and was unable to verify it with you, so it got pulled.I was interviewed but no • Most likely the editor in chief pulled the article because it wasarticle ever came out on underreported or biased or had not been sufficiently fact checked. the topic I talked about. • The article may not have run because it is being saved for a later edition or because the student requested not to have it published. What happened?
  • 10. Should I talk to student reporters? YES NO
  • 11. How do I learn more about MCCC College VOICE policies? Who do I talk to for more help? http://www.mcccvoice.org Got a story you think is Unsure? Confused? newsworthy? Got a correction Find the VOICE current Need to vent? you need addressed? Want toissue, archives and policy submit a letter to the editor? Contact the advisor, manual online. Contact the Editor in Chief, Prof. Holly Johnson at: Also find links to the Laura Pollack at: ext. 3594Student Press Law Center Pollack.laura@gmail.com johnsonh@mccc.edu and other resources.
  • 12. Additional Resources Student Press Law Center VOICE online Voice Policy Manual Online OPRA and the Government Records Council FERPA information
  • 13. ENDProf. Holly Johnson