SPJ in the classroom

Earlier this week, I was honored to be invited to speak at a teach-in for high school and college journalism educators on how professional and student media can work together.

It’s fitting that this year’s Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference was held in St. Louis. It’s the home, after all, of the Hazelwood school district at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows prior review of student publications. Across the nation, SPJ has been seeing more (and speaking out against) cases of censorship at student publications.

That’s why it’s even more important than ever for student journalists and their newspaper advisers to know that SPJ is here for them. Beyond issuing statements speaking out against censorship, SPJ offers tons of ideas for student activities, lesson plans and class speakers. Here’s just a sampling of what I shared at the conference:

  • Slice ‘n Dice Program in a Box: Bring together students and pros for networking, resume critiques and grub. Download everything you need, including directions, fliers and a sign-up sheet. Just bring in the pros and order the pizza.
  • SPJ Mentor Matchup: Not a lot of people seem to know about how SPJ pairs young reporters and seasoned veterans to help with real-life and newsroom questions.
  • First Amendment Free Food Festival: One of the most fun SPJ events I ever attended. Students are offered free pizza in exchange for symbolically signing away their First Amendment rights. A “goon squad” bans all talking in line (because there’s no freedom of speech), prevents friends from sitting together (no right to peaceably assemble), sends complainers to an empty complaint table (no right to petition for the redress of grievances), and breaks up student prayer circles (no freedom of religion) and even reporters trying to cover the event (no freedom of the press).
  • eCampus Video Training on Demand: From the basics of video techniques to the ABC’s of requesting documents, this is a go-to place for journalists to grow.
  • Journalist’s Toolbox: An all-encompassing guide for online resources for journalists. Highlights: Twitter for Newsrooms, YouTube Reporters Center and Writing with Statistics.
  • SPJ is also a great resource for finding class speakers (remember, the pros involved in SPJ are still excited about the business and have wide-ranging connections within the industry). Job shadowing and Skyping into classrooms (had fun speaking to my former high school journalism teacher’s class that way) are also options.
  • Probably the most important lesson of all: SPJ’s Code of Ethics could fuel a week or month or semester’s worth of journalism classes — Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently and Be Accountable.
  • Speaking of students and pros working together, I am already working with some students on planning the 2012 Spring Region 7 Conference. It will be at Iowa State, probably the last weekend in March. Stay tuned for more details.
  • And I’d be remiss if it I didn’t plug the St. Louis pro chapter’s upcoming Student Bootcamp for college journalists Sept. 17 at Saint Louis University. Students from throughout Region 7 are invited to learn from the pros. Email Tammy Merrett-Murry at tmerret@siue.edu to find out more.


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