Originally published on jeasprc.org on Aug. 7, 2017
Inevitably, my intro journalism students have one question: “When do we get to start writing?” Their impatience is understandable — they joined my class to become reporters, and they are eager to start that work — but I believe it is critically important to build a solid foundation in law and ethics before sending them out for that first assignment.
I want them to see the bigger picture — to get a sense of why journalists pursue stories and how they make difficult decisions during that process. I want them to understand their own rights and the role of a free press in a democracy. I also want them to have a sense of the laws affecting them — for example, what libel is and how to avoid it and what constitutes “invasion of privacy.”
It’s heavy stuff, so my goal is to keep them engaged during those first few weeks as we talk about journalistic ethics and break down how the First Amendment, state laws, libel laws and court cases affect them.
Here are some strategies I’ve developed that I hope will help other advisers build those crucial foundations without losing students’ interest:
“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream