Policies & Statements
Smithville Media Network is an ongoing entertainment and news broadcast/online publication produced and organized by Smithville High School students. All content is made by the students with the supervision of the adviser, Danielle Martin.
Each year brings a new set of skills, and with that, a different type of entertainment. All staff members are expected to work with the team to create fun, entertaining and professional media.
First and foremost, the mission of Smithville Media Network is to seek out and deliver information that is useful, credible and well- written to Smithville High School and our community as a whole.
We are obligated to be unbiased, honest, responsible and dedicated as reporters.
Through our publications, we aim to provoke thought and interest in our students regarding our school and the world around it.
SSD Shared Belief System
As a district, we share the same fundamental values, ethical codes, overriding convictions and inviolable principles. We believe that:
Positive connections between students, parents, and staff are vital. Everyone can learn in a safe environment. Every person deserves to be valued and respected. We are responsible for student development. The greatest opportunity to influence a child’s life resides with the parent/guardian. Everyone deserves excellence in his or her educational experiences.
Role of the Adviser
As the adviser of Smithville Media Network, et al., Danielle Martin’’s role is to critique the work of her students, oversee and be sure the work is completed, organizes staff, and continually educates said staff on the work they are doing and how to go about doing it.
Journalists shall not grant confidentiality to sources without contacting the adviser. Not having a source can lead the credibility of said journalist into question.
The only exception is when the information endangers the source. In this case, be sure to inform the source that confidentiality can and will be removed if it is found and proven the source was lying. Remember, confidentiality should only be a last resort.
Reference to Race, Religion, Age, or Disability
Reference to any of these should only ever be made if it has direct relevance to the content of the story. If your source gives preferred terminology (e.g. “African- American” as opposed to “black”), use that term. If you are unsure, ask your source. If your source does not give a preferred term, ask your adviser what to use.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act states student privacy law. Be informed on these rights; a specific student’s disciplinary action, grades, health concerns, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information are not to be distributed without explicit permission. If you are concerned that you may be violating privacy law, contact your adviser before submitting a story.
Rape, Domestic Abuse, and Suicide
These topics are to always be handled delicately. Reporters are not to distribute the names of victims of rape, nor the names of those who file police reports, as a means of protecting those involved.
As a rule, The Smithville Media Network will not cover suicide unless the person was a public figure or the act was public. An announcement of death alone suffices.
Conflict of Interest
Credibility is a vital and serious concept that journalists cannot afford to overlook. Conflict of interest can come into play if a reporter covers a story over a club or organization the reporter is a part of. If, for example, a reporter is doing a story on an incident regarding the student council, and said reporter is a part of student council, it’s better for someone who isn’t to cover the story instead. The member of student council can still assist with the story, however, as they can be a primary source.
Reporters should never take quotations from those they have a close relationship with (e.g. family, friends, etc.). If these are absolutely necessary, contact your adviser before putting them in your finalized script.
It is unethical to allow an interviewee to see interview questions before they are asked in interview.
Also, those involved in a segment that are not in the Broadcast Journalism are not to see the segment before it is publicized. If said subject asks to, contact your adviser.
The adviser will not engage in censorship or prior restraint. The adviser can, however, give advice on the ramifications for certain stories or videos.
Obituaries are to always be treated the same. No student should receive more attention than another. The exceptions to this rule occur when the student becomes a public figure (e.g. long-term illness, president of the student body, etc.) Administrators and teachers may also be treated with more coverage.
Anonymous information cannot be verified and therefore should not be utilized as a source in a story. Though it may not be likely for the staff to receive anonymous tips, remember that all information must be citable.
All interviews should always be entirely on the record unless the editor has been consulted beforehand. You are not ethically bound to keep material out of print if you did not agree to do so during the interview
Gifts and special treatment (beyond normal media access treatment) are to always be refused in order to avoid conflict of interest or preferential treatment by the reporter.
Plagiarism is strictly prohibited and illegal if the plagiarized material is copyright protected. Plagiarism may result in immediate removal from Broadcast Journalism staff.
If The Smithville Media Network unknowingly broadcasts an inaccurate statement, it is the responsibility of the staff to correct the mistake as soon as possible. However, a staff member is never to promise a viewer that a correction will be broadcast.
The Ethical Test
When faced with uncertainty on the ethics of a situation, ask yourself:
What do I know? What do I need to know? What is my journalistic purpose? What are my ethical concerns? What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider? How can I include other people, with different perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision-making process? Who are the stakeholders (those affected by my decision)? What are their motivations? Which are legitimate? What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders? What are the possible consequences of my actions? Short term? Long term? What are my alternatives to maximize my truth- telling responsibility and minimize harm?
Students cannot publish or distribute libelous material.
Libel is a provable false and/or unprivileged statement that damages the reputation of an individual or group.
If the allegedly libeled party is a public figure (seeks the public’s attention or is well known for personal achievements) or public official (holds an elected or appointed public office), it must be proven that the libel was published with “actual malice,” as in it was done to intentionally harm the reputation of the party.
School employees are considered public figures or officials under this law.
This situation is not always intentional, but accidental defamation is just as dangerous. Always be sure to confirm your facts.
Students cannot publish or distribute material that is obscene to minors.
Any person under the age of 18 is considered a minor. Material is considered obscene to minors if it meets all of these requirements (the Miller Test):
- The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the publication, taken as a whole, appeals to a minor’s prurient interest in sex; 2. The publication, in a patently offensive way, depicts or describes sexual conduct; 3. The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Indecent or vulgar language (while not encouraged) is not obscene.
Students cannot publish or distribute material that will cause “a substantial disruption of school activities.”
A substantial disruption includes but is not limited to: student rioting, substantial seizure of property, substantial participation in school boycott, sit-ins, and walk-outs. Racial, religious, and ethnic slurs, while in poor taste, are not in and of themselves considered disruptive under these guidelines. Threats of violence are not materially disruptive unless the threat is carried out or it is reasonably believed that the author of the threat has the capability and intent of carrying out said threat. Material that stimulates heated discussion or debate is not disruptive.
For a publication to be considered disruptive, specific facts must exist upon which one could forecast that a material, substantial school disruption would occur if the story were publicized. Mere apprehension that a disturbance may occur is not enough to conclude that the material mustn’t be published; solid facts must be proposed by opposition.
When determining whether or not a story is disruptive, consideration must be given to the context of the distribution and material. If a story was published like it in the past, current events that could influence reaction, and whether or not the publishers have faced this issue in the past.
Students cannot publish or distribute material that will cause “a substantial disruption of school activities.”
School officials must protect advocates of unpopular viewpoints.
“School activities” means any educational student activity sponsored by the school itself and includes but it not limited to, classwork, library activities, physical education, official assemblies, athletic events, concerts, school plays, and scheduled lunch periods.
Advertising is constitutionally protected expression.
School publications may accept advertising. The acceptance or rejection of advertisements is controlled by the publication staff. The staff can accept any advertisement except those for a product that is illegal is students. Political ads are allowed, however, the staff should not accept ads from exclusively one side of an issue or election.
The Constitutional First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law that hinders the freedom of speech or press. In a series of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution to extend the prohibition to states and their agents, which includes public schools and colleges. These rights do not apply to the student press of private or sectarian schools and colleges.
In a 1969 decision, the Court created specific interpretations of First Amendment rights for public school and college student publications. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District involved symbolic speech. Despite the school’s warnings, three students wore black armbands to school in 1965 in protest against the Vietnam War. When these students were suspended, their parents took the case to court.
The Court decided that this prohibition could not be sustained unless it materially and substantially interfered with the school’s operation.
The Court’s Hazelwood decision of 1988, however, says public school administrators may use broad powers to control school-sponsored student expression.
This term refers to the legal concept that in a public high school or college, when a publication provides a forum for student opinion, and taxpayers provide funding for said publication, this means no one person stands in the position of publisher, and the state has an obligation to maintain the publication as a forum.
The Hazelwood decision states that a public high school publication may be reaffirmed or established as a public forum, should the administration decide to do so.